20 June 2011

Oh ... religious freedom is now a concern for anti-marriage equality folks

With the debate on marriage equality in New York, one of the major issues is protecting the religious freedom rights of those who don't endorse marriage equality.

Today on Andrew Sullivan's "Dish" blog, he wrote about the need for religious freedom protection in any state law granting marriage equality to same-sex couples:
It's a BFD because it will also insist on maximal religious liberty for those who conscientiously oppose marriage equality. A gay rights movement that seeks to restrict any religious freedom is not worthy of the name. And it makes me glad that we have largely avoided anything that looks like that strategy, and that last-minute negotiations were flexible enough to strengthen the protections for religious groups, churches, mosques, synagogues and the like.
One needs to keep in mind that there are some churches and congregations who are being denied religious freedom and prevented from freely exercising their religious beliefs when civil marriage equality for same-sex couples is not the law.

For example, Unitarian Universalists (UU) and United Church of Christ (UCC) support marriage equality as denominations. Many UU and UCC clergy will solemnize same-sex unions in religious ceremonies today.

But UU and UCC folks are told that their clergy must disregard their religious beliefs when acting as agents of the state in solemnizing marriages where marriage equality does not exist.

That suggests that the "religious liberty" concern voiced by anti-marriage equality folks is a specious concern. They haven't worried about religious liberty when it comes to my Unitarian Universalist religion or liberal Protestant denominations like the United Church of Christ that do recognize same-sex couples as families.

I'm willing to support the religious freedoms of anti-marriage equality folks to discriminate but it looks like they don't want to repay the favor and support religious freedom for Unitarian Universalists who want to celebrate same-sex marriages in their congregations.


Desmond Ravenstone said...

Here's a response to that canard:

Show us one case of a religious officiant being compelled to perform a same-sex wedding.

Bill Baar said...

It's a big issue in Illinois where the State passed a civil unions law but refused to pass a law exempting Catholic Charities to not have to place kids with Same Sex Couples. Now the Illinois AG is investigating CC for discrimination and the various CCs in Rockford and downstate are pulling out of the adoption business. It's a real deal breaker for me to have Illinois intervene like this. (Always has been since Mass CC stopped placement). I wish Illinois Marriage Equality advocates had not lobbied so hard in Springfield that Civil Unions gave Illinois the right to stop agencies from not placing with SS paretns, but they fought like heck for that.

Steve Caldwell said...


That's an apples-and-oranges comparison.

The Catholic Charities agency in Illinois was being contracted by the state to perform social services for the state (placing children with adoptive families).

About 1/2 of the Catholic Charities budget came from taxpayers who have (through their legislators voting for a civil unions bill) decided to treat same-sex couples as equal before the law in all matters except for the use the "marriage" to describe them.

The Catholic Charities organization is free to discriminate even with the changes in Illinois law. All this change means is they cannot discriminate while using taxpayer dollars.

So ... that's not really a free expression of religion issue. No First Amendment issues at all.

The Illinois blogger Hemant Mehta at his "Friendly Atheist" blog has already commented on this:


He wrote the following:

"When a child needs a loving mother or father more than anything, and there’s a possibility of giving them two mothers or two fathers, the Church thinks they’re better off with nobody."

I guess that's what passes for religious "logic."

Desmond Ravenstone said...

Catholic Charities around the country have been doing this, starting with Boston in 2006.

Strangely enough, Boston CC had arranged adoptions by GLBT folks (single and coupled) for years. Then the Vatican got wind and said they had to stop, even if it meant ending publicly-funded adoption services completely. The CC board's leadership tried to push for an exemption (talk about "special rights"!) but no go. When the majority of the Board voted to end adoption services, several members in the minority resigned in protest. I remember one of those brave souls on a news program calling the move by Cardinal O'Malley and his followers "un-Christian".

Steve Caldwell said...

Before I posted my comments about this on my blog, I had sent them along to Andrew Sullivan in response to his article about the religious freedom arguments surrounding marriage equality.

He published my letter (third reader response on this link):