Does gay marriage threaten religious freedom?


Our opponents’ campaign against Question 6 is about to begin in earnest — with sermons today, with advertisements tomorrow — and one of the key arguments will be that churches are in danger of being persecuted if they do not accept same-sex marriage. John Corvino, of the philosophy department at Wayne State, responds to these arguments above as part of his series of videos answering arguments against same-sex marriage.

Rob Tisinai at Box Turtle Bulletin offers some thoughts on how to argue this set of points. He notes that “alleged violations of religious liberty are usually about discrimination law, not same-sex marriage – in fact, many of their favorite examples come from states that haven’t legalized same-sex marriage,” a point I also made when I wrote about religious exemptions in the WSJ last year.

Corvino notes that many churches and religious denominations bless same-sex unions and often conduct such ceremonies. Bans on same-sex marriage restrict the religious liberty of these churches and legally enshrine the views of some churches over those of others. That is not religious liberty, but its reverse. As I argued in the Gazette in August:

The fact is that the state has not looked to the churches for its definition of marriage for a very long time. For centuries, leading religious authorities insisted that a divorced person could not validly remarry while an ex-spouse was still living, a position for which they could cite authority in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

But on that and countless other elements of marriage — from age, health, and racial prerequisites, to the consequences that marriage carries for property and inheritance — civil society long ago decoupled marriage law from church doctrines. And aren’t most of us glad it did?

As Gov. O’Malley has pointed out, “Our marriage equality law has some of the most specific protections for religious freedom in the country.”

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