One thing the recent Supreme Court decision manifestly did not do with regard to same-sex marriages is require any religion to conduct, sanction or even recognize them. The government can't force gay marriage on any religion, any more than it could prevent any religion from conducting same-sex weddings or recognizing such unions even before the ruling, whether civil law sanctioned them or not.
This distinction is clear, we believe, to most Americans, who are generally a sane and savvy bunch.
Sadly, it would be even clearer if there weren't so much easy political hay to be made from confusing the issue with a little culture-war paranoia. There are far more toxic forms of the latter than one in Georgia right now, but that doesn't mean it's something we need.
House Speaker David Ralston has proposed a so-called "Pastor Protection Bill" that is supposed to shield ministers -- and presumably, unless this is a doctrine-specific bill (which would present its own constitutional problems), rabbis, imams, etc. -- from "having" to perform gay weddings.
Never miss a local story.
Ralston said in an interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting that the bill is "in response to concerns that I heard in my house district up in North Georgia; from people in the faith community, from pastors, who were very concerned in view of their religious beliefs coming in conflict with the Supreme Court's decision in the same-sex marriage case."
One of Ralston's possible allies is an unlikely one: Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality, an LGBT advocacy organization, said in the same GPB story that "if this will give people comfort that there is not some movement to force clergy members to do things they don't want to do, then I'm supportive."
With due respect to both Ralston and Graham, needless legislation is not the way to clear up misconceptions -- especially when many of those misconceptions are cynically and deliberately sown, and especially when the legislation falls into that familiarly noxious political category of a "solution" in search of a problem.
One of the many ironies here is that it was Ralston who rightly questioned whether the proposed "Religious Freedom Bill" of Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, would have accomplished anything the Constitution doesn't already cover.
The same question is at least as relevant with regard to Ralston's own bill.
The over-eagerness of politicians to courageously "defend" freedoms -- especially religious freedoms -- that were never even remotely in jeopardy didn't begin with this issue. It's a time-honored (if "honored" in this context can be taken with a few pounds of salt) political trick.
But Georgia has too many real issues needing legislative attention to waste time and energy on mirages like this. The speaker has not earned, and rightly does not have, a reputation for frivolous demagoguery. He should keep it that way.