Oregon voters will likely face two questions about gay marriage when they go to the ballot this year: whether to become the 18th state to let same-sex couples wed, and whether the state should be the first to allow florists, cake makers and others to refuse to participate in these weddings on religious grounds. The ballot initiatives set up what some activists have said is the next frontier in the marriage debate – as more states move to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, those who object on religious grounds want a legal right to opt out.
“This is not a sideshow issue,” said James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union, referring to the Oregon ballot initiative and the coming debate over religious exemption. “This is going to be the issue that we fight about for the next ten years, at least, in the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights movement.”
Whenever this issue comes up, we have to ask ourselves, would it be ok to allow vendors to refuse to work with a couple if the couple was black? If the couple had a disability? If the couple was elderly? And is this as much about muddying the waters for the marriage equality campaign, which will now have to message yes on one initiative but no on another, as anything else?