Can gay marriage and religious freedom co-exist?

On Friday, an administrative law judge in Oregon recommended a $135,000 fine for the bakery company Sweet Cakes by Melissa.

The owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. They are Christians who do not believe in same-sex marriage.

The lesbian couple claimed they had justification for “damages” against the Kleins:

In their lawsuit, the two women claimed they felt “mentally raped,” as part of a list of 88 symptoms of emotional distress they experienced at being refused a cake.

The long list of symptoms included “acute loss of confidence,” “doubt,” “excessive sleep,” “felt mentally raped, dirty and shameful,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “pale and sick at home after work,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock,” “stunned,” “surprise,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain” and “worry.”

This comes in the wake of controversies over religious freedom legislation in Indiana and Arkansas. A more narrow measure that deals exclusively with marriage is under consideration in Louisiana. In all three states, gay rights groups strongly oppose these laws.

The question has to be asked: At this point can gay marriage co-exist with religious freedom?

More and more conservatives are coming out for gay marriage. The Supreme Court will likely rule in favor of same-sex marriage in all 50 states this summer. Polls show that an increasing majority of Americans favor same-sex marriage. The battle is all but over nationwide.

The real test for those who support freedom is whether they uphold it for people who are unpopular, such as opponents of same-sex marriage. In a free society, there should be protections for mom and pop wedding service providers who cannot in good conscience service same-sex weddings. Those businesses are an extension of their owners, who should not be asked to check their beliefs at the door.

Many orthodox Christian sects, among other religions, continue to view same-sex marriage as sacrilege. What right does the state have to force these people to think differently?

Instead of using the force of the state, the marketplace should be allowed to punish discrimination. It’s what happened to Sweet Cakes by Melissa, as they were forced to close their shop down and run it from home. Many other wedding service providers have cut off ties with the bakery.

Just because gay couples are winning their rights does not mean they should turn around and deny opponents of same-sex marriage their rights. Gay marriage must co-exist with religious freedom, free speech, freedom of conscience, and freedom of association, or it will become a setback for liberty.

Kevin Boyd About the author:
Kevin Boyd is a general correspondent for The Hayride and an associate policy analyst at the R Street Institute. His work has been featured at IJ Review, The National Interest, Real Clear Policy, and the Washington Examiner. You can follow him on Twitter @kevinboyd1984
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