Op-ed: The next gay marriage battle

  • By Rich Lowry
  • Wednesday, July 1, 2015 6:01pm
  • Opinion

Everyone knows where the debate over gay marriage is going next. Now that the Supreme Court has imposed its edict on the land, the question is whether religious institutions and people of faith will still be permitted to act on moral beliefs that the court has portrayed as bigoted and deeply wounding.

In his long prose-poem about love masquerading as a judicial opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy made a bow to these concerns. He cited the First Amendment for the proposition that religions and those that adhere to them “may continue to advocate with utmost sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” Gee, thanks, Mr. Justice.

This assurance is about as convincing as the rest of Kennedy’s airy majority opinion with little or no connection to the Constitution or law — which is to say, people of faith ought to brace for the worst.

Kennedy’s statement was carefully hedged to include only advocacy and teaching, a lawyerly wording that the other lawyers on the court were quick to pick up on. The First Amendment, Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out in his dissent, actually protects the freedom to exercise religion. That means people of faith acting on their beliefs, not merely advocating them or teaching them.

It’s easy to see the coming clash of moralities, one enjoying official favor, the other religious sanction. What Kennedy refers to as the “dignitary wounds” of the traditional definition of marriage are also inflicted by the private institutions and people who uphold that definition.

In oral arguments, Justice Samuel Alito asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether, on the model of Bob Jones University a few decades ago when it banned interracial dating and marriage, a college that opposed same-sex marriage could be denied tax-exempt status. “It’s certainly going to be an issue,” Verrilli admitted. “I don’t deny that.”

At this juncture, most supporters of same-sex marriage do deny it, although they have a history of making whatever assurance seems necessary, before discarding it in due course. It used to be that prominent supporters of gay marriage pooh-poohed the idea of a judicial imposition of their view on the country. In the Supreme Court’s prior pro-gay-marriage decision, just two years ago, it said that domestic relations were exclusively a matter for the states — before turning around and throwing out state marriage laws not to its liking.

If supporters of same-sex marriage truly have no interest in punishing the exercise of religion they find objectionable, they can sign off on legislation to prevent it. Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican, has a bill called the First Amendment Defense Act — yes, it’s come to that — protecting organizations from government retaliation over their opposition to gay marriage.

There is unlikely to be a rush on the left to endorse it, when the American Civil Liberties Union is heading in the opposite direction. It has just withdrawn its support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, on grounds that it can be used to protect organizations refusing to get on board with gay marriage. Already, there are a few calls to remove the tax exemption of churches, now opposed to what the Supreme Court has deemed a fundamental right.

These are only tea leaves. The move against religious groups will surely start small, with some isolated, unsympathetic Christian institution, and then grow until what once had been called unimaginable becomes mandatory.

The push for gay marriage is motivated by a moralistic zeal that sees only one point of view on the question as legitimate. If its supporters weren’t patient enough to see their cause through the inevitable fits and starts of the democratic process, they aren’t going to let procedural niceties stand in the way of an effort to bulldoze their way to a more thoroughgoing conformity on the issue. The gay-marriage debate isn’t over; it has merely entered a new phase.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

More in Opinion

Jodi Taylor is the board chair for Alaska Policy Forum. (Courtesy photo)
Private school, state reimbursement: family choice

By Jodi Taylor Alaskan parents have a legitimate right to choose the… Continue reading

t
Opinion: It’s time for bold action to protect our fisheries

Our fisheries feed the world and sustain our unique cultures and communities.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Hard to fill positions?

Paying poverty wages to support staff, secretaries and custodians is unacceptable yet routine behavior by our district

A copy of the State of Alaska Official Ballot for the June 11, 2022, Special Primary Election is photographed on May 2, 2022. (Peninsula Clarion staff)
Choosing a candidate – Who will best represent us in D.C.?

Voters are encouraged to do homework before casting a vote

Tourists watch as one of two cubs belonging to an 18-year-old sow black bear crosses the path between groups of tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Tourists have pushed us to critical mass in parts of Juneau

I don’t go to the glacier in the summer now to hike or watch bears.

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: A few ideas for Mental Health Awareness Month

What are some things you can practice this month and subsequently apply to your life?

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left, and Robert Myers, R-North Pole, read through one of 41 amendments submitted to the state’s omnibus budget bill being debate on the floor of the Alaska State Senate on Monday, May 9, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: The Alaska Senate’s foolish gamble

“All these conservative people just spent all our money”

Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire impairs visibility on the Sterling Highway on Aug. 20, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Alaskans should prepare for wildfire season

Several past large fire seasons followed snowy winters or unusually rainy springs

Alex Koplin is a founding member of Kenai Peninsula Votes. (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: 1 candidate dined, 47 to go

By Alex Koplin Last month, I wrote a satirical piece for the… Continue reading

The logo of the Homer Trails Alliance.
Point of View: Connecting our community through trails

Homer is booming with housing development and the viability of long-standing trails is threatened