For same-sex marriage supporters, the suggestion that the legalization of same-sex marriage violates religious liberty may be viewed as a thinly veiled form of bigotry. One could argue that the opponents of same-sex marriage seek the right to discriminate against homosexuals by using religious liberty as a cover.
Of course, it is inexcusable and reprehensible when the attitudes of religious groups become contemptuous, aggressive or even violent towards members of the gay community. That conduct has no place in a civilized society. That said, are there areas where same-sex marriage can legitimately infringe on the rights of members of the religious community?
Many religious individuals sincerely believe that homosexuality is a violation of their values. Given that, how should they comport themselves when interacting with members of the gay community? Should the law mandate that ministers of Christian churches officiate same-sex weddings? Additionally, should the law prohibit the use of any language that opposes same-sex marriage by classifying it as hate speech?
As a person that has spent a significant amount of time within church culture, I have a feeling that religious institutions devote far too much energy to debating this issue. Even so, religious individuals and organizations ought to be able to observe and express their faith however they see fit within reasonable limits.
With any luck, two things will happen in tandem: First, the vast majority of the religious community will acknowledge and respect same-sex unions. Second, members of the gay community will not try to coerce people of faith into acting against their convictions or demonize those that hold true to them.
My hope is that both communities will resist the temptation of using social pressure to impose their respective lifestyles on one another. Americans ought to be able to navigate this new cultural reality with decency, kindness and fairness.
David Walker is a lifestyle photographer and graphic designer. He also publishes weekly essays and short podcast talks on his blog, TheAugustan.com.