Yesterday’s Indianapolis Star devoted much of its editorial real estate to the same-sex marriage debate. The paper took an editorial position in favor of recognition–an immensely encouraging sign of sanity I never thought to see in my lifetime–and also ran an “editorial dissent” that was a model of respectful disagreement.
Then there were the letters, most prominently a screed from Ryan McCann of Indiana Family Action. It would be hard to find a more perfect example of civic ignorance.
McCann trots out the Right’s usual list of dangerous incursions on “religious liberty,” including the claim that pastors will “come under legal attack” for refusing to marry same-sex couples.
Read my lips: the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment absolutely protects pastors and churches from officiating at weddings incompatible with their theologies. Period. Full stop. Anyone with even a modicum of constitutional knowledge should know better than to make or credit such a bogus claim, and it is a sad sign of how widespread civic ignorance is that the Rabid Right continues to parrot it.
McCann then bemoans the consequences for “small businesses” that refuse to serve same-sex couples (or, one intuits, gay customers generally) for reasons of religious “conscience.” He utterly fails to understand the difference between a church and a doughnut shop, which may tell readers more about his theology than he intended.
When a merchant opens a commercial enterprise, and advertises “come one, come all,” there is an implied transaction with local government; the government provides streets and sidewalks allowing customers access the business, police and firefighters to ensure its safety, and–in some cities–adequate public transportation to enlarge the pool of potential customers. In return for those services–necessary in order for a retailer to thrive– government asks that the owner pay his taxes, clear snow from his sidewalk, and honor that “come one, come all” invitation.
Catholic shopowners don’t get to refuse service to divorced and remarried customers; Jewish merchants don’t get to reject people who munched on BLTs before browsing the merchandise. Business owners whose “sincere beliefs” include a healthy amount of racism no longer get to turn away African-Americans. (Indeed, McCann’s letter echoes earlier laments from Southerners whose “liberty” to discriminate against black customers was being infringed by those hateful civil rights laws.)
So yes, “open for business” probably means open to anyone who wants to buy your cupcakes.
On the other hand, if your God tells you that gay people are all sinners headed for hell, your pastor and your church can continue to operate on that theory, and the nasty old government can’t touch you.
You are protected by the Constitution that you evidently read as selectively and uncomprehendingly as you read that bible you keep thumping.