Perhaps, because most of the social conservatives I’ve met lean libertarian, I am more sympathetic to them than are many gay people, nearly all of whom only read about them in left-leaning media and left-wing blogs. From my first encounters with politically active Christians in the 1980s, I’ve been stuck at how similar their attitudes on some issues are to my own.
They didn’t want government to mandate how others should live, merely wanted it to leave them alone so they could practice their faith and educate their children as they saw fit. They cited numerous court decisions which, they believed, made it more difficult for them to practice their faith and government policies which, they contended, made it difficult for them to profess that faith in public settings.
To wit, a 2004 California Supreme Court decision that “a Catholic group must provide coverage for birth control in its health insurance plan, regardless of the fact that contraception is contrary to teachings of the Catholic Church.” This ruling forced the group to pay for a service which the Catholic Church forbids.
That is one reason I support New Hampshire Governor John Lynch’s veto of a bill which would recognize same-sex marriages in the Granite State; he asked the legislature tweak the bill, including “language that would protect churches and other religious institutions from prosecution if, for example, they refuse to perform same-sex marriages.” Given the record of courts in limiting religious freedom, social conservatives have legitimate concerns that should states recognize same-sex marriage, state courts may require religious organizations to act in violation of their faiths’ creeds as did the California Supreme Court five years ago.
When gay leaders, like Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, accuse the “Yes on 8” campaign “of deceit and lies,” they ignore the serious concerns of social conservatives. But, when they warned of a “parade of horribles” that might follow should Prop 8 fail, social conservatives weren’t deceiving anyone, merely expressing their own fears. With the court mandating that Catholics pay for abortions, they were concerned that it might next mandate that Mormon businesses facilitate gay weddings.
That’s one of the reasons it’s far better to go through state legislatures than through courts. Should the California uphold Prop 8 (as I believe it should), the next step would be for citizens to organize to put another initiative on the ballot, leaving to the legislature to define which marriages the Golden State recognizes. Then, hopefully, our elected officials will balance the concerns of gay people who want our unions recognized as marriage as social conservatives who want to ensure that the state definition not prevent religious institutions from continuing to define marriage according to their creed.
There’s a good debate going on in New Hampshire, as elected officials are doing their job, wrestling with a controversial issue. While the current legislation has hit a “snag,” let’s hope that the legislature sends the Governor a bill which meets his concerns.