.- Legalizing âgay marriageâ is having major repercussions for religious freedom, according to observers of the latest developments.
Princeton law professor Robert P. George cited the words of American Jewish Committee lawyer Marc Stern, who in 2006 said the conflict between religious liberty and same-sex marriage would be âa train wreck.â
âThat train wreck has now arrived in states that have redefined marriage or have created schemes of legal recognition for same-sex partnerships as the equivalent of marriage,â George told CNA.
He cited incidents of religious adoption and foster care agencies being pushed out of work, and small business owners being fined or sued for not accommodating same-sex couples. Education is another âcritical area.â
âOnce a state recognizes same-sex partnerships as marriages or the equivalent, then naturally the argument is made that in family life classes in schools this has to be taught to be a valid partnership.â
Religious parents who do not want their children to be âindoctrinated in beliefs contrary to their ownâ are âout of luck,â said George, who founded the Manhattan Declaration project to defend religious liberty.
Town clerks and other officials with objections to participating in same-sex union ceremonies or to the granting of same-sex marriage licenses are already being told to find another job, George said.
For Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews or others who cannot in conscience participate in such ceremonies, he explained, âyou are not eligible to be a town clerk, because thatâs one of the things that town clerks are required to doâ in states that recognize the unions.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed through the stateâs new âgay marriageâ law in June, has said that those who cannot follow the new law should not hold the position of town clerk. A July 13 memo from the New York State Department of Health said it is a misdemeanor for a clerk to refuse to provide a marriage license to eligible applicants.
The major Manhattan law firm Proskauer Rose is presently seeking the resignation of Rose Marie Belforti, a Ledyard, New York town clerk, who cannot provide the licenses on account of her religious objections.
Maggie Gallagher, former chair of the National Organization for Marriage, said that the Nassau County district attorney has threatened clerks with criminal prosecution if they tried to refer a same-sex couple to another employee.
âKudos to those who have refused to bow to Caesarâs demands. And even more kudos to those who've decided not to resign but to stay and fight for their own, and all our rights,â Gallagher said to CNA.
She characterized town clerks as âcanaries in the coal mineâ because they are among the first to be affected by the ideas embedded in the recognition of same-sex âmarriage.â
âIf we start speaking out, rising up together, this kind of persecution would not, cannot continue. Their hope is that we give up, give in, acknowledge their sovereignty over Godâs,â she said.
âThis we cannot do. We have to find the unshakeable 10 percent who will stand, who will speak truth in love to the new power, and make it clear we cannot be bribed or coerced into muting or disappearing.â
Gallagher said Gov. Cuomo should apologize to 65-year-old Ruth Sheldon, a Granby town clerk who resigned because she could not in good conscience sign same-sex marriage licenses.
âThere is no cost to protecting religious liberty--failing to do so is simply mean-spirited and pointless.â
Assurances of religious freedom protections appear not to have helped Catholic Charities agencies in Illinois, where the state government is now refusing to renew its contracts for foster care and adoption services after the passage of a civil unions bill last December.
âThey believe weâre in violation of the law and are refusing to contract with us because of our religious beliefs, that children are best raised in a home with a mother and a father,â Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, told CNA.
The conference believes the state is interpreting the law in an incorrect manner. Gilligan noted that the civil unions bill included religious freedom protection in its title and the Illinois Human Rights Act âclearly allows a religious adoption agency to discriminate.â An exchange on the Senate floor also established that it was not the intention of the bill to impede Catholic Charitiesâ or other faith-based organizationsâ religious practice.
Nevertheless, Catholic child placement agencies may lose their funding and face closure.
âItâs really a tragedy if the state decides it canât embrace different organizations of different faiths to perform social services and health care,â Gilligan said. He characterized the action as an impediment to religious liberties of both organizations and individuals.
âThere are Catholic foster parents out there that only wish to perform foster care with Catholic Charities agencies,â he said.
Gilligan believes the actions in Illinois signal a major change in the place of Catholic institutions in the public square.
Scholars like Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown Law Center professor and lesbian activist who was appointed to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, foresaw many conflicts coming between gay rights and religious liberty.
âShe had trouble thinking of any cases where she believed the rights of religious liberty should triumph over gay rights,â George said.
He insisted that â(p)eople are bound to follow their consciences, especially in matters of religion, and the state should, to the extent possible, accommodate the religious consciences of its citizens.â
But instead of allowing religious freedom, marriage laws and anti-discrimination laws are being used as âinstruments to whip dissenters from the laws into lineâ in order to change peopleâs views and to advance an agenda, George charged.
The laws are being used to âbrand and label as bigots and the equivalent of racists people who have the temerity to say that marriage is a union of a man and a woman and to say that sex belongs in marriage and not outside of it.â
âItâs a great way to change the culture, by depicting your opponents as bigots and haters, and imposing on them civil disabilities by using the weapons of anti-discrimination law.
âItâs a brilliant strategy. I have to applaud them for the brilliance of the strategy as much as I loathe its bad faith and consequences,â George said.
Gallagher encouraged those who object to the legal recognition of same-sex unions.
âI think Christians and other people from traditional faith communities are being called in a new way to courage,â she said. âAre we going to volunteer to live in a world where the idea that marriage is the union of husband and wife because children need their mom and dad can be treated as the moral equivalent of racism?â
Proponents of same-sex âmarriageâ cannot win âunless they get us to agree to our own inferiority. Otherwise we are too many to stigmatize.â