For years before the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriages were legal, gay activists assured America that their marriages would not force people who have a religious opposition to gay marriage to compromise that belief. Now it appears those activists had in mind exactly what they had denied. All over the country, wedding service companies who are owned by Christians who believe their faith prohibits them from supplying services for a gay wedding ceremony are being sued, fined and in many cases forced out of business. This situation is at the heart of the reason many states are formulating bills like House Bill 757, which is being debated in the Georgia Capitol this month. HB 757 is a religious protection bill that attempts to protect the exercise of religious freedom that the First Amendment guarantees, without denying basic freedoms to the gay community.
The small-business owners who are being persecuted are being portrayed as discriminating against gay patrons for their lifestyle choices, even though these same owners serve gay customers for all other events besides gay weddings and in many cases employee gay workers. This paradox can be explained by understanding one of the basics of the Christian religion itself. The reason the targeted owners have no problem serving and employing gays even if they disapprove of the homosexual lifestyle is because Christianity teaches that all people sin in many and varied ways and so it would be not only be impossible but also hypocritical to deny anyone service or employment based solely on an individual's life choices.
The rub with being involved in a gay wedding ceremony is that some Christians believe such involvement would constitute a personal validation of the event. I say "some" Christian business owners because some Christian owners do not believe that gay marriage is objectionable and other Christians believe that using their business services for a gay wedding ceremony, even if they disapprove of it, does not constitute an endorsement of the event. This, I submit, is what the free exercise of religion that the Constitution protects is all about, but it is not being enforced for the business owners being persecuted.
The situation does not bring an undue burden on gay couples seeking vendors for their wedding ceremonies, I believe. There are many accommodating vendors that are easily available without harassing the ones who have religious objections. (And incidentally, isn't it interesting that exactly no Muslim wedding vendors who have refused service for gay weddings have been harassed in any way?)
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The argument that laws such as HB 757 will result in loss of business for the state is a straw man if there ever was one. Coca-Cola and Ford and Nike have no problem marketing their products in places like India and Singapore, where homosexuality is actually illegal and gays are thrown in jail or worse. And movie companies and sports venues are untroubled about making movies and holding sports events in these same gay-hating places. And yet these are the folks who are threatening not to do business in Georgia? Give me a break. This is another example of how the leftist argument that a community won't be viewed as "welcoming" — that's the talking-point word — if they try to come up with a bill that balances the rights of different groups of people on this issue.
Hollywood and most big corporations — including many sports venues — have chosen the side of political correctness to present to their American audience while racking up big bucks in gay-bashing countries overseas.
I applaud Georgia legislators for tackling this difficult and complicated issue and hope that Georgians will appreciate those who have the courage and patience to try to work out a fair and balanced compromise rather than listen to those who only hurl insults and threaten hypocritical boycotts.
Rinda Wilson is a resident of Macon.