Conservatives Are Gearing Up For Fight Of Their Lives After Gay Marriage Ruling

NEW YORK (AP) — Now that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, religious conservatives are focusing on preserving their right to object. Their concerns are for the thousands of faith-based charities, colleges and hospitals that want to hire, fire, serve and set policy according to their religious beliefs, notably that gay relationships are morally wrong.

 

The Republican Party’s 2016 presidential candidates are already campaigning on the issue. And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is urging President Barack Obama and the nation’s governors “to join me in reassuring millions of Americans that the government will not force them to participate in activities that violate their deeply held religious beliefs.”

 

The religious liberty fight isn’t about what happens inside the sanctuary. First Amendment protections for worship and clergy are clear. Potential conflicts could arise, however, over religious organizations with some business in the public arena. That category ranges from small religious associations that rent reception halls to the public, to the nation’s massive network of faith-based social service agencies that receive millions of dollars in government grants. Some groups, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also want protections for individual business owners who consider it immoral to provide benefits for the same-sex spouse of an employee or cater gay weddings.

 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy raised the issue in the majority opinion Friday granting gays the right to marry. He said First Amendment protections are in place for religious objectors, who “may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

 

But in his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts predicted a clash ahead between religious freedom and same-sex marriage. He specifically noted the dilemma for religious colleges that provide married student housing, and adoption agencies that won’t place children with gay couples.

 

“There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this court,” Roberts wrote.

 

Conservative religious groups have for years been on watch for potential clashes over religious liberty and gay rights, and have been lobbying for religious exemptions in statehouses and Congress. But conservative anxieties intensified over an exchange during April’s oral arguments in the gay marriage case between Justice Samuel Alito and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.

 

Alito noted the high court’s 1983 decision to revoke the tax-exemption of Bob Jones University in South Carolina because it barred interracial dating. Alito asked if the government would take such action against religiously affiliated schools that oppose same-sex marriage. Verrilli said, “It is certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that.”

 

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