Gay Marriage, Religious Freedom & the Free Market


So in the last few days Indiana passed a hugely controversial law .  This law has sent the internet into a tailspin of debate and diatribes for and against this law, the people who support and oppose it, and what to do about it..  There are three aspects to consider in this issue as described in the title.  I hope to explain my position on each one of them and how the relate to each other by the end of this article.  I know this article will probably aggravate many people on both sides of the political argument, because that’s just the way I roll.

Gay marriage.  It is time to admit this is a thing.  Marriage is a relationship sanctioned by the state and entitles those getting married according to the laws of their state to specific rights, privileges, benefits and responsibilities.  Because  it is a state sanctioned relationship the state cannot legally deny one group of people the right to get married.  To do so would violate the equal protection they have under the law and the privileges entitled to them as citizens of the state protected by 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution.  Therefore, within our civil society they must be allowed.  I do not like the idea of the state redefining marriage, because I always wonder what is the next redefinition that will get us further from the truth of what marriage is in our society.  But in the interest of equal protection of the laws, equal rights, full faith and credit, and any other number of constitutional issues, gay marriage should be allowed by our society in a civil manner. Where did this perspective come from for a conservative Christian?  Let me explain.

My belief about this came, as strange as it may seem, from a conservative political pundit, Judge Andrew Napalitano.  A few years ago, on his Facebook page, he said regardless of whether homosexuality is a choice or not (Not a debate I am going to get into now, so don’t try to bait it), does government have authority to deny these couples the right to choose their mate and get the benefits that come from it.  He referenced the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia that deemed the anti-misogynistic laws  that prevented whites and blacks from getting married as unconstitutional.  This went further to convince me that in our civil society we should allow gay marriages to occur.  The fact of the matter is that many of these men and women are living in a marriage relationship already.  My friends Don and Quin have been together nearly as long as my parents, why should the benefits of marriage be denied to them in our civil society. Acceptance of this perspective is not without consequences thought, both intended and unintended.

In several states gay couples have attempted to use services related to weddings from business men and women who are Christians who believe that gay marriage is contrary to the Bible (which it is) and therefore choose not to take part.  Penalties have been laid on them by the state and sued in their courts to force them to provide their services, which would violate their religious beliefs.  Anyone who says this is not a clear violation of the religious freedom clauses in the first amendment will have to explain to me why it is not (Those who do please explain in the comments).  This is not what worries more than a different unintended consequence.  What happens when a gay couple decides they want to get married in my church, by my pastor and he says no because it violates this freedom of religious expression?  Will the state step and tell my church that they have to do this or lose their non-profit status?  Could a judge order my pastor, on pain of fines or jail time, to conduct such a service?  Many of you might say it would never come to that, but if the government can force a business and its owners to operate for the benefit of someone else, against their expressed wishes and beliefs, why couldn’t they do this to a church?  The best way to handle this is through the free market of the economy and ideas.

The free market is an economic idea related to capitalism that believes that the best regulator of goods and services is the market itself, not a government or other entity.  In a truly free market economy a business is free to do business with whomever they choose with little or no regulation from the government.  When a business says that they will not serve a person they are within their rights as individuals and businesses.  No one can be forced to service another person.  Just as no one can force a person to shop at a specific business for their wants and needs.  So what do we do in those situations where a business owner does not want to service a gay couples’ wedding?  Let the free market decide.

Bakery A claims they don’t have to provide a wedding cake for Gay Couple X because to do so would violate their religious beliefs.  Couple X is free then to get their cake from any other bakery they want which will service their needs, Bakery B.  Bakery A has lost business too.  I am also willing to bet Couple X is going to tell their friends who are getting married that Bakery A won’t make their cake which could lead their friends to take their business elsewhere.  It may even lead to boycotts and protests, all of which are perfectly legal under the 1st Amendment.  Bakery A after acquiring a reputation for not providing cakes for homosexual marriage ceremonies begins to lose business, while Bakery B has seen his business increase because of the recommendations of Couple X.  The free market has clearly decided that Bakery B was the superior businesses because of its willingness to put religious beliefs aside in the prospect of getting new customers.  This is not to say Bakery A will go out of business, but their rights as individuals in their religious beliefs, and their right to service whom they will in the free market it preserved.  No one is hurt and everyone gets what they want.

How does this all connect together?  Gays marriage is a thing and they will be getting married, regardless of our beliefs on the issue.  It is only a matter of time before all 50 states by their own laws, or decisions of the federal courts must allow for equal access to marriage for those of the same gender.  Nothing short of a constitutional amendment will change that, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.  With that trend in mind, we must protect the religious rights of those who don’t agree with gay marriage. They must be allowed to honor their deeply held beliefs and not forced into doing anything personally or professionally to compromise them.  Lastly, the free market of ideas and of the economy will rule as it always does to bring balance back to the market place.  Gays will still be able to get cakes, invitations, photographers, videographers, tuxedos, dresses, and all the accoutrements involved in weddings regardless of a person’s religious beliefs on gay marriage.  This will happen because some shrewd business person will open up a business to service them because he/she know they will get business and be able to make money doing it.  The free market is already at work within Indiana with this law being passed.  Companies are pulling out and people are actively protesting and boycotting the state.  This is forcing the state to react to this law.  The free market does work and we need to let it work.

A couple of side bars related to the article above, but not exactly part of the content itself.  One of them is absolutely hilarious so please read to the end if you want a good laugh.

Side Bar #1:  Many of the businesses sued by homosexual couples for refusing to give them service for their wedding had already been serviced by these businesses in the past.  These businesses just choose to discriminate when it came to their participation in a wedding that went counter to their religious beliefs. So they are not discriminating against homosexuals in and of themselves, but against being involved in a ceremony that violates their religious beliefs.

Side Bar #2:  Some may ask, what about the laws Congress passed to end segregation in public accommodations in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement? Would those apply to this case?  Well, one could argue that these laws were violation of free market principles, and it was, but Congress had authority to so such things because it its authority to regulate interstate commerce. These public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, bus terminals, etc.) operated under the clear premise of interstate commerce.  Therefore Congress had authority to regulate them.  The same argument could be made in the cases of the Indiana law.  Very few businesses today operate only at an intrastate level.  I am betting bakeries, chapels and other wedding businesses, while they do operate solely in the state, they engage in interstate commerce when they buy the supplies they need to operate their business.  So Congress could possibly regulate this, but it would still violate the religious liberty of the individuals who run the business.

Side Bar #3: The husband of former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann was the first victim of this law.  He was dress shopping for her in Indianapolis when they visited this weekend in support of the law.  The lady who owned the dress store exercised her right to deny his service because she thought he was gay.  HA! I am not saying he is  gay, but it is sweet irony that situation makes me laugh out loud.

Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  Class dismissed!

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7 thoughts on “Gay Marriage, Religious Freedom & the Free Market

  1. Good morning Adam, randomly surfing I found your blog. I enjoy your writings, even if I disagree with some of it. As a self described moderate liberal, I wonder if you could expand on the following sentence:

    “In several states gay couples have attempted to use services related to weddings from business men and women who are Christians who believe that gay marriage is contrary to the Bible (which it is) and therefore choose not to take part.”

    What is that same baker refused service because the customer was a female, black, or a Muslim and they refused on religious grounds? Is a homosexual different from these other things? It just seems like this same argument is an evolution of the same argument that has happened many times in the history of this country.

    I’m concerned with the “because it’s contrary to the bible” comment. You seem well versed in your religion. The bible has many interesting things to say about women and divorce, yet I see a clerk in Kentucky, divorced 4 times, standing up against the biblical sin of homosexuality. It certainly seems like the Founders were on to something dictating religion should stay out of government, or at least not play a major role. There are so many examples in the bible of just how wrong it is to pass judgment, Matthew 7:1, and John 8.7 come to mind. Very frustrating to try and understand when it became our duty, not to do God’s work, but to pass judgements on his children.

    • Damn it! I wrote a nice response and then accidently hit back and destroyed it all. GRRRR!!! I will try and recreate what I said the first time.

      Thanks for your comment and I hope I can answer your question.

      The issue with the bakers is not refusing service to a gay person, it’s refusing to be part of a ceremony that violates their conscience and religious beliefs. Many of these businesses have worked with homosexuals and their partners before in other capacities. So they are not discriminating against them because they are gay. They are asking them to violate their deeply held religious beliefs that are protected by the first amendment. Also, they gay couples are allowed to take their business elsewhere to someone who will provide them service. They can also tell their friends that they will give them any more of their business because of this slight. That is the joy of the free market you cannot be forced to give or receive business from anyone. But we should not force someone to our beliefs.

      The Kim Davis story is a different issue. I have linked an article below that explains a few examples as to why her action is different from a private business. She represents the state and is required to follow their laws, the laws of the Congress and the decisions of our federal courts (See Article VI of the U.S. Constitution for that one.) She is violating the law in the same way Governor Wallace of Alabama refused to integrate public schools after the Brown decision. Regardless of whether she agrees with the decision or not, as a public civil servant it is her job to follow the law as dictated by the courts. If it violates her conscience, she is not required to stay in that position. She can find another job that does not require her to violate her religious principles. But as an actor for the state, she has to follow the law.

      Check out the Time article. It is a good article that explains with good examples as to why Kim Davis is in the wrong. I agree with despite being a strongly pragmatic conservative republican, and at the same time disagreeing with the premise gay marriage on religious and other grounds.

      Thanks for the conservation and welcome to the blog. Sorry it’s not updated more frequently.

      Link: http://time.com/4029010/the-fight-in-kentucky-is-about-public-duty-not-personal-belief/ (Not sure if you can access it online if you are not a subscriber but its from September 21 issues of TIme so you can find it at your local library)

  2. I tend to give private business owners a great deal of latitude, but this still bothers me. I’m not strongly religious, but I can show respect to those that are. My first thought is, do those businesses you refer to, the ones you say have been serving gays, know that they are gay? If they didn’t know, but refused service when they found out? For example, did that Indiana pizza shop ask the couple if they were gay before saying no to catering a gay wedding? If they did know, why the change? Or are you saying, ‘I have always known your gay. You can do my taxes, cut my grass, but my religious morals dictate I can’t make a cake for your gay wedding ceremony’?

    My second problem lies with their application. I’m concerned something like this allows business to discriminate against anyone they want, and it is discrimination. Divorce ranks right up there with homosexuality in the bible (from my layman’s view), but I certainly don’t see business refusing to sell to a woman celebrating a divorce with a cake, which is a pretty popular celebration nor among divorcees. It seems like gays are being selectively targeted with this violation of religious belief.

    • Would you expect a Orthodox Jew or Muslim butcher to handle pork? This is a clear violation of their religious beliefs and morals. In the same way a Christian business owner does not want to be associated with a religious ceremony they find religiously repugnant and against their personally held beliefs. This is not about the people being gay, it’s about being asked to participate in something they don’t believe in as a person. The key issue in the religious freedom found in the first amendment is the ability to have the freedom to follow our conscience (first drafts have this language and so do many of the state constitutions when referring to religious freedom).

      Private businesses and individuals are allowed to discriminate and we all do it on a daily basis. We choose who we want to be with and who we don’t. Businesses cannot be compelled by government to do business with anyone in a free market. If you don’t agree with that businesses practices, the appropriate response in that situation would be to take your business elsewhere and tell others to do the same, not sue them to force them to labor and creative work for your benefit. Nor do you attempt to shut them down and take their livelihood because you disagree with what they believe. You would not like it if someone tried to take your business or livelihood just for disagreeing with what you believe. The Free Market will take care of that if their beliefs are so morally repugnant that the whole of society disagrees with them.

  3. I don’t think an orthodox Jew or a Muslim would be selling pork, there’s a religious aspect in the pork itself. If they sold pork in their store, I would expect them to sell it. The cake or pizza is not the issue, it’s who they are selling their product to. Now, if a guy walked into a Muslim store wearing an “I hate Allah” shirt, I think I would tend to support the owner’s right to refuse service. The customer is making a choice to wear that shirt, a homosexual person has no choice. I part ways with the business owner when the customer is being denied service for something they cannot control, i.e. being black or homosexual. I don’t believe my God would promote such treatment of a person for something they are born as.

    I partially agree with your second point. I guess it saddens me to think of it in that way. I feel that some of these business owners are doing in accordance with their beliefs (bakery), while some are using it as a weapon against a lifestyle they are morally opposed to, (Indiana pizza shop). The pizza shop went on the news and made a statement to the public. I don’t see much difference in that and the ‘white/colored’ signs over drinking fountains of the past.

    There’s such a huge divide in this country now, just letting the free market take care of these issues seems like it will deepen that divide. I believe it is governments job to close that gap by selectively applying laws that are intended to solve the situation. Sometimes those laws hit the mark, and sometimes they make the situation worse. I tend to think it’s worse to do nothing when the situation has obviously gotten worse.

    • I don’t think you understand my point and if you don’t there is no point in continuing this conversation. Right now I feel like we are arguing in circles.

      Can you understand that the businesses are not discriminating on account of their sexual orientation? This is refusing to do business with someone who is asking you to participate in a ceremony that they find morally and religiously repugnant. Are the participants gay? Yes, but they are not refusing because they are gay. As I stated before, many of these businesses have done business with these same people before. So them being gay is a non-issue in their business it’s the ceremony. If you don’t understand that point, then your not understanding my whole point on the issue.

      The difference between this situation and segregation of the past is that gays are not being denied the right to vote, forced to go to intentionally poor schools, or being treated in every way as inferior citizens. Gays are not being beaten in the streets by the police, sprayed with water cannons or being jailed for trying to practice their civil rights. They are being told no by a business they do not want to participate in a ceremony that violates their deeply held religious beliefs. To force them to behave in such away nullifies their first amendment rights to the free practice of religion. By refusing service, the businesses are not denying gays the right to get married, they are just saying, we don’t want to be involved in that marriage ceremony.

      Lastly, to selectively apply laws means there is no equal protection under the law. and violates one of the most important principles of our nation, the rule of law. If you start selectively enforcing laws in one area where does it stop?

      I hope this makes sense. I have enjoyed this conversation, but I fear we may never truly see each other’s perspective on this, so it might be best to stop our conversation here. I appreciate your patronage to my site and look forward to future conversations.

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