The door swings open and a high-energy, petite blonde walks in. “Hi, I’m Annie.”
“Hi Annie, I’m Mary.” Her smile mirrors Annie’s. “Welcome to my studio.”
“I’m friends with Emma and Ryan Glassman. I love how you photographed their wedding. You just…you do great work.”
“Thank you.” Mary glances at the Bride magazine tucked under Annie’s arm. “Your turn coming soon?”
“Yes!” she beams. “Next spring. So I’d like to talk to you about your pricing and packages.”
Mary grabs her brochure and hands it to Annie, pointing to two chairs pulled up to a coffee table full of wedding albums. “Can I get you some coffee?”
Annie looks at the chair and hesitates, “Umm before we get into this you should know…I’m gay.”
Mary knew this day might come. It just came much sooner than she expected. “I’m glad you’ve told me up front…because there’s something you should know. I’m a follower of Jesus.”
Annie’s smile fades just a bit. “Well…what does that mean?”
Not one week earlier Mary had been working on a new spreadsheet. Under “What it would take to expand the business” she had listed: “New camera and equipment-$8000,” “New part-time photography assistant $20,000,” “Larger studio $2000/mo.” Moving and redecorating expenses followed and, with a new address, a new publicity package. The bottom line would require a sizable loan and she had wondered, “How much am I willing to risk?”
That had prompted her to read more about the recent defeat of legislation in Arizona and Kansas to protect religious liberties. She agreed that the Arizona law was poorly written, but the Kansas law was written more narrowly just to protect the liberties of people working in the wedding business. It was also defeated.
She also read about how gays have picketed and defamed and sent hate mail and death threats to other wedding professionals who had refused to contract for gay weddings. She felt the first twinges of fear that a gay couple might unsuspectingly or knowingly come to her and ask her to photograph their wedding.
Mary thought about photographer friends that had told her that, if approached by gays, they would try to show Jesus’ grace and love and consent to photograph their wedding. She was glad they could do that in good conscience.
For Mary, the Bible was true north. She believed that God had created and ordained marriage for husbands and wives to become one and offered it as a common grace to believers and unbelievers alike. For Mary a wedding was by its very nature religious–a gathering in the presence of God and witnesses. She would celebrate with every couple and bless them as best she could.
She would spend anywhere from 3-7 hours with her clients on their wedding day and maybe 10-40 hours more retouching the photos and making an album or video that celebrates the story of that wedding. In her conscience before God she didn’t see how she could use her artistic gift to celebrate a sexual union as something good when God was on record condemning it as bad. It would feel false. Hypocritical. Enabling.
Mary wanted to follow Jesus as closely as possible. And her photographer friends really challenged her. She dug into her New Testament. Yes, Jesus was a friend to and hung out with sinners. He died a terrible death to pay the penalty of sin because he loves sinners. However she did not see Jesus enabling or endorsing sin anywhere.
To the woman caught in adultery he showed great compassion– “neither do I condemn you.” But then he said, “From now on sin no more.” Sometimes, she concluded, the great act of love is to show mercy. But Jesus demonstrated that it is also a great act of love to call sexual sin “sin” and tell people to forsake it.
Mary drops her gaze for a moment and then looks steadily into Annie’s eyes. “It means…I wish you just wanted a sandwich or a pedicure or even to rent my over-the-studio apartment. I would gladly serve you. But photographing a wedding…it’s not just “business” to me. I know it sounds really quaint and so last century. Or two. But I really believe in “Holy Matrimony.” A sacred moment. We’re there in God’s presence asking his blessing, at least every wedding I’ve ever done included a prayer.
"And I’m not just a machine clicking away…the reason these,” her gesture swept the wedding canvases that lined her wall, “…the reason these fairly glow with beauty is because I’m all in. I see the real beauty. I’m celebrating before God with you. I feel like I’m endorsing your celebration—this is good.” Annie looked away and Mary’s voice faltered. “I’m so sorry. But I…I just can’t…”
Silence. Finally Annie said, “Of course,” and gently handed the brochure back to Mary. “I totally understand.”
“Do you?” Mary’s eyes pleaded.
“Absolutely,” said Annie. “My mother feels the same way.” She walked toward the door. “Thank you for your time.” And then she was gone. Mary watched her walk to her car, her throat tightening.
In her car Annie sighs and opens her Bride magazine. She finds her list of recommended photographers, puts the next address in her GPS and waits for reception. She doesn’t understand gays who can’t just walk away from deep differences like this. Yes, it hurts, but it isn’t worth dragging someone along, forcing them to do something completely against conscience. She’s not Rosa Parks. There are plenty of other seats on the bus and lots of other upscale lunch counters happy to serve her a lovely sandwich.
She resents the Gay Gestapo that has descended upon people like Mary, bent on ruining their reputation and livelihood. She doesn’t understand why God condemns what she finds so life-giving, but she won’t hold Mary responsible for what God says in the Bible. She doesn’t wish Mary or her mother would renounce the most important thing in their lives.
Mary walks over to her desk and picks up the spreadsheet. She doesn’t want to be a wimp about this. She doesn’t want to be some kind of crusading Joan of Arc either. She just wants to worship God with her art and then give it as a gift to others. She sees Annie just sitting in her car outside. Plotting her next move? Looking up the website of the human rights commission?
Annie’s GPS arrow points left and she drives away. Mary watches her tail lights disappear in the traffic. She thinks of her gay friends…maybe she should start spending more time with them, strengthen the relationships. Hopefully they would not report her. Or maybe she should spend less time with them…give them fewer opportunities to ask whether she would photograph a gay wedding or not.
She crumples the spreadsheet and throws it in the trash.
All that evening—driving home, cooking dinner, loading the dishwasher, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling—her creative mind writes “the book” of where this will go…a letter, a summons will arrive…no, police will bang on her door…reporters will swarm as she gets in her car…protestors will camp outside her studio door…she is a hater, bigot, enemy of the State, a social pariah. She will lose her reputation, her business…. She knows she’s giving in to fear. “Oh Jesus…” she whispers and turns over again.