I will admit to a bit of apprehension about writing this. This issue is such an inflammatory one anymore that I believe that there is no way to espouse any opinion without angering someone. However, it’s weighed on my mind for so long now I have to put something down on paper. I’m asking ahead of time for some patience. Please read it through and hear me out.
In 1991, I was a 22 year old Lance Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed in Okinawa, Japan. There had been a debate going on in the paper about homosexuality in the military and I decided to put my two cents in. Below is a small tidbit of what I said back then:
I have no particular love of homosexuality, but then I’m not a homosexual. But, as I’ve worked with people who’ve been divorced, had sex before marriage and other activities, which the Bible states are wrong, I see no problem working with someone who is gay. It’s not my job to take the place of God and judge anyone. And, as much as the military would think it’s their right, it’s really none of their concern what a person does in his private life, especially if it’s done with another consenting adult. Let God be God. If it’s wrong, He’ll let them know.
Not the best worded opinion I’ve ever wrote, but I was pretty young. However, I still feel this way.
As you might imagine, I received some flak from my immediate supervisor over this article. (Keep in mind, this was several years before, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.) The third to last sentence talks about how it’s none of the militiary’s business about this issue. I was told I had no right to say this in a public forum as a member of the military. In fact, I was ordered to submit any future “opinions” I had to my supervisor before they were sent to the paper. I may not like to admit this, but as arcane as that sounds, my supervisor was right. I was in the military and like it or not, your freedom is limited to a degree when you serve.
I wrote this article because I had a very close friend in the Marines that was gay. He was my first supervisor when I was stationed in North Carolina. He got out of the military not long after that but we remained friends. I cared for him and I saw the struggles he went through and it bothered me that he couldn’t just be who he was. He had to keep it a secret the entire time he served our country and generally most of his adult life. He struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction and I’m sure that his keeping this a secret was partly to blame. Today, I don’t even know if this man is still alive.
So you might say that I have a somewhat libertarian view of homosexuality. I’ve been raised in a faith and then chose a different faith as an adult in which both teach homosexuality is a sin. I believe that to be true. But, I also believe it’s not my place to interfere in what someone does in their personal life. I believe in essence, “each to their own.” I’ve known several people in my life that are gay and I really don’t care. It’s their life. It really, truly is none of my business.
That being said, I draw the line at when the tables are turned and now people who have a spiritual conviction against homosexuality are being told they must ignore their convictions and participate – in any way – in something they feel is sinful.
In both Kansas and in South Dakota there were laws that were debated this winter about protecting the right of a business owner from being sued if they refuse to provide a service to a same sex couple because of their religious convictions. Both laws never completely made it through their states’ Congress and are now dead in the water.
This is probably a good thing – to a degree. Both laws were too broad from what I can determine. It seemed they could be used to allow firing of someone for being gay as well as allowing discrimination against same sex couples for pretty much anything. All of that is wrong.
It does bring up some issues for me though. Here are some of the things I think of and my thoughts on each.
Should a business owner be allowed to refuse service to a same sex couple?
If the service is done in regards to a religious ceremony – such as a wedding – then my opinion is yes, that business owner should be able to refuse service if they choose. Telling a business owner that they are not allowed to have a religious conviction when they choose to go into business is absolutely foolish. That’s like me asking you to cut off your toe before you go into your career field. People’s religious convictions are a part of who they are. You can’t turn that off and on. If you can, then it’s not a true conviction.
I’ve heard people also argue that it is ok to say a preacher can’t be forced to marry a same sex couple but that a business owner isn’t afforded that same right? Why? Just because a person isn’t a preacher, that doesn’t mean they don’t have religious convictions similar to that preacher! It just means the preacher chose to make his convictions into a career. The business owner didn’t but his/her convictions are still a part of who they are every day.
So, if a business, such as a cake decorating company or a photography shop was asked to provide their service for a same sex wedding, they should be able to refuse – in my opinion. But, that same company being asked to provide the same service outside of a wedding or other religious activity, should not be able to refuse the service, even if the people who requested it are gay.
Likewise, if any business is asked to perform a service that is not part of a religious ceremony, then I believe that business cannot refuse service when requested to do this by someone who is gay. If you feel that strongly about keeping gay people out of your life, then honestly, you need to remove yourself from the public entirely.
Should a business owner be forced to refuse service to a same sex couple?
Absolutely not. I’ve heard some say that the law that they tried to pass in South Dakota would have done this. If so, it deserved to die. What a ridiculous concept.
Should a gay person be allowed to be fired for being gay?
Again, no. Seems odd that in the 21st century we even have to ask this question. I truly thought that being gay was a protected status. Recently, I learned otherwise and that shocked me. It seems to me to be an arbitrary reason to fire someone. It’s like firing someone because they like peanut butter and jelly.
As you can see my only real issue is tied to when a business owner is being required to ignore his/her convictions. I believe that my thoughts on that as described above could be a viable way to create a solution to the problem – but one voice like mine gets drowned out in the thunderous clamor of screams of “bigot!” and/or “sinner!” that seem to take up so much of this discussion.
I have to pause for a moment and talk about those two words, bigot and sinner. These two words take up so much of any conversation on this topic that it is difficult to have a rational conversation with anyone anymore.
If you look at a person who has a religious conviction against homosexuality and with nothing more than that to go on call them a bigot, you are absolutely the same as the Westboro group that goes around preaching hate towards everyone. Seriously. It’s an inflammatory word that makes discussion impossible.
Likewise, if you look at someone who is either gay or believes homosexuality to be a normal part of life and call them a sinner with nothing more than that to go on, you are the same as the Westboro group as well. Keep in mind, if you truly believe it’s a sin, you must believe we are all sinners, and that includes you so explain to me why you feel it’s your right to yell it into someone else’s face?
I believe we are on the cusp of a huge change in this country. Because of the way people are approaching this issue, I truly believe any solution we come up with is going to hurt someone. We seem bent on either two solutions:
- Ignore a person’s right to have religious convictions against homosexuality.
- Ignore a person’s right to live a homosexual life free from discrimination.
This makes me sad. I think in as country as great as ours, that we should be able to come up with a more reasoned approach. The older I get though, the more convinced I’m becoming that “reasoned approaches” are a thing of the past.