My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), voted in committee earlier this week to preserve the definition of marriage as involving one man and one woman. The denomination is a liberal, mainline organization, and generally pro-gay; just today, there was a vote of the full General Assembly to remove some obstacles to the ordination of openly gay ministers. I myself have been a supporter of gay marriage for years, and have said so on this blog.
I think it’s important at this juncture to stand up for the rights of those who disagree, and the PCUSA’s action this week offers a valuable occasion to do so. These are not people who can be demonized as right-wing, anti-gay bigots. (Indeed, there are very many opponents of gay marriage who cannot be justly dismissed in this manner; but that’s a point for another day.) The First Amendment right to free exercise of religion should not be infringed as a result of the decision of any branch of the secular state to change the secular definition of marriage. The gay-marriage movement has a bumper sticker that shows, simply, an “equals” sign. If churches are forced to participate in activities that violate the conscience of their faith, we will need to raise up that same “equals” sign in their defense. Their right to dissent is fundamental to our system.