Same-sex marriage: Is religious liberty a “straw man”?

Street signs at the intersection of Church Ave. and State St.

This is the third post in a series on same-sex marriage. The first two are here and here

I keep reading that same-sex marriage presents absolutely no threat to freedom of religion. Here, for example, is an article from The Bilerico Project entitled “The ‘Religious Liberty’ Straw Man.” Rev. Emily C. Heath, arguing in defense of same-sex marriage, claims that:

. . . this whole religious liberty argument has been a straw man from the very start. A way to stir up public anger about a non-issue in order to thwart civil equality.

You can say anything you want, of course–the sky is polka-dotted, water is dry, the Cubs are gonna win the pennant–but that doesn’t make it true. And in this case, the facts paint a very different picture.

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Washington’s gay marriage bill: a frontal attack on religious freedom

The gay marriage bill in the Washington State Legislature specifically claims to protect religious freedom. HB 2516/SB 6239 bills itself as:

AN ACT Relating to providing equal protection for all families in Washington by creating equality in civil marriage and changing the domestic partnership laws, while protecting religious freedom. . . . [Emphasis mine]

But, as always, the devil is in the details.

three-column stained glass window of the

CCL Danie Van der Merwe

Section 4 (2) of the proposed legislation says that:

No regularly licensed or ordained minister or any priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any church or religious denomination is required to solemnize any marriage.

Sounds good, right? The Section goes on to say that:

A refusal to solemnize any marriage under this section by a regularly licensed or ordained minister or priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any church or religious denomination does not create a civil claim or cause of action. . . .

It doesn’t create a civil claim or cause of action. A civil claim is when one private person (or group of people) sues another private person or group. Notice that the Section is silent on whether a refusal might create any other kind of legal claim.

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