Gay rights and religious freedom

marriageWhile the Los Angeles Times and other papers go for quantity over quality with their stories about the California Supreme Court ruling redefining marriage to include same-sex partnerships, there are a ton of interesting issues left barely touched about how same-sex marriage changes the lives of people who oppose it. I highlighted the one NPR story on the collision between gay rights and freedom of religion. It was a great first story but I was hoping that other papers would pick up the ball and run with it. That hasn't quite happened. Out of England, we have a story of marriage registrar Lillian Ladele who was punished for refusing to perform same-sex marriages. She took her case to a tribunal that ruled in her favor this week. She had claimed that she was discriminated against for her religious beliefs. Here's the BBC:

Miss Ladele said she was being effectively forced to choose between her religion and her £31,000-a-year job as a result.

She said she was picked on, shunned and accused of being homophobic for refusing to carry out civil partnerships.

Miss Ladele said: "I am delighted at this decision.

"It is a victory for religious liberty, not just for myself but for others in a similar position to mine.

"Gay rights should not be used as an excuse to bully and harass people over their religious beliefs," she said.

Except for the fact that the BBC fails to mention precisely what her religious objections were, the story is fairly straightforward. It quotes government representatives upset with the decision. The story gives the last few words to gay rights activists:

"Public servants like registrars have a duty to serve all members of the public without fear or favour. Once society lets some people opt out of upholding the law, where will it end?"

Certainly British law is different than that in the United States. Stateside, registrars likely would not have the right to opt out of same-sex ceremonies if they were allowed in their jurisdiction. For that matter, a Muslim or FLDS marriage registrar who supports polygamy wouldn't have the right to perform a polygamous marriage ceremony in a state where that had not yet been legalized.

Other papers managed to find out Ladele's actual views and include them in their stories, such as this May essay in the Times:

Ms Ladele said that Islington council was forcing her to choose between her beliefs and keeping her job by requiring her to undertake civil partnership duties. Giving evidence yesterday, she told the employment tribunal in Central London: "I hold the orthodox Christian view that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others and that this is the God-ordained place for sexual relations. It creates a problem for any Christian if they are expected to do or condone something that they see as sinful. I feel unable to facilitate directly the formation of a union that I sincerely believe is contrary to God's law."

Marriage Certificate The reader who sent in the BBC story also sent along a link to a January story in the Daily Mail that is just laughably atrocious. Here's the opening line:

A crucifix worn prominently around her neck, this is the marriage registrar at the centre of a landmark legal case over her opposition to gay weddings.

The picture that accompanies the piece is of Ladele wearing a cross, not a crucifix. The article actually gets worse from there, with various sides being quoted without any response from their opponents. It's a train wreck.

Anyway, British law accommodates fairly broad religious exceptions in a way that law in the United States doesn't. Here, people in positions of public authority have to follow the law, with narrow exceptions. All the more, then, this story shines a bright light on the need for American reporters to ease up on their cheerleading of same-sex marriage and begin providing some in-depth coverage that looks at how opponents of same-sex marriage will be affected by new marriage laws.

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