NM Supreme CourtIn any given debate over same-sex marriage, invariably same-sex marriage advocates will pose the following question: “How will allowing gay people to marry affect you or your marriage?”

If we are being asked how any particular same-sex couple setting up house and having their relationship called a “marriage” will personally affect me, the answer is probably, “Not much.”  But this question is too narrow, and misses the real significance of same-sex marriage because it focuses too much on the individual and not enough on wider social implications.  The real question is how changing marriage law to say there is no difference between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples will affect society as a whole.

I’ve addressed this question elsewhere, so I won’t belabor it again here.  Just let me say that if you think the government can legally declare no difference between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples, and there won’t be personal ramifications for those who do not share that view, you need to rethink the function and force of the law.  The government cannot affirm that same-sex unions are marriages, and declare that to avoid discrimination, they must be treated as equal to man-woman marriages in every respect, and yet at the same time permit religious organizations and individual citizens to act in any way that suggests these relationships are not marriages or not equal to man-woman marriages.  As Michael Medved wrote four years ago, “If gay marriage is a fundamental human and constitutional ‘right,’ then how could faith-based groups or religious individuals legally discriminate against the exercise of that right?”

Indeed, the implications are not only felt on the level of society as a whole, but even on an individual level.  Ask the Catholic adoption agencies in D.C. and Boston who were forced to close their doors because the Catholic Church would not adopt children out to same-sex couples, and had to choose between their moral convictions and providing adoption services.[1]  Another case in point.  Just last week the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a Christian photographer, Elane Huguenin, violated the law by refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding.  This has happened before.  What’s new in this case is the rationale of the court.  Justice Richard C. Bosson, in his “specially concurring” portion of the ruling, made it clear that the law trumps religious liberty and conscience.  He wrote that those in the world of commerce who hold a moral conviction against same-sex marriage “are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives. Though the rule of law requires it, the result is sobering. It will no doubt leave a tangible mark on the Huguenins and others of similar views.”  He went on to say:

At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less. The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.

In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.

In today’s legal world, violating one’s conscience by participating in actions that you deem morally unacceptable is “the price of citizenship.”  Either comply, or find another career.  We are told we must “leave space for other Americans who believe something different” than we do.  Where, Justice Bosson, is the space being left for those who believing something different than the State?  There is none.  This is what happens when same-sex marriage is enshrined into law.  Tolerance for those who disapprove is out the window.

When the law says there is no difference between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, and when the law says the only reason for distinguishing the two is personal animus and bigotry, you better bet your bottom dollar that you will be affected by it.  While I do not think same-sex marriage is comparable to civil rights, that is how it is being sold in the marketplace, and how it is being cashed out in the legal system. That means the consequences will be the same for both views.  Just as we would be considered persona non grata before the law and within society if we held that all races are not equal, we will be considered persona non grata before the law and within society for holding that same-sex relationships are not equal to man-woman relationships.  Again, Medved got it right:

It’s now a well-established point of law that theological doctrine can’t protect institutions or individuals if they discriminate on the basis of race. … If gay identity is equivalent to racial identity (a key contention of the gay marriage movement), logic requires that unequal treatment based on sexual orientation should receive no more sanction than unequal treatment based on race.

Indeed, this is exactly what the majority in the NM case concluded: “When Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, it violated the NMHRA [New Mexico Human Rights Act] in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.”

This decision in New Mexico reveals the thinking of the legal experts, and it has grave implications for all of us who do not agree with the liberal consensus. Are you prepared for the social, legal, and perhaps financial consequences of holding to your convictions?


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[1]I do understand that the board of Catholic Charities in Boston had previously adopted 13 children out to same-sex couples over a 15 year period, and wanted to continue doing so despite the Catholic Church’s position.  They only stopped doing so because the Catholic Church forbade them (see http://www.sunjournal.com/news/columns-analysis/2012/10/21/peter-meade-truth-about-adoptions-has-been-distort/1267212).  Nonetheless, the reason they had to close their doors is because the law came into conflict with the moral convictions of the Catholic Church (even if those operating the actual adoption agency in Boston did not share the Church’s convictions).