‘Mawidge’ and the Supremes: What you need to know about civil rights and religious liberty


Thank God for The Princess Bride to help us navigate these wedding waters!

Since the landmark civil rights Supreme Court ruling last week on marriage equality, some have raised concern about religious liberty. Will  some religious leaders be “forced” to do things they don’t agree with?

The Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty has a good round up on this.

Don’t let  far right — whether that’s from within the Catholic bishops conference, certain unaffiliated megachurches, or anyone else stir up doubt and instill fear. The Supreme Court ruling was a civil rights ruling, not a First Amendment ruling.

From BJC’s executive director J. Brent Walker:

When the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the same-sex marriage cases, the justices did not invite briefs on religious liberty. In its writ of certiorari granting review, the Court framed the issues to be whether same-sex marriage is constitutionally required under the Fourteenth Amendment and, if not, whether states under Article IV have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. It did not frame any First Amendment issues.

But, clearly, church-state relations pervade this subject, and several justices turned to the topic in their questions to counsel and in their debate with each other on the bench.

Three such areas of inquiry about religious liberty are noteworthy:
First, Justice Antonin Scalia asked the petitioners’ attorney, Mary Bonauto, whether ministers and the churches they serve would have to perform and host same-sex weddings if they disagreed with that understanding of marriage. The answer from the attorneys, including Bonauto, and Justice Elena Kagan who chimed in, was an unequivocal “no.”

The day before the arguments, the BJC’s Holly Hollman wrote that she was “unaware of any credible public voice seeking marriage equality who is trying to force objecting clergy or houses of worship to perform or host a same-sex marriage ceremony.” I completely agree. Justice Scalia must not have gotten the memo. … Read the rest of J. Brent Walker’s column.

From BJC’s General Counsel K. Hollyn Hollman:

Obergefell v. Hodges is a landmark civil rights case. It is not a First Amendment religious liberty case. Though the decision will have ramifications for religious liberty, some of which the majority notes briefly and the dissents stress more forcefully, the case is about civil marriage.

The decision states that the history of marriage “is one of both continuity and change. That institution – even as confined to opposite-sex relations – has evolved over time.” The Court found that the history and evolution of marriage, as well as the changing understanding of the rights of gays and lesbians, were significant to finding that the Fourteenth Amendment protections include same-sex marriage. The Court’s decision is based on marriage being a fundamental right demonstrated through principles about individual autonomy, the singular importance of the marriage union, protection of children and families, and the preservation of social order. The Court found that exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage could not be supported in light of these principles. To put it directly: “The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest.” Read the rest of K. Hollyn Hollman’s column.

And further reading:
Religious liberty and same-sex marriage from the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Libergy

Read the Supreme Court documents in Obergefell v. Hodges.

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