Legalized gay marriage will no more result in churches being required to accept homosexual couples than legalized interracial marriage resulted in the KKK being required to accept interracial couples.
This is one of the scare tactics that is being used (by fundamentally dishonest people for whom bearing false witness is a cultural sport) to scare people away from legalized gay marriage. They claim that if gay marriage were permitted, then your local church would be required to marry gay couples and accept them as equal members in their church community, in stark contrast to the teachings of that religion.
Yet, clearly, with the Civil Rights Act nearly 50 years old and interracial marriages now widely accepted, nobody is yet forcing the KKK to open its doors to black members.
If they wanted to receive government money, then they would have to adopt a policy of non-discrimination. However, insofar as the organization remains private, its members still have the legal freedom to be as bigoted as they wish to be.
The same is true of the Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot. Churches are not supposed to be getting any tax money anyway. So, if a particular congregation wishes to continue to preach and practice anti-gay bigotry they should suffer no cost in doing so.
The analogy that I use here is quit apt and quite appropriate. The Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot is to homosexuals what the KKK is to blacks – including an element that openly preaches and practices acts of violence against members of the target group. Both of them hold prejudices that are just as poorly grounded. Both of them, in fact, can point to biblical passages that support their position.
I will argue for protection of the right to freedom of speech, freedom of association for such groups. This means that the members of these groups are not to be treated to violence, no matter how contemptible their speech or their beliefs. The only legitimate response to words are words and private actions. That is to say, it is legitimate to morally condemn the words of the hate-mongering bigot, as I am doing here. It is not legitimate to turn to violence or to institute legal penalties against what these groups say.
So there is no justification in passing laws that require the Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot to open its doors to gay members. Homosexuals will still be subject to these types of discrimination and will have to learn to respond only with words and private actions.
However, there is no need to hold back on the words – as long as the claims are true.
Of course, the many Churches of the Anti-Gay Bigot have also been keen to attack any type of legislation that seems to give the appearance of recognizing homosexual marriage as legitimate. They do so with the same type of justification used by the KKK and other racist groups in condemning anything that gives interracial marriage (and racial integration) an appearance of legitimacy. When the government gives legitimacy to these types of relationships, it effectively states that those who deny the legitimacy of these types of relationships are mistaken. "You have the right to speak your mind, even if you are wrong,"
The claim is that it is inappropriate for the government to declare that the preachings of any church are mistaken. This amounts to taking sides in religious disputes.
However the government does take sides and must take sides in some religious disputes. It allows and in some cases even pays for blood transfusions – effectively stating that the government's official position regarding blood transfusions are mistaken. It facilitates the growing, shipping, and eating of pork, giving legitimacy to activities that certain churches say is not legitimate. In fact, it recognizes marriages between people of different faith, even though some churches still hold to the idea that marrying outside the faith is prohibited. It allows businesses to stay open on the Sabbath and passes no prohibitions to charging interest to citizens.
If the arguments against the government giving the appearance of legitimacy to that which any religion prohibits are sound, then we are on our way to a whole pack of additional laws that so far have remained off the books. Either we prohibit everything so long as there exists a religion in this country that prohibits it, or we reject the argument that the government must enforce all of the prohibitions of every religion that has a presence in this country.
Just as we have reason to hope that the ideology of the Nazi Party and the KKK fade into history, we have reason to hope that the Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot goes that way as well. We have no reason to regard these three groups differently from one another. All three of these are groups that have targeted a special segment of the population for special hatred – be they Jews, blacks, or homosexuals. All three of them deserve our condemnation for doing so.
However, the claim that permitting homosexual marriage interferes with the freedom of the Church of the Anti-Gay Bigot is as false as the claim that permitting interracial marriage violates the rights of the KKK or the rights of the Nazis.