Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On the politics of religious-liberty exemptions in same-sex marriage laws

06/09/09 Washington Post On Faith Blog (source: Gay Opinion Blog)

Law professor Dale Carpenter has distinguished between substantive and political reasons for including religious-liberty exemptions in same-sex marriage laws. He believes that such exemptions may be needed in anti-discrimination laws, but finds no substantive reason to (also) include them in same-sex marriage laws. However, adding them to same-sex laws would "allow legislators to alleviate reasonable fears and reduce the opportunity for demagoguery against gay marriage – all while protecting gay families in the law."

Susan Brooks Thistlewaite provides support for Carpenter's view on the politics of religious-liberty exemptions. She is a former president of the Chicago Theological Seminary. She considers New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson's comments on the importance of religious-liberty exemptions to passing New Hampshire's same-sex marriage law. Robinson said that if passed the legislation "stated, re-stated and overstated that no religious institutions or practices would be affected." Thistlewaite adds,

There is even more evidence, beyond New Hampshire, that 'stating, re-stating and over-stating' religious liberty in marriage equality struggles increases the chances of legislative success. Over half of mainstream pastors support same-sex marriage, especially when it is made clear that they will not necessarily have to perform these marriages says a recently released report by Public Opinion Research ... Protecting the freedom of religion, when that is a faith-based case, is a way to undercut the "moral monopoly" of the religious opponents to gay equality under the law. The broad middle of the American public seem ready to accept those arguments when they are linked, as the passage of the New Hampshire bill demonstrates.

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