This week Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, vetoed a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to customers on religious grounds. The bill was proposed in response to businesses in other states that have gotten into trouble for refusing to sell cakes, flowers and other goods to gay couples who are getting married.
The law was vetoed because it violated people’s civil liberties, and also because it was really vague. Though the bill was mainly supported by business owners who wanted the right to refuse service to LGBT customers, especially those who were getting married, it could’ve had broader (and, I would add, disastrous) consequences.
I was relieved that the bill was vetoed, though a lot of my Christian friends were disappointed. I respect others’ views, but I’m convinced for many reasons that Governor Brewer made the right decision.
Two caveats before I tell you why. The first is that I’m not talking about religious institutions here (synagogues, churches, mosques, etc.) I think that’s an entirely different matter, and deserves a separate conversation. The second is that I welcome dissenting opinions, but please be thoughtful and kind in your comments.
That being said, here’s why I agree with Governor Brewer’s veto.
1) Because the philosophy that gave rise to the bill is logically inconsistent. These businesses are willing to sell flowers and cupcakes to gay couples, just not gay couples who want to get married? If you believe that God doesn’t want anyone to practice homosexuality, gay marriage seems like an arbitrary boundary. Why not refuse service to any person you think/know is gay? Nowhere in the Bible does God say, “Being gay is cool, but being gay and married, well, that’s something else.”
2) Because it buys into a slanted, sexualized gospel. For a long time we’ve allowed our faith to be co-opted by a conservative political machine that would have us believe that the “worst” sins are sins that have to do with sex, like having an abortion or marrying a same-sex partner. We need to look at life and faith holistically, not in the narrow scope offered to us by politicians who are (mostly) wealthy straight white men who will never have to worry about being discriminated against because they’re gay, and who will never need an abortion (hence their ability to rail at these particular issues while ignoring more insidious sins like greed.) God does care about your sex life, but He cares about A LOT more than that.
3) Because refusing them service doesn’t change anything. Selling roses to a lesbian couple will not make you gay, and refusing to sell them roses will not make them straight. And it will not stop them from getting married. The wedding will go on whether you’re their florist or not.
4) Because judging other people is a slippery slope. So you start by denying service to someone because they’re marrying their same-sex partner. Then what? Do you refuse to rent your banquet hall for a bar mitzvah if you’re not Jewish? Do you refuse to sell wine or bread to the Catholic church because you don’t agree with transubstantiative communion? Do you refuse to sell food to obese people because gluttony is a sin? Do you deny medical care to unwed mothers because they had premarital sex? Where does it end?
5) Because it makes you miserable. Judging other people for their choices, and making yourself responsible or even culpable for their choices, is exhausting and unnecessary.
6) Because it’s not fair. If an atheist kicked you out of their diner for praying over your meal, you’d call it religious persecution. But if it’s you who’s refusing service to someone else, all of a sudden, you’re exercising religious freedom?
7) Because societies that split along religious lines unravel. We can see from history how religious schisms quickly turn into violent chaos (Remember the Catholic v. Protestant conflict in Ireland? Or that little thing called the Inquisition?) We’re called to live at peace with everyone, even if we don’t agree with their veiwpoints or lifestyles.
8) Because…remember WWJD? If you want to know what Jesus would do, just look at what Jesus did. His whole ministry emphasized that it was the spirit, not the letter, of the law that mattered. He turned water into wine so that wedding guests who were already intoxicated could drink more. He didn’t avoid women working in the sex trade or tax collectors who were cheating people out of money “because of religious convictions.” He didn’t tell them to clean up their act before he’d associate with them. He spent more time with them, not less — because they were refreshingly honest, unlike the stuffy, self-righteous, judgmental, arrogant religious leaders — and because how would broken people heal if he avoided them?
9) Because God doesn’t need people adding extra rules to his teaching. Jesus had harsh words for the religious leaders who not only observed the Sabbath, but wrote hundreds of extra Sabbath rules, made people observe all of them, and judged them if they didn’t. Jesus purposely broke laws on the Sabbath to make it clear that people were more important than the rules, and to remind people that God’s word didn’t require any additional regulations.
10) Because life is about love. Jesus said all of the commandments boiled down to two things, really. Love God, and Love Others. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Love God, and love others around you. No, seriously, it’s that simple.
Infuse the world with grace and mercy.
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Respect everyone, because we’re all made in the image of God.
Live in harmony.
Live in peace.
Live in love.