This weekend Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt stirred up controversy by writing in the Daily Beast that Christians have no biblical basis for claiming that religious belief should allow them to refuse to serve a same-sex wedding:
Before considering legal rights, Christians wrestling with this issue must first resolve the primary issue of whether the Bible calls Christians to deny services to people who are engaging in behavior they believe violates the teachings of Christianity regarding marriage. The answer is, it does not.
Nor does the Bible teach that providing such a service should be construed as participation or affirmation. Yet Christian conservatives continue to claim that it does.
This article was published only a few days after Powers and Merritt posted separate articles (here and here) claiming that discrimination based on sexual orientation is akin to discrimination based on race.
Such claims are often repeated but rarely examined. So let’s consider whether race and sexual orientation are similar and equally deserving of legal protections.
Form of the Argument
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The argument to make this comparison takes the following form:
Major Premise: A sexual orientation is analogous to the category of race.
Minor Premise: Race is a category protected by anti-discrimination laws.
Conclusion: Therefore, sexual orientation should have the same civil-rights protections as those afforded to race.
The question we will examine is whether the major premise is true. Is sexual orientation analogous to race? Before we can answer that question, we we must consider what constitutes a justification for anti-discrimination laws.
What Are Anti-Discrimination Laws?
In an article for Notre Dame Law Review, Richard F. Duncan provides a model for thinking through the issue. As Duncan says, in order to answer the question of whether sexual orientation should be protected by anti-discrimination laws we should first consider the purpose of such laws. “It is important to recognize, however, that civil rights laws codifying this principle are nothing more than exceptions to the general rule of free choice,” says Duncan. Employers, landlords, business owners, and so on, have historically retained the moral and legal right to freedom of association, which allows them to choose whom they will or will not do business with. In the latter half of the 20th century, certain exemptions to this general principle became codified in the United States to protect categories such as race and gender.
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