Dear Dr. Moore,
I am an evangelical Christian, and I work as a wedding photographer. By conscience, I hold to an orthodox view of human sexuality, with all that entails. I’ve been asked to photograph a same-sex wedding service (legal in my state), and I’ve said no. I wonder if I did the right thing.
After all, this is a business, providing a service. Would it be right for me to refuse to serve a gay couple if I owned a restaurant? I don’t think so. If a same-sex marriage isn’t a marriage at all (as the historic Christian view teaches), then how is this different from just photographing people at a birthday party or community festival (in which case it wouldn’t matter what’s happening with them sexually).
Moreover, I’m not sure that photographing an event is an endorsement of that event. I have photographed weddings of people who were divorced (and I didn’t investigate the background), people who were probably cohabiting, people who were most likely unequally yoked to one another, and so on.
So I’m kind of caught. My conscience bothers me because I turned this couple down, and my conscience will bother me if I photograph this wedding. What do you think?
The Wedding Photographer
You’re right that this situation is more complicated than whether to serve someone at a restaurant (yes) regardless of that person’s sexual or marital situation.
I would also argue that the situation is very different from photographing some other event, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the clients’ sexual or marital context. The fact that this is a wedding means there’s a different moral question for you.
You are also right that your role as a wedding photographer is different from an officiating minister, a member of the wedding party, or even an invited guest. All of those people are part of the wedding itself, the assembled witnesses who affirm the lawfulness of the union and pledge to hold the couple accountable for their vows.
If you were, say, a photojournalist for a news service, there to report on the first same-sex marriage in your state, for instance, there would be no issue for your conscience. As a wedding photographer, though, you are in a third place between participant and neutral observer.
A same-sex wedding is different, I think, from the other problematic marriages you mentioned, for a couple of reasons.