In the United States, legalization of same-sex marriage has a long-standing history of opposition from religious circles. Some argue against the legalization of same-sex marriage based on their interpretation of the Bible’s stance against homosexuality (Dobson, O’Brien). Other opponents argue against the practice based on universal tenets of moral behavior, fundamental beliefs that are said to underpin our country’s existing laws and should not be eroded (George, Finnis, Friedman).
Increasingly, however, the arguments against same-sex marriage have turned to the legal realm, asserting that the practice threatens the right to religious freedom. Objectors use the U.S. Constitution and ...view middle of the document...
For example, forcing organizations such as religious adoptive services to place children in the care of a civilly-married, same-sex couple is viewed as contradicting the core values of that organization. The same changes are seen as affecting individuals such as religious marriage counselors, who would potentially risk legal penalties for denying service to same-sex couples.
Furthermore, opponents warn that legalization of same-sex marriage and changes to the civil definition of marriage would cause an avalanche of changes in other areas. Laws regarding employment, education, healthcare, and housing would be altered to accommodate same-sex couples. Such sweeping changes are viewed by advocates of religious freedom as further risking religious liberties of organizations and individuals relating to a range of businesses and industries. In essence, the legalization of same-sex marriage is seen as compulsory sanctioning of a lifestyle that goes against the fundamental beliefs of certain groups and individuals and, moreover, requires them by force of law to act contrary to their religious tenets. This scenario is viewed as a direct assault on religious liberties.
Advocates for same-sex marriage base their argument in the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They contend that same-sex couples are denied the basic right of marriage. Their argument has been persuasive, and proved to advance the legalization of same-sex marriage in certain states. In the landmark case of Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health in 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that it was a violation of the state’s constitution to deny any marital benefits to same-sex couples (DeLaet). Similar victories, though smaller in scope, were subsequently won in Vermont and New York.
These cases, and other victories achieved through the equal protection argument, were more often than not opposed by arguments over the actual morality of same-sex marriages. However, according to same-sex marriage opponents, the biggest flaw in the 14th Amendment argument for same-sex marriage is that it completely disregards religious rights as a legal factor and counter-argument. The issue of one Constitutional freedom disregarding another has become a more prevalent legal focus of opponents of same-sex marriage.
Although our laws and policies vigilantly uphold the separation of church and state, the institution of marriage is a bit of a slippery slope (Moody, Volokh). The role of religion has historically been intertwined with the role of marriage. It is no wonder that the matter of same-sex marriage yields such heartfelt advocacy as well as opposition. The issue contains all the ingredients for complex social and legal conflict: equal protection under the law, religious freedom, marital rights, notions of morality, and religious tradition.
Ironically, same-sex couples and their religious opponents actually share a commonality, that being a...