Same-Sex Marriage, Religious Accomodation, and the Race Analogy
Shannon Gilreath & Arley Ward
Can a state government allow its officials to opt-out of issuing marriage licenses based on religious objections to same-sex marriage? Similarly, can a state create special religion-based exceptions to anti-discrimination laws? This article examines these questions by comparing traditional objections to same-sex marriage and racial integration, and by delving into how each category is treated by anti-discrimination law. We examine the ultimate refusal to legally accommodate analogous religiously-motivated objections to racial integration. We conclude that any such exemptions would be unconstitutional violations of both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Understanding the history of religion-based arguments justifying discrimination is crucial to this analysis. Proponents of far-reaching religious exemptions from otherwise generally applicable anti-discrimination laws too often portray the advent of same-sex marriage as unprecedented and terrifyingly unique. So terrifying and unique, it is claimed, that the law must recognize unprecedented new rights for individuals refusing to accept the evolution of the law because of their religious beliefs. Understanding the striking similarities between arguments justifying anti-gay discrimination and anti-black discrimination for religious reasons is crucial to exposing this fallacy.
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