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The Supreme Court by a 5-4 decision has decided that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. It created a new fundamental right under the Constitution allowing people to marry individuals of the same gender. Note that citations have been omitted from the below quotes for easier reading.
In his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. addresses concerns over religious liberty moving forward. “Today’s decision, for example, creates serious questions about religious liberty,” Roberts wrote. “Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority— actually spelled out in the Constitution.”
“Respect for sincere religious conviction has led voters and legislators in every State that has adopted same-sex marriage democratically to include accommodations for religious practice. The majority’s decision imposing same-sex marriage cannot, of course, create any such accommodations. The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.”
The Chief Justice also addresses the possibility of the rulings impact on tax exemptions.
“Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage. There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.”
Justice Clarence Thomas also addressed religious liberty in a separate dissent he authored:
“Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect. Numerous amici—even some not supporting the States—have cautioned the Court that its decision here will “have unavoidable and wide-ranging implications for religious liberty.” In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well. Today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.”
Justice Thomas added:
“Although our Constitution provides some protection against such governmental restrictions on religious practices, the People have long elected to afford broader protections than this Court’s constitutional precedents mandate. Had the majority allowed the definition of marriage to be left to the political process—as the Constitution requires—the People could have considered the religious liberty implications of deviating from the traditional definition as part of their deliberative process. Instead, the majority’s decision short-circuits that process, with potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”
Below is the full opinion. The right to marry anyone of an individual’s choosing regardless of gender is now put on equal footing as the Freedom of Religion. How will this impact churches, ministries and religious organizations? What should you do to prepare yourself? Call us or email us by entering a question on the right and we will be happy to answer any questions you have.
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