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On The Square

Same-Sex “Marriage” vs. Religious Liberty
by Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council

The legalization of same-sex "marriage" would have some obvious effects on family structure. It would amount to an official declaration that there is nothing special about heterosexual relationships – though they are the only ones capable of naturally fulfilling the essential social function of reproducing the human race.

It would also amount to an official declaration that there is nothing special about growing up with both a mother and a father – even though there is a massive body of social science research showing that it is the family structure that leads to the best outcomes.

But the far more immediate result of same-sex "marriage" would be serious damage to religious liberty.

The most dramatic manifestation of this threat – an attempt to force clergy to perform same-sex "weddings" – is probably the least likely to materialize, in the short run. I would hope that the First Amendment remains robust enough to prevent that outcome.

But religious liberty means much more than liturgical rituals. It applies not only to formal houses of worship, but to parachurch ministries, religious educational and social service organizations, and individual believers trying to live their daily lives in accordance with their faith. These, more than your pastor or parish priest, are the entities whose religious liberty is most threatened by same-sex "marriage."

"Individual believers who disapprove of homosexual [behavior] relationships may be the most vulnerable of all …"

Some of the problems arise from "nondiscrimination" laws based on perceived sexual orientation, even without same-sex "marriage." But once these unions become legal, laws that, once applied to individuals practicing homosexual behavior, then apply to homosexual couples as well. So, for example, when Catholic Charities in Boston insisted that they would stay true to principle and refuse to place children for adoption with same-sex couples, they were told by the Commonwealth that they could no longer do adoptions at all.

In other cases, benefits or opportunities that the state makes available to religious nonprofits could be withheld based on the organization’s refusal to treat same-sex couples and "marriages" the same as opposite-sex marriages. Organizations might be denied government grants or aid otherwise available to faith-based groups; they might be denied access to public facilities for events; and they might even have their tax-exempt status removed. That’s what happened to the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in New Jersey – now a client of the Alliance Defense Fund. They initially lost the tax-exempt status for their worship pavilion when they refused to rent the facility for a lesbian "civil union" ceremony. That status has since been restored.

Religious educational institutions are particularly at risk, because some allow students who are not believers to attend. Some even have staff who don’t adhere to the school’s core religious beliefs, yet the school still desires to maintain certain religiously-informed norms and standards of behavior.

Yeshiva University, a Jewish school in New York City, was forced to allow same-sex "domestic partners" in married-student housing. A Lutheran school in California was sued for expelling two girls in a lesbian relationship. Religious clubs on secular campuses may be denied recognition for opposing homosexual behavior, as happened to the Christian Legal Society at the University of California’s Hastings School of Law.

For private business owners, the threats are even greater. Those opposed to homosexual behavior can decline to offer benefits to same-sex "domestic partners," but if the state calls such relationships "marriage" then the owner has no legal basis for distinguishing between same-sex and opposite-sex "married" couples. Consumers could end up subsidizing those relationships, too.

Professionals could face lawsuits or denial of licensing if they refuse to treat homosexual relationships the same as heterosexual ones. A California fertility doctor was sued for declining to artificially inseminate a lesbian. And the online dating service eHarmony succumbed to the pressure of a lawsuit and agreed to provide services for same-sex couples as well.

Individual believers who disapprove of homosexual [behavior] relationships may be the most vulnerable of all, facing a choice at work between forfeiting their freedom of speech and being fired. One father in Massachusetts was arrested after trying to shield his son—a kindergarten student – from exposure to a book about same-sex couples.

Religious liberty is one of our deepest American values. We must not sacrifice it on the altar of political correctness that same-sex "marriage" would create. That is why the Family Research Council so appreciates and enthusiastically supports the extraordinary efforts of ADF to defend these crucial freedoms.

Working in close alliance – ADF in the legal realm, FRC with Congress and with state policy groups at the legislatures – we continue to press the case for freedom in courtrooms and committee chambers all over the country. We’ve made the message clear enough that even some on the Left are beginning to echo our concerns about the threat state-sanctioned same-sex unions pose to religious liberty.

So don’t lose hope. The dangerous implications of the homosexual agenda are very real – but, together, ADF and the FRCouncil, along with our state-based allies, have already played a pivotal role in the passage of 30 state constitutional amendments affirming marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In the war to defend marriage, the tide is turning our way.


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