Opinion

What If Rick Santorum Won’t Come To Your Wedding?

W. James Antle III Managing Editor

“Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?”

“What did the president know and when did he know it?”

“Would you attend, or have you ever attended, a gay wedding?”

If you are running for the Republican presidential nomination, you must answer the last question.

For those keeping score at home, Marco Rubio said yes, Rick Santorum said no, Ted Cruz punted (while saying he’d never been before) and Scott Walker said he already had been to a reception, at least.

“He said yes” or “She said yes” was once printed on wedding save-the-date cards, not the section of the newspaper devoted to campaign coverage. Marriage continues to evolve.

The candidates can make their own decision about how to support loved ones in celebrations that are meaningful to them. After all, they’re not selling cakes or floral arrangements.

Given that the candidates’ substantive views on same-sex marriage are well-known, the purpose of these questions is really to find out who will be the political equivalent of Memories Pizza — someone who gives the wrong answer to a question no one was asking and is then forever on the Wrong Side of History.

In other contexts, liberals and the media used to stick up for people who wanted to opt out of ceremonial gestures most Americans believe are important. Remember, for example, when Jeb Bush’s father was running for president against Michael Dukakis in 1988.

“What is it about the Pledge of Allegiance that upsets him so much?” the elder Bush asked about Dukakis. “It is very hard for me to imagine that the Founding Fathers — Samuel Adams and John Hancock and John Adams — would have objected to teachers leading students in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States.”

Sound familiar? What is it about love that upsets Rick Santorum so much? It is very hard for me to imagine that Jesus would have objected to baking a cake.

What Dukakis actually did was more reasonable: as governor of Massachusetts, he vetoed a 1977 bill that would have fined teachers who declined to lead their students in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The overwhelming majority of teachers would obviously lead their students in the pledge, most of them proudly. Growing up in Massachusetts, we recited the pledge daily starting in kindergarten, complete with “under God” and a moment of silence afterward.

But should we really fine teachers who do not say the pledge as a matter of faith or conscience? Not everyone who won’t say the pledge is an America-hater, just as not everyone who declines to bake a cake is a hater.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, can’t say the pledge. Catholics aren’t supposed to attend same-sex weddings. An inquiry into the former’s motivations is seen as McCarthyism, but in the latter it’s journalism.

Yes, Santorum still sincerely holds the same view of what same-sex marriage’s legal status should be that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pretended to hold until recently. Let’s face it — we’re rapidly reaching the point where the only thing he’s going to get to decide on this issue is whether to send a gift.

In neighboring Rhode Island years after the Dukakis flap, a public middle school invited a local rabbi to deliver a nonsectarian invocation and benediction at a graduation ceremony. One parent didn’t just want to keep his child from being compelled to participate. He tried to shut the prayer down.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 5-4 1992 decision Lee vs. Weisman, agreed. Even if the prayers were innocuous to most people, they were offensive to this one family and an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

A reasonable compromise might be that people should generally not be forced to do things they don’t believe in, though they don’t have a right to never encounter speech or behavior that offends them. (Even the justices who decided Lee v. Weisman had never heard of “safe spaces.”) And yes, that means religious conservatives don’t have the right not be offended either.

Americans love the Pledge of Allegiance and they’re warming up to gay weddings. But neither are for everyone.

W. James Antle III is managing editor of The Daily Caller and author of the book Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? Follow him on Twitter.