NJ Stalls Same-Sex Marriage Bill to Kill Religious Protections
Many people ask, “How does gay marriage negatively impact me?” New Jersey lawmakers just proved it’s a lie to say all same-sex marriage advocates merely want a “live and let live” legal environment.
Legislators pulled their pending bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the Garden State in response to its supporters’ demand to strip the bill of language that would allow Christians and other people of faith to decline to recognize gay marriages on religious grounds.
New Jersey’s legislature is moving a bill to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Although likely to pass, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg pulled the bill that she was supporting because of objections from gay-rights organizations such as Lamba Legal.
The reason? Weinberg explained, “They don’t want any kind of religious exemption, so out of respect for that, I will [pull the bill] (emphasis added).” The bill would have allowed houses of worship and people of faith, such as churches and observant Christians, to decline to participate in any way with gay marriage. In a state where they can have their way, some gay-rights supporters are demanding that the law allow for full and vigorous prosecution under anti-discrimination and public-accommodation laws of anyone who will not embrace and celebrate homosexual marriage.
We already see what happens where such protections are lacking. In Michigan and Georgia, graduate students were expelled from counseling programs for refusing to affirm gay marriage. In Vermont, a bed and breakfast was sued for not allowing a same-sex wedding reception in its banquet hall. And in a case now being offered to the U.S. Supreme Court, Elane Photography v. Willock, a financial penalty was imposed on a Christian photographer for declining to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.
The most egregious of these situations can even involve criminal prosecution. In Washington State, a criminal investigation was launched into a florist for not making flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding. Also, in the Colorado case of Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, owner Jack Phillips faces possible criminal prosecution or being sent to jail for contempt of court for not baking a wedding cake celebrating same-sex marriage (even though Colorado law does not recognize same-sex marriage).
This will lead to civil disobedience. For millions of devout Christians and observant members of other faiths, marriage is the union of a man and woman. They cannot with a clear conscience participate in any way in a redefinition of marriage to include behavior or self-identification that their religious faith believes to be immoral. Whether pastors or laypeople, church buildings or secular businesses, many millions of faithful Americans will not betray their God and their faiths, no matter what the government threatens.
Once the government puts a single Christian behind bars for anything arising in this context, it crosses the line into persecution. The U.S. Constitution secures a fundamental right to freely exercise one's religion in every area of one's life and engage in faith-based speech, while there is no right to demand that others celebrate your sexual behavior and accommodate whatever demands you make. The former is written into the text of the Constitution in the First Amendment, while the latter is not found anywhere.
Anti-Christian persecution has never happened en masse in America—a great blessing, as Christians living in fundamentalist Islamist countries or under totalitarian states like North Korea can face gruesome executions for their faith. However, laws like the proposed New Jersey law threaten—at minimum—that for the first time in U.S. history, believers could be fined and imprisoned if they refuse to follow court orders such as baking a wedding cake. Should those cases occur in modern America, these instances will be carried on television and online. There will be no ignoring it, no matter how hard the media tries to bury it.
This week’s events in New Jersey show that militant advocates of gay rights only use religious exemptions as a way to divide opposition in situations where they cannot achieve complete victory. In New Jersey they believe they can, and the fact that Gov. Chris Christie has not publicly denounced and forced into primetime news what amounts to an open attempt to set the stage for all-out war on Christians in his state shows that too many Republicans cannot be expected to defend people of faith against this take-no-prisoners onslaught.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.