Scene: A florists 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 Im happy to do my best for you! What can I help you with today?
Gentleman: Actually, a really happy event, and Im so excited! Now that the state allows it, my boyfriend and I have decided to get married! Weve waited so long and we want you to do the flowers”
Florist: [ Interrupts while grabbing his hand ] I am sorry. I cant do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.
Gentleman: [ Stunned ] W-whaa?
Florist: Really, Im very sorry. I can make a suitable recommendation for you , but my conscience wont let”
Gentleman: [ Clearly hurt ] A suitable recommendation ? That sounds so cold, what am I, a stranger? Youve 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, but”
Gentleman: But suddenly, you cant? I dont understand. If I came in here looking for a bouquet, or a plant, youd help me out.
Florist: I would. Of course I would; I always have. You know me!
Gentleman: I thought I knew you. This is unreal . . . Im shocked. I had no idea that all this time, while you were taking my business, you were hating me for being gay.
Florist: I wasnt! This has nothing to do with that! Ive had the privilege of working with some very talented people that happen to be gay. This isnt about hate. Its about”
Gentleman: [ Seriously hurt ] Oh, right, and some of your best friends are gay! And this is all about love, love, love, isnt it? You love Jesus, so you have to hate me! Your religion requires it.
Florist: No, please understand”
Gentleman: Thats some religion youve got there. Really? Jesus doesnt want you to do flowers for my wedding? I dont think Jesus could get behind this, because he would never be this hurtful! Youre betraying all the years weve known each other, and really hurting another person”two people; no, really a whole group of people”and then hiding behind Jesus; youre letting Jesus take the blame for your hate. You have to hate me, because Jesus!
Florist: [ Quietly ] I dont hate you.
Gentleman: Oh, this is what you call love? Thats some crazy kind of love; here, kid, have some cotton candy because I love you; oh, and dont mind that razor blade I put inside! Youre rejecting me, youre rejecting my marriage”its like you think Im a second-class person.
Florist: Well, I dont 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; thats not what I want. Dont 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 no to you. In truth, I dont especially want to say no to you. I want everyone to be happy and have just what they like; its why Im so good at my job! But I cant say yes to you, not if Im 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 dont matter? Well thats news. I thought Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourselves.
Florist: I dont 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 thats hard to understand, because you dont believe what I believe, which is that marriage is ordained by God, and meant to be between a man and a woman. Thats 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, its not truer than love. God is love, right?
Florist: Yes. God is love.
Gentleman: And were 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 doesnt mean we are always right with God. Youre saying God is love; I agree. What is love, though? Does love only say yes? Do I not love my son when I tell him not to touch a hot stove?
Gentleman: Oh, here we go! Now youre going to tell me Im going to hell! Cue the cloven hooves!
Florist: Im not telling you that. Jesus said wed be surprised by who gets into heaven and who doesnt, and Im not privy to what God thinks of your soul, or mine. Im just trying to live my life as I understand Jesus wanting me to live it.
Gentleman: And Im just trying to live my life, too!
Florist: You are. Were both trying to just live our lives the way we think and believe and in a way that keeps us true to ourselves.
Gentleman: Except Im not the one refusing to let you live your life. Im not the one saying think what I think, or go away.
Florist: [ Thoughtfully ] Well, not yet. But look, Im not refusing to let you live your life. Thats 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 ] Im not rejecting you. Im 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: Im sorry if it does; it is not meant to. I know you feel hurt and pushed aside. Im not happy to know you feel that way, or that Im the cause. But lets 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 . . . Im just . . .
Gentleman: Thats disgusting! Youre a freaking lunatic!
Florist: No, honey, Im 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 youre for it?
Gentleman: Well, Im not for abortion. Abortion is ugly and terrible, but people have their rights!
Florist: Its 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 dont happen to agree with where it leads?
Gentleman: I see what youre doing. Its not the same.
Florist: Not in particulars, anyway, but in practice . . .
Gentleman: In practice were all jockeying for a place where we can stand in the sun and be most fully ourselves. Should we heighten one persons beliefs over and above another persons life?
Florist: Jockeying is the word, and you tell me. Were like stamping cattle whove gotten into the habit of thinking that theres only so much sun, and we have to take turns standing on each other, crushing each other, to get a share of it. That cant be right. Is the world still a big place or has it narrowed? Isnt there enough room for both of us to have the space to be who we are?
Gentleman: [ Thoughtful and disturbed, but honest ] I really dont 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, Im afraid I cant help you ; my religion wont 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 On the Square articles can be found here .