In September 2017, Marian Edmonds Allen and Derek Monson came together to argue for humility, humanity, and open-mindedness in the quest to find agreement and solutions for LGBT equality and religious freedom together. In this article, they assert that a dialogue centered on equality is a better way forward than winner-take-all culture wars.
–This article was previously published in The Washington Examiner by Marian Edmonds Allen and Derek Monson
Last month, in Charlottesville, Va., Americans were given an unfortunate lesson in how extreme political fights can quickly mutate into literal fights to the death. But there is a better way to resolve many contentious issues in American politics today. And it can begin at the U.S. Supreme Court.
We, the two authors of this piece, are something of an odd couple. One of us is an advocate for LGBT equality, the other an advocate for religious freedom. Two years ago, we began a discussion about gay rights and religious liberty. We learned something that the country sorely needs today: Dialogue centered on genuine equality, through mutual accommodation, is a better way forward than culture wars grounded in political fights to the death.
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court received briefs concerning religious freedom and LGBT equality in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. When it eventually rules, the court can give the country something it desperately needs: an example of living together peaceably while disagreeing politically. We agree that the law must protect the LGBT community’s basic civil rights. We also believe it is wrong to use the law to coerce religious individuals to choose between their religious identity and their job. But can this delicate balance be achieved?
Utah resolved a similar issue for county clerks: The state chose to recognize that the clerk’s office must provide a way for any couple to obtain a marriage certificate, but it protects the First Amendment rights of religious clerks by allowing them to designate another willing person to perform such duties. An analogous solution can be crafted for religious business owners or employees asked to participate in same-sex weddings.
Those at both extremes who continue fighting this culture war are laboring under a false premise straight out of the Harry Potter series: That neither side can live (or win) while the other survives. Under this view, LGBT equality and religious freedom cannot coexist. The protection of one is defined as an attack on the other.
But as with the fictional rivalry between Harry Potter and Voldemort, this premise belongs to a fantasy world.
Through dialogue, we have learned that there is ample opportunity to find agreement and practical solutions to protect LGBT equality and religious freedom together.