Scene: A floristís shop somewhere in America, 2013
The Gentleman walks into shop and greets the owner familiarly. The Florist returns the greetings as she steps behind the counter.
Gentleman: I need something really special, Florist, and you know I love your work!
Florist: And you know Iím happy to do my best for you! What can I help you with today?
Gentleman: Actually, a really happy event, and Iím so excited! Now that the state allows it, my boyfriend and I have decided to get married! Weíve waited so long and we want you to do the flowersó
Florist: [Interrupts while grabbing his hand] I am sorry. I canít do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.
Gentleman: [Stunned] W-whaa?
Florist: Really, Iím very sorry. I can make a suitable recommendation for you, but my conscience wonít letó
Gentleman: [Clearly hurt] A Ďsuitable recommendationĎ? That sounds so cold, what am I, a stranger? Youíve done flowers for us for years. You know us.
Florist: [Also discomfited] And if I could do flowers for you under these circumstances, I would, butó
Gentleman: But suddenly, you canít? I donít understand. If I came in here looking for a bouquet, or a plant, youíd help me out.
Florist: I would. Of course I would; I always have. You know me!
Gentleman: I thought I knew you. This is unrealÖIím shocked. I had no idea that all this time, while you were taking my business, you were hating me for being gay.
Florist: I wasnít! This has nothing to do with that! Iíve had the privilege of working with some very talented people that happen to be gay. This isnít about hate. Itís aboutó
Gentleman: [Seriously hurt] Oh, right, and some of your best friends are gay! And this is all about love, love, love, isnít it? You love Jesus, so you have to hate me! Your religion requires it.
Florist: No, please understandó
Gentleman: Thatís some religion youíve got there. Really? Jesus doesnít want you to do flowers for my wedding? I donít think Jesus could get behind this, because he would never be this hurtful! Youíre betraying all the years weíve known each other, and really hurting another personótwo people; no, really a whole group of peopleóand then hiding behind Jesus; youíre letting Jesus take the blame for your hate. You have to hate me, because Jesus!
Florist: [Quietly] I donít hate you.
Gentleman: Oh, this is what you call love? Thatís some crazy kind of love; here, kid, have some cotton candy because I love you; oh, and donít mind that razor blade I put inside! Youíre rejecting me, youíre rejecting my marriageóitís like you think Iím a second-class person.
Florist: Well, I donít think that! I never could, and I wish you did not feel that way, because the last thing I want to do is to hurt you; thatís not what I want. Donít you think that if I could make you happy, I would? It would be a lot easier for me to just set up your order and take your check, than to say ďnoĒ to you. In truth, I donít especially want to say ďnoĒ to you. I want everyone to be happy and have just what they like; itís why Iím so good at my job! But I canít say ďyesĒ to you, not if Iím being true to myself, and to what I believe God wants from me.
Gentleman: So, this is what you think God wants of you? He wants you to hurt people and tell them that their love and their families donít matter? Well thatís news. I thought Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourselves.
Florist: I donít think God wants us to hurt each other. I think he wants us to live in truth, though. Jesus did tell us to love others as we love ourselves, but he said first and foremost to love God with all of our hearts and minds and souls. I know thatís hard to understand, because you donít believe what I believe, which is that marriage is ordained by God, and meant to be between a man and a woman. Thatís the truth.
Gentleman: That was truth a million years ago!
Florist: It was truth two years ago . . .
Gentleman: Times have changed, honey, you need to get with them. Whatever you think the Truth is, itís not truer than love. God is love, right?
Florist: Yes. God is love.
Gentleman: And weíre in love, and we just want to celebrate that and build our lives together. God is in all of that.
Florist: God is everywhere and in each of us, but that doesnít mean we are always right with God. Youíre saying God is love; I agree. What is love, though? Does love only say ďyesĒ? Do I not love my son when I tell him not to touch a hot stove?
Gentleman: Oh, here we go! Now youíre going to tell me Iím going to hell! Cue the cloven hooves!
Florist: Iím not telling you that. Jesus said weíd be surprised by who gets into heaven and who doesnít, and Iím not privy to what God thinks of your soul, or mine. Iím just trying to live my life as I understand Jesus wanting me to live it.
Gentleman: And Iím just trying to live my life, too!
Florist: You are. Weíre both trying to ďjust live our livesĒ the way we think and believe and in a way that keeps us true to ourselves.
Gentleman: Except Iím not the one refusing to let you live your life. Iím not the one saying ďthink what I think, or go away.Ē
Florist: [Thoughtfully] Well, not yet. But look, Iím not refusing to let you live your life. Thatís why I offered to make you a recommendation for another florist; because I think you should have flowers, if you want them. [Reaches out for his hand] Iím not rejecting you. Iím just not able to join you.
Gentleman: [Allows her to take it, after a beat] Do you know, Florist, that still feels an awful lot like rejection?
Florist: Iím sorry if it does; it is not meant to. I know you feel hurt and pushed aside. Iím not happy to know you feel that way, or that Iím the cause. But letís say an abortion clinic was opening and you wanted to send flowers to it, would you really expect me to fill that order?
Gentleman: [Snatches hand away in disbelief and anger] My marriage is the equivalent of an abortion to you?
Florist: No, no . . . Iím just . . .
Gentleman:† Thatís disgusting! Youíre a freaking lunatic!
Florist: No, honey, Iím just asking you, knowing me as you do, would you really expect me to do such a thing, knowing I am against abortion, even though youíre for it?
Gentleman: Well, Iím not ďforĒ abortion. Abortion is ugly and terrible, but people have their rights!
Florist: Itís killing another human being.
Gentleman: But people should be able to make their own choices in their lives. I might not like abortion, but I have no right to impose my values on someone else.
Florist: You mean, people should be entitled to their consciences, even if you donít happen to agree with where it leads?
Gentleman: I see what youíre doing. Itís not the same.
Florist: Not in particulars, anyway, but in practice . . .
Gentleman: In practice weíre all jockeying for a place where we can stand in the sun and be most fully ourselves. Should we†heighten one personís beliefs over and above another personís†life?
Florist: Jockeying is the word, and you tell me. Weíre like stamping cattle whoíve gotten into the habit of thinking that thereís only so much sun, and we have to take turns standing on each other, crushing each other, to get a share of it. That canít be right. Is the world still a big place or has it narrowed? Isnít there enough room for both of us to have the space to be who we are?
Gentleman: [Thoughtful and disturbed, but honest] I really donít know, anymore.
Scene: A bakery, somewhere in America. A lesbian couple enters, holding hands and moving to inspect samples of wedding cake designs. The baker emerges, and casts an eye their way.
The Baker: Excuse me . . . if you need a wedding cake,†Iím afraid I canít help you; my religion wonít allow it. But I can make suitable recommendations . . .
Elizabeth Scalia is the author of Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols of Everyday Life and the managing editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos.com, where she blogs as The Anchoress. Her previous ďOn the SquareĒ articles can be found here.