Give them the exemptions–it will backfire.

The New York state Senate is currently mulling over a bill to legalize gay marriage in New York, finally bringing marriage equality to one of the most famously liberal states in America. There’s just one little nit to pick first: religious groups, like the Catholic church, are insisting that lawmakers write exemptions into the law allowing them to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

I say we should give them what they want.

Despite the stereotype of hard-core conservative Catholicism, recent polling shows that as many as 43% of American Catholics support the rights of same-sex couples to marry, with another 31% supporting civil unions that are equal in all but name. Imagine nearly half of the Catholic population suddenly being legally at odds with their own church. This organization that they’ve made such a central part of their identity suddenly becomes a caricature of itself, sticking dogmatically to old, hateful moral ideas they’ve long since discarded.

And it’s not just the Catholics. Part of what keeps people in organized religions is the idea that they’re a part of some great force of moral authority. Hundreds of thousands of liberal Christians officially ally themselves with anti-gay groups without even recognizing it. But when a gay Christian couple approaches their church to ask them to perform a marriage ceremony, only to find themselves tossed aside as immoral garbage because of the bigoted teachings of the larger church, they’ll become disillusioned with the body of the church and may start to question the claims of authority it makes on other issues.

So as I said before, let the bigoted religious groups refuse to perform marriage ceremonies. It’ll be a good way to sort out the hateful fools from the more reasonable folks, and it’ll push people to leave organized religions and thus force church officials to come to grips with just how out of touch they are with the rest of humanity.

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