A bill legalizing same-sex marriage for couples in New York State is at a standstill over the issue of exemptions for religious organizations and individuals. The reach of these religious protections is wide-ranging -from whether Catholic adoption agencies may reject same-sex couples, to the right of religious caterers to refuse services for gay weddings. In New York State's Marriage Equality Act, should there be exemptions for religion? What should happen when equal rights for gay citizens and the right to religious free exercise clash?
No house of worship should be required to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony (or indeed any ceremony it doesn't want to perform). But taxpayer-funded agencies - including "faith-based" providers - should treat everyone equally. Otherwise qualified same-sex couples should have the same access to public services as opposite-sex couples. Churches that don't want to obey non-discrimination rules are free to stop participating in publicly funded adoption programs.
The same principles of fairness and equal access should apply in the business sector. Businesses that hold themselves out as public accommodations should be willing to serve everyone. Anything else is discrimination.
Here's a good rule of thumb: What exemptions do we allow religious groups when it comes to mixed-faith or interracial couples? A church has the legal right to refuse to perform marriages for such couples, but a government agency could not deny them access to adoption services just because a religious group doesn't like it, and a business could not refuse to serve them.
About Barry W.
Causes Barry W. Lynn Supports
Americans United for Separation of Church and State