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No one is going to be forced to perform a same sex wedding

Would someone please reassure Dan Patrick of this before he wets himself?

RedEquality

Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, said he sponsored Senate Bill 2065 at the urging of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The Senate suspended its rules to allow the bill to be introduced on Tuesday, weeks past the session’s filing deadlines.

The legislation would allow a religious organization or affiliated individual, such as a member of the clergy or officiant, to refuse to preside over any marriage “if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief.” It also would allow them to refuse to provide “services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges” toward the “solemnization, formation, or celebration” of any such marriage.

“I don’t think it would be advisable to compel men or women of the cloth to do marriages that violated their closely held religious beliefs,” said Estes. “There’s a companion bill in the House, and we filed the Senate bill at the request of the lieutenant governor.”

Chuck Smith, head of the gay rights group Equality Texas, said the bill is more wide-reaching than it may appear on first reading. Because it is not restricted to officiants acting in their official capacities, Smith said, the bill would allow anyone who is ordained to discriminate against anyone at any time.

The bill is also needless, Smith added, if its purpose is to allow officiants to refuse to marry certain couples since that right already exists.

“We respect the religious freedom of clergy to determine who to marry,” said Smith. “That right is already constitutionally protected. So, in some respects, that statute is unnecessary.”

My maternal grandmother was widowed at a young age, in the early 1960s. A decade or so later, she remarried. Her new husband, my step-grandfather, had been divorced, and since his first marriage had not been annulled, they could not be married in the Catholic Church, since the Church did not recognize divorce. They had a civil marriage, and though she continued to be a regular churchgoer, she never again received Communion, since she was in a state of sin for her non-church wedding.

I bring this up to make the obvious point (as Justice Kagan did for her deliberately-being-obtuse colleague, Justice Scalia) that it has always been the case that churches and clergy have always been able to refuse to officiate at a wedding for couples that do not meet the requirements of their faith. That remains true today – divorce is still not recognized by the Catholic Church, and divorced people cannot be married in the Church without going through Church-mandated hoops, despite the fact that divorce has been legal in America for decades, if not centuries. We also now have the experience of thousands of same-sex weddings that have been performed in the country, going back ten years in the case of Massachusetts. I for one am not aware of any priest, minister, rabbi, imam, or whatever being forced to officiate at one against his or her will. Given all the publicity that every rogue baker and florist has received in the 37 states where same sex marriage is allowed, I feel confident we’d have heard of such a person if one existed.

So it should be clear that this bill is at best completely superfluous, and at worst an unconstitutional attempt to extend this right that religions and their clergy have beyond what is accepted today. So why do this – in particular, why go out of the way to do this when so much other legislation is struggling for time? A matter of values, I suppose, and a good reminder that not all values are virtuous. I just hope the state doesn’t wind up wasting too much of our tax dollars fighting unsuccessfully to salvage this in court down the line.

UPDATE: Debate on this bill has been delayed, most likely until Monday.

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2 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    The Catholic Church denying divorced people the option of marrying in the church isn’t exactly an apples to apples comparison, as being divorced doesn’t seem to be a protected class, whereas being gay seems to be a protected class.

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