I mentioned in an earlier article at this site that I no longer debate same-sex marriage (SSM) advocates because we are singing from a different song book and, as a result, have no basis for a resolution (unless they claim to be Christians—which some do) . Unless the participants in a debate subscribe to a common definition of right and wrong, debate is fruitless. Whereas my definitions come from Holy Scripture, those of SSM advocates come from other sources. Consequently, when it comes to SSM advocates, they and I will just have to agree to disagree—something I hope we can do in a manner that is open and frank, but mutually respectful.

That said there is one area in which debate with SSM advocates is still possible for me: the claim that SSM is a civil rights issue. My formative years were spent as a young civil rights advocate during the most memorable era of the movement (the 1960s). My adult life has been spent as a vocal advocate of civil rights. Consequently, the claim that SSM is a civil rights issue gets my attention and commands more of my interest than other claims by its advocates. While equating SSM with civil rights might be smart strategy, it is an inaccurate portrayal. My contention is borne out in how SSM advocates are approaching the controversy over how far Christian-owned businesses must go in serving homosexuals who are planning to wed. This is a controversy that could benefit from less volume, rancor, and emotionalism and more logic, reason, and common sense.

SSM advocates have begun demanding that bakeries, flower shops, wedding planners, photographers, and other businesses go over and above the services they normally provide and actually participate, if only indirectly, in their SSM ceremonies. Businesses that refuse to participate in the ways demanded are being fined, threatened, and even forced out of business. The message of SSM advocates is clear: agree with our worldview or we will crush you. I am old enough to remember that this was never the message of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his supporters never tried or even intended to crush those who opposed civil rights. Rather, they treated their opponents with respect even in the face of disrespect and violence. For example, those of us who participated in sit-ins at segregated restaurants did not seek to close down the restaurants, nor did we ask for special privileges. Rather, we simply wanted them to serve all customers equally.  

When SSM advocates claim that their cause is the latest fight in the long battle for civil rights in America, they run afoul of logic, reason, and history. Every civil rights battle fought in this country was fought to gain equal rights not special privileges. If bakeries, flower shops, photographers, wedding planners or any other businesses refuse to serve people in the normal manner because of their sexual orientation, those being refused can make a legitimate case for a civil rights violation. For example, if a Christian baker refuses to bake a cake because he suspects the customer is a homosexual he is in the wrong. But if the same baker refuses to inscribe the cake with a pro-SSM marriage image or a message that violates his Christian convictions, he is within his Constitutional rights.

Christian businesses are not refusing to provide their normal services to homosexual customers—this is not the issue at the heart of the controversy. Further, SSM advocates are not demanding that they be equally served. Christian businesses that refuse to provide services that violate their religious convictions would refuse regardless of the sexual orientation of the customer. Rather, SSM advocates are demanding that Christian-owned businesses provide services that not only go beyond those provided to other customers but also violate the religious convictions of the business owners. It is these extra demands that are at the heart of the current controversy. The refusal is not because the customer is homosexual. It is because the customer is asking the business to do something that runs counter to Biblical teaching. The business would also refuse to inscribe a cake with a message that supported adultery, theft, murder, and child molestation.

When Dr. King and his supporters marched in Selma 50 years ago, they were demanding equality and nothing more. They wanted black Americans in the South to be able to vote just like anyone else. They did not demand extra privileges such as allowing under age blacks to vote. In other words, they did not expect Supervisors of Elections to violate legitimate laws that applied equally to all people. Rather, they simply wanted to strike down illegitimate Jim Crow laws written specifically to discriminate against black Americans; laws that prevented them from voting at all. A civil right is one that all Americans should enjoy. It is not one that provides special privileges to a given group.   This distinction is where SSM marriage advocates run afoul of the Constitution, logic, reason, and common sense.

Take another example. When Civil Rights advocates sat down in segregated restaurants in the South during the 1950s and 60s, they asked only that black Americans be served in the same manner as anyone else. They did not demand that restaurants change their menus or the way they cooked and served meals. They wanted only to be treated in the same manner that any other customer would be treated. If a given restaurant will serve everyone equally but does not serve what a person likes or does not prepare it in the way he or she likes it, that person can go to another restaurant that does. The same thing is true of the SSM advocates who are trying to coerce bakeries, flower shops, photographers, wedding planners, and other businesses into providing services that violate their religious convictions.

What is being portrayed by SSM advocates as a battle for their civil rights is actually an attack on Christianity and Christian business owners. What riles SSM advocates is not really whether a given business will provide the specific services they demand—there are plenty of places that will provide the desired services. What irks SSM advocates is that there are people of faith who reject homosexuality on the basis of Scriptural teaching. Because Christians reject homosexuality, SSM advocates have singled them out for punishment. When the Christians in question are business owners, the punishment prescribed by SSM advocates is destruction. Their message is clear: drop your opposition to our way of life or we will destroy your business.                     If you don’t believe that Christian businesses are being singled out for bullying by SSM advocates, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many times have you seen SSM advocates demanding that Muslim businesses be closed down for refusing to participate in a same-sex wedding?
  • Why do SSM advocates purposefully select Christian-owned businesses for their extra-constitutional demands when there are plenty of non-Christian businesses that can and will gladly fill their orders without violating deeply-held religious principles?
  • How many times have you seen SSM advocates demanding that Amish or Mennonite businesses fill orders that violate their religious convictions?

It should be obvious to even a casual observer that what is being portrayed as a civil rights issue is actually an attack on the religious freedom of Christians. To be fair, I believe that homosexual-owned businesses should be able to refuse to fill an order from a Christian who asks for something that violates the owner’s religious beliefs (yes, secular humanism, agnosticism, and atheism are religions). For example, if a Christian approaches a homosexual baker and asks him to bake a cake with a quote from the Bible that says homosexuality is an abomination, the baker should be able to refuse on the grounds that the inscription violates his religious convictions. Of course, pinning down exactly what secular humanists believe can be problematic since they have no Bible for reference and tend to subscribe to maximum flexibility in defining right and wrong, but that is grist for another mill.

Christians do have a Bible and if you are one of those ill-informed individuals who claims Scripture does not proscribe homosexuality, your attention is directed to the book of Romans, Chapter 1. In this book, pay close attention to verses 18-32. Of course, SSM advocates do not have to subscribe to the Holy Bible. They are, of course, free to choose their own religion or to abstain from religion, but they should at least have the decency to respect the convictions of those who believe the Bible and try to follow it. The bullying tactics currently being used against Christian-owned businesses by SSM advocates are not about civil rights. Rather, they are about suppressing the views of those who refuse to validate the concept of SSM. One associates these tactics with tyrannical dictatorships, not the United States of America.