Few Pastors Have Been Asked To Preside At Same-Sex Weddings – And No One Has Been Forced

Americans United had a little fun about two months ago with the Religious Right’s claim that if marriage equality became the law of the land, pastors would be forced to preside at same-sex weddings.

We produced a special website designed to keep count of all of the members of the clergy who have been compelled to marry same-sex couples.

Now further evidence has emerged that this claim is completely specious. LifeWay Research, a firm associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, has just released a poll showing that very few Protestant pastors have been asked to preside at a same-sex wedding.

Few pastors have been asked to perform same-sex ceremonies and none have been forced to do so.

Adelle Banks, a reporter with Religion News Service, provides a good summary of the poll: “More than 100,000 same-sex weddings have occurred since the Supreme Court ruling. But only 11 percent of senior church pastors, both mainline and evangelical, report having been asked to perform such a rite, according to a poll by LifeWay Research.

“Mainline Protestant clergy were three times as likely as evangelical pastors to have been asked. Presbyterian or Reformed clergy are most likely – 26 percent – to have received a request to marry a same-sex couple, while Baptist pastors, at 1 percent, are the least likely.”

Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay, pointed out something that should be pretty obvious: Most couples seeking a church wedding will likely approach a pastor who is willing to marry them.

A pastor who is known for holding anti-LGBT views or who belongs to a denomination that is not welcoming to the LGBT community isn’t likely to be asked to preside at a same-sex wedding. And, despite the horror stories the Religious Right circulated prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the First Amendment gives every member of the clergy an absolute right to decline any marriage ceremony.

So who’s performing all of these same-sex weddings? In some cases, it’s government officials whose duties may involve performing weddings. It may be liberal clergy, such as Unitarians or Protestants from LGBT-affirming churches. It may be Pagan or Wiccan clergy or humanistic or non-theistic celebrants.

Laws governing who can legally preside at a wedding vary from state to state. In California, some counties, for a fee, allow a person to become deputized to solemnize marriages for one day. If you want your best friend or sister to perform the ceremony, you can.

One thing is clear: No pastor in this country has been, or will be, required to perform the marriage of a same-sex couple against his or her will. No one wants that.

More than a year has passed since the Obergefell ruling, and yet another Religious Right talking point has been exposed as a total lie.

What a surprise.