by Libby Sternberg
Before I begin, a few premises:
I am not a "social conservative." I support gay marriage. It took me a while to get here.
Nonetheless, I have much sympathy for social conservatives and think they have a great deal of unfair scorn and mockery heaped on them.
I have a son who married his partner.
Now, on to discussing the recent passage of Indiana's religious freedom law. Gay activists are upset because such laws would allow businesses to refuse to offer products or services to gay weddings. Such laws do not allow people or businesses to deny services or products because the customer is gay. If a gay individual goes into a bakery and wants to buy a cake, the bakery owner can't say, "I won't serve you because you're gay." But if the gay customer asks for a wedding cake for his or her union, then this law allows the bakery owner to say, no, I can't do that because I oppose gay marriage due to my understanding of Scripture and my faith.
In fact, it's very difficult to understand an opponent's point of view if you have nothing but derision for that view. Try, instead, to think of circumstances where you would be in sympathy with a business owner refusing to serve a customer due to the customer's request. How about...
A Muslim of Palestinian origin who owns a bakery and is asked by a Jewish family to bake a cake to celebrate the birth of Israel. Let's add to this tale a detail -- say, the baker's family had years ago been kicked off their land before moving to America when the new state was formed.
Wouldn't you sympathize with the Palestinian baker in that case? Wouldn't you think, c'mon, why ask them to bake that cake? Isn't it hurtful? If you felt that way, it doesn't make you anti-Semitic not to sympathize more with the Jewish customer, whose family history is probably filled with pain, too, and who has every right to celebrate the birth of the Jewish state.
I know this analogy is not perfect. It doesn't even deal with the religious belief part of the Indiana law. But the underlying sentiments are there: The baker has in some way experienced pain for his beliefs, right or wrong. The customer is not only ignoring that pain but exacerbating it.
When my gay son was married, we threw a party for him. When I called vendors -- caterers, for example -- I asked about services but first told them it was a gay wedding, and if they would prefer not to provide services, I would not judge. From a purely practical standpoint, I wanted vendors who were enthusiastic about providing the services, not reluctant. And, even though it would have hurt to get a rejection on that basis from a vendor, I realized that gay marriage is still new to many people, and it will do me no harm to be patient with those who've yet to walk the path I walked toward acceptance.
No vendor, by the way, said they would have a problem with serving a gay marriage. The caterer, in fact, was excited to serve one.
The battle for gay marriage has essentially been won. More and more states allow it. Social conservatives have lost. Stop hating them. Don't threaten them with boycotts. Don't threaten them with fines if they won't participate in a gay wedding. Be patient. Be kind. Be loving...even toward those who don't love your celebration of love.