Friday, May 1, 2009

The same-sex marriage amendments: scope of religious-liberty exemptions

04/30/09 Politico - Ben Smith:

Politico blogger Ben Smith examines religious-liberty amendments to Connecticut's recently enacted, same-sex marriage law and New Hampshire's pending legislation. Connecticut's law exempts from the state's public accommodation law religious organizations that provide commercial services related to the solemnization of marriage. New Hampshire's legislation would reaffirm First Amendment protection for "members of the clergy" who decline to solemnize marriages because of their religious beliefs.

"Vermont and Maine provide exemptions weaker than Connecticut's, but stronger than New Hampshire's, while advocates would like to extend [exemptions more generally] to protect private contractors -- florists, bakers, and bands -- from being sued for discrimination if they refuse to serve [married] same-sex couples."

Smith sought comment from Robin Fretwell Wilson. She is a law professor at Washington and Lee University who helped design the Connecticut law. She is also editor of Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts. She told Smith that "we have to turn down the temperature on the same-sex marriage debate, and one way to do that is to find a live-and-let-live solution for religious folks and same-sex couples."

Smith also sought comment from "Jon Davidson, the legal director Lambda Legal, which opposed the broader Connecticut exemption."

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