Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Hitching Post Scenario

The Hitching Post wedding chapel is a for-profit matrimony service in Idaho run by ordained ministers Donald and Evelyn Knapp. As per Idaho's newly ensconced laws against discrimination towards gays, they are preemptively filing suit to get an exception against having to perform same-sex marriages. Exceptions, it appears, do already exists for religious corporations--but the Hitching Post isn't owned by a church. It's not clear they'll get one.

Interestingly, until a few months ago, the Hitching Post offered ceremonies for other religions ... and civil ceremonies. They have been actively changing their web page in order to shore up their defense that performing a gay marriage would violate their beliefs.

In other words, they might've performed a Muslim wedding--which would be fine (It's 'Allah' good?)--or a sign-on-the-line marriage (so long as it's a man and a woman)--but not if it's a Christian ceremony for Adam and Steve (can there be such a thing? Well ... some people say so. The Omnivore isn't credentialed enough to have a professional opinion).

As a champion for religious rights, the Hitching Post isn't a great choice. But the larger question is this: when faced with a conflict between civil rights and personal freedoms (or deeply held religious beliefs), what do you do? What is the preferred solution for "your side"?

Option 1: Choose Your Icon Carefully
We'll never know what exactly happened to Zimmerman the night he killed Trayvon Martin: there's evidence he was getting beat up--maybe even in fear for his life--but we've really got no idea ... just (more or less) his word against a dead body. The Martin Brown case is still playing out--but, again, there's going to be a cross-fire of testimony that holds Brown was attacking Wilson in the moments prior to the shooting.

There's always going to be a specter of doubt and the prior actions (played up by the press? Leaked by the police) of the shooting victims are going to damage the greater cases they make to the world at large. Rosa Parks wasn't the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat on the bus--she was just the most sympathetic.

It's possible that Erick Erickson's outrage ("You will be made to care") will boomerang--even by his standards--if it turns out that the couple has, say, officiated a civil ceremony for two satanists. If you are the kind of person who thinks that the individual characteristics of the standard bearer are important to the larger picture of the standard then the Hitching Post with it's tacky name and hastily altered web-site isn't a great one.

On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who thinks the bigger picture is what's important then it's sticker: should a Jewish baker be forced to bake a cake for a Nazi wedding? The idea turns The Omnivore's stomach--but the larger picture of religious beliefs has some pretty dark waters down near the bottom.

Option 2: No Religious Businesses
The obvious option for the Hitching Post is to hire a guy to handle weddings the pastors won't do themselves. That--or team up with a church and get their exemption. Both of these are probably not optimal--but (barring specific legalities or religious restrictions The Omnivore isn't familiar with) they seem achievable.

It's possible that the end-game here is simply this: if you are in the wedding business you are a take-all-comers type of person. If you are in the religious arm, you're a non-profit. Now, the wedding business is big business--and it's, currently at least, all tied up with religion--so untangling it isn't simple, isn't easy, and won't be fun or fair--but The Omnivore is pretty clear that we can still have religious weddings and we can still have profitable ones--and they don't have to overlap.

Option 3: Martyrs
It's less clear what you do when you are a one-man wedding photographer and you accidentally take on a job for a marriage that turns out to be same-sex and you feel creative participation makes you a party to the wedding in a way you can't handle. Sure: maybe what you do is try to nicely throw the business to a secular partner ("Hey, guys, I know we set this up--but I think Josh, here is really gonna be better for you.")--but what if they don't accept that? Whether to make a point--or because they really wanted you, what if they insist and the law says you gotta?

As it turns out religion has an answer to that (at least a lot of them do): you take the hit. This isn't cool--but it is the, erm, canonical response. You take the fine. You lose the store. You get, you know, eaten by the lions?

Part of doing this is because doing so actually moves the dial. If people perceived at large to be good people (perhaps with "old fashioned beliefs"?) are being put out on the street by gays targeting their shops and then brining law-suits against them--actually looks bad.

Now, this sucks for the martyr--but it is how religions have made their cases in the past. Maybe this is the answer today?

The Real Answer: No One's Going To Care
The Omnivore suspects, though, that despite Erickson's I-Told-You-So no one in the big picture is going to care, and here's why: to the younger generation gay rights look like racial issues. Whether they are or not is unimportant, yo: the ship sailed.

This means that although religious conservatives are going to see the end-times writ-large in gay sky-writing, society as a whole--and the wedding industry as a whole--is going to move ahead because gay-weddings are worth millions of dollars to local economies (although, despite what some might imagine, not more than the same increase in straight weddings would bring).

The wedding-industrial complex, chasing an uptick in wedding dollars is likely to steam-roll religious objections of the Hitching Post sort (that is, where the objection is brought up by a not-church affiliated for-profit business). While there will, in fact, be people who are fined or put out of business due to their religious beliefs, as the younger population gets older and the money rolls in? Those particular moral questions are likely to become less and less relevant.

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