– New York clergy charged for marrying gay couples

My first thought: This is going to fan the so-called wildfire.

My second thought: Charges will be dropped within 24 hours.

It points out a too-often neglected angle in the public sector, though — that the civil rights sought by gays who wish to marry are interwoven with their freedom of religious expression.

Conservatives who support ex-gay options as the only valid choice for folks with same-sex attractions are right about one thing: Choice is an essential part of the picture.

I don’t particularly care for analogies, given that it’s easy for them to distract instead of focus our attention, and so many are done so sloppily. Sometimes they’re necessary, though.

Some folks have noted parallels between developing gay rights issues and civil rights milestones sparked by the likes of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Some African American leaders object to that comparison. Others, including Coretta Scott King and Congressman John Lewis, disagree.

(The Washington Post has published a piece about the complexities of the interplay between black and gay issues.)

Analogies between race and orientation do fall short, if you ask me.

Better to explore the parallels between orientation and religion.

We choose our beliefs. For many of us, those choices are rooted in long-standing family and cultural traditions. Some of us have explored every possible faith, considering each option to be as valid as the next. Those of us who are more fundamentalist, on the other hand, are more likely to perceive that our faith options are limited by absolute truths.

Choosing our beliefs requires us to interpret factors beyond our control (family, culture, perceived truth) to determine how to express ourselves and how we will self-identify.

Orientation issues draw us through a similar process. We must interpret factors beyond our control (baseline attractions, faith and cultural traditions) to determine how we will express and identify ourselves. Gay-affirming and ex-gay-affirming interpretations come in as many flavors as there are unique people on the planet.

If our constitution says that the government has no business promoting or marginalizing any particular belief-based expression or identity, how is it possible that expressing or identifying with a gay-affirming worldview should mark some folks and families as separate, not quite equal?

The charges brought against these clergypersons brings this into focus: Instead of using some religious traditions as a battering ram, as many ex-gays and their supporters prefer, the sensible approach is to insist that government not act as the agent or promoter of any religion. Government which promotes a religion must also enforce that religion, as the district attorney in this case demonstrates.

Addendum, Mar. 17: In New York, more than 80 ordained clergy have joined the arrestees in pledging to perform same-sex religious ceremonies, at the risk of arrest.

The Southern Baptist Convention is pleased to see liberal churches’ civil liberties violated by “secular” authorities:

“We have an obligation to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” Land said. “If these ministers feel this is an unjust law, then I’ll look forward to reading their letter from the Ulster County Jail.”

Here’s more irony: The Rev. Richard Land is the SBC’s “ethics and religious liberty” czar.

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