I am a gay woman. A lesbian. I am a wife and a mother and a grandmother. I have feelings, and I cry at weddings. I'm an also an officiant, or a marriage minister, which makes crying at weddings not necessarily a good thing. I cry anyway.
There has been a bit of press concerning the woman in the video, below, and how she broke down into tears while sitting as a panelist for the recent Value Voters Summit in Washington, DC. The summit is the annual gathering for those who support the Family Research Council, an anti-gay organization that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
If you haven't seen the video, please take a moment to watch. It's okay... I'll wait.
So, here's a bit of background. The woman's name is Melissa Klein. She is the owner and operator of Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Notice that I've said she is the owner of this business. I did not use the past tense because it is important for our purposes here to make it known emphatically that she is still in business.
An engaged couple who was planning a wedding approached Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a business operating in the public sphere, about the possibility of creating their wedding cake. She declined on religious principles and was taken to task by the couple, which consisted of two women, and the government of the State of Oregon. It is illegal in Oregon to discriminate against the public on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. That's the short version. A quick search on the world wide web and you can find all of the details. I won't rehash them here.
Suffice it to say that Sweet Cakes by Melissa no longer has a store front into which the icky gays and lesbians of Oregon can enter. The vocal minority of right-wing ultra conservatives would have us believe that she was forced out of business. Not so. She was forced out of the town square, and rightly so, but her business is still located online and she bakes her beautiful creations out of her home.
So, why is she crying in this video? Is she horrified that she has been forced to close her bakery? Is she crying because she was targeted by an unjust and bullying government?
The answer is, unequivocally, no. She's crying because she gets emotional about being a part of someone's wedding. She should be crying because she tainted someone's wedding with memories and experiences of hate and bigotry.
WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO BELIEVE
Groups like the FRC want the American public to believe that honest, hard-working Americans, just like you, will be forced out of their businesses because of laws that condemn them for their religious beliefs. They want you to be up-in-arms about our rights to religious freedom disappearing before our very eyes. They want you angry. They want you to challenge the rights of free Americans who behave in a way that they find reprehensible.
They want you to believe that if full equality for members of the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender community is reached, people like Melissa Klein will no longer be free to exercise their religious beliefs.
The truth is that this is simply not true. And here's the difference:
Any person in the United States is free to worship as he or she sees fit. He or she can worship any god, any creature, a non-entity... he or she can even choose not to worship at all. Every single person, by that same note, is obligated to either obey the laws in their community (which includes the larger federal community of these United States) or face the consequences.
Those consequences are very important when one decides how to earn a living, for instance. Melissa Klein wants to be a baker. She is, in fact, a baker. She designs and creates many types of cakes, including wedding cakes and cakes that some religions might consider to be abomination unto the lord: alcohol soaked confections that individuals under the age of 21 are prevented, by law, from consuming. In order for Melissa Klein to operate a business that caters to the public in her state, she must obey the civil laws. She chose not to obey the civil laws of her state, in honor of her faith convictions, and she was found guilty of the same by the powers-that-be.
Does this mean that she is no longer free to abide by the laws of her God? Of course not! But if she is going to abide by the laws of her God by not supporting or participating in any way in the civil marriage union of two people of the same sex... well...
She needs to change the scope of her business.
She needs to no longer make wedding cakes. Perhaps that is responsible for some of her tears, but please note that she advertises her wedding cakes, as of this publishing, on her website. So... she's still at it.
Let's apply this rationale to other lines of work that may be affected by such a belief system. I am a wedding minister, and I have no problem joining any two legal, consenting adults in a civil marriage contract. I can perform a ceremony based upon their religious convictions, or I can perform an equally elaborate ceremony with no religion at all. It's up to the couple.
But there are wedding ministers out there who subscribe only to the "Christian" ideology who might decline to marry two people of the same sex. As more and more states are forced to do away with their unconstitutional marriage bans, and with the issue even today sitting before the Supreme Court of the United States, these ministers may need to figure out a way to appease both the law and their God.
If they offer a service to the general public, anti-discrimination laws may prevent them from saying, "No," to same sex couples or they may face heavy penalties. I'm not talking about churches, mind you. A minister of a congregation has the privilege of picking and choosing which members of his or her congregation are suitable for marriage as designed and described by their own theology. I'm talking about all those ministers listed on websites that exist solely for the general public to find someone to perform a legal ceremony.
The link shared above is the Florida listing for a website that offers Christian officiants. One might think that this notation of "Christian" would protect those advertised from possible issues with the state once marriage equality becomes the law of the land. One would be wrong, in my opinion. Because they offer a service for a fee and advertise that service to the general population, they are first and foremost, in the eyes of the law, a business. Businesses must abide by the law, as we've already established.
If you take a look at some of the pastors listed on that particular website, you'll notice that some are, apparently, leaders of congregations. Can they refuse to marry a same sex couple as a part of their church office? Yes, they can. And they will be able to continue doing so, regardless of what happens with the current or future laws. The church, itself, is a separate institution from the government, and as a gay woman, as a gay reverend, I will defend their right to not marry gay couples in their church.
However, if a couple finds them on a website like the one listed (there are plenty of gay Christians out there... you know who you are), they will be obligated to not discriminate. The "sign up" or "contact" forms for the website will not be allowed to specify genders of the parties, as this can easily lead to discrimination. (A pastor could simply say, "Sorry, I'm not available on that date," when in actuality, he or she simply doesn't want to marry two gay people.)
Photographers, ministers, bakers, dress designers, dress shops, tuxedo rental businesses, travel agents, limousine and car rental agencies... the list goes on concerning the types of businesses which might be in a position to choose discrimination because of sexual orientation and the business agents' religious views. Each and every one of the people who own, operate or work in these businesses must come to terms with their own relationship with their God.
If pleasing their God is more important than servicing the public in whose community their business operates (as it should be, certainly), then they should probably start looking for a new job that has absolutely nothing to do with weddings.