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Marriage Equality and Religious Liberty Part IV: Other Contexts, The End of Religious Marriage(?), Final Thoughts

The patient reader who’s followed the preceding posts might now wonder if there are any cases, aside from the core where religions get to decide whom to marry, where I’d allow the religious exemption. There are.

The first is clearly set out and well-defended by Chai Feldblum in her contribution to Same Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty, entitled  “Moral Conflict and Conflicting Liberties.” Where a (usually religious) belief community sets up enterprises – like schools, day care centers, and summer camps – to inculcate certain values, they should enjoy an exemption from antidiscrimination laws (not limited to those recognizing same-sex marriages), as long as they are clear in their beliefs that homosexuality is wrong. And they must enroll only those who wish (for themselves or their children, I guess) to be inculcated in those beliefs, to dispel any idea that the enterprise is just a convenient vehicle for excluding gays and lesbians.

Another exemption I’d support is for religiously affiliated organizations, assuming that the religion with which they’re affiliated views homosexuality or same-sex unions as immoral. I’m not talking about employment (except maybe at the highest levels, per Feldblum) nor benefits (and why should benefits be tied to marriage in the first place, I often wonder?), but about the kinds of interactions that would be particularly hard for such an organization to countenance. These would need to be debated and then spelled out, but would include – to be specific – adoption placement. There are typically many public  and private adoption services, and I can’t see harm to a same-sex couple (or individual) in being directed to an organization that will – let’s face  it – work harder to find a suitable placement for them than, say, Catholic Charities. Surely here respect for both sides counsels the exemption.

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