Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Choice does not trump everything.

First, for background, a link. The one-sentence summary: a marriage commissioner in Saskatchewan has stated that, despite the legality of same-sex marriage in Canada, he will, because of his religious beliefs, refuse to marry gay couples, and "they'll have to fire [him]" despite a court ruling that his views don't excuse him from doing his job.

This has ignited some discussion online, of course, and so I'm sticking my oar in here, where I can control the discussion and also where it's under the radar of those dedicated to intolerance. That, of course, makes my position clear; I believe the man is full of shit. There are several things the article and discussion have given me to talk about. One is the person I shan't name, who claimed that non-religious marriages aren't marriages. That person can go and die in a fire, because if I think I'm married, my wife thinks I'm married, and the US Government agrees that we're married, his religious nutball views mean nothing, and all he's doing is insulting me. I refuse to take that.

Another is the somewhat reasonable question of whether the commissioner's religious rights are being quashed, and if so, whether it's acceptable. Well, here we run into a problem; he's not acting as himself, he's acting as the state. That means that whatever religious objections he may have mean nothing; he is required to act as the state sees fit, and the state sees fit to marry couple regardless of gender.

This leads into a question of whether private prejudice is allowed. It most certainly is, but it can't be expressed when acting as the agent of an entity which is required to not be prejudiced. To say that he should be allowed to refuse to perform marriages based on his whim is tantamount to saying that a supermarket cashier can refuse to serve customers based on race, and THAT, I'm pretty sure everyone agrees, is very definitely not acceptable.

Which essentially means that although his religious rights ARE being quashed, they would be just as quashed even if he weren't being asked to do anything he found distasteful.

And then we have another fun one; people have been asking why gay people's freedom to marry apparently trumps their "freedom of religion". Well, we've got a couple of points here; number one is the difference between holding an opinion and acting on it. You can disapprove of what happens all you like, but you may not necessarily be allowed to take steps to stop it. Second, we have a more fundamental difference between sexual orientation and religion: religion is something you choose, while sexual orientation is something that just is that way. I never chose to be attracted to women. Not one of the gay people I know chose to be gay; those with whom I've discussed it knew they were gay before they really understood sexuality. That being so, it's exactly as unconscionable to discriminate based on sexual orientation as it is to discriminate based on race or gender. People choose to be bigoted; the targets of bigots generally did not choose the characteristics which make them targets.

1 comment:

  1. Followed you over here from Rav.

    I fail to see how these people are justifying their idea that somehow this hurts their freedom of religion. They're not being forced to have a gay marriage, and their church is not going to be forced to provide them. They are merely being forced to recognize that not everybody is just like them. If that denies their religious freedom, then they need to take a long hard look at themselves (and stop implying that being religious makes them 'good people' because they quite clearly are just the opposite).


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