Religious Freedom in Focus in Marriage Case

This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case pivotal for the future of marriage in the United States. It will also be a significant case for religious freedom, a fact made clear during the questioning by the Justices. 

While the Court resisted a Roe v. Wade type of decision imposing a new definition of marriage nationwide in its ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) two years ago, now that question is upon it.  At issue are not the merits of one view of marriage over another.  Rather, the Court must decide if the U.S. Constitution requires states to recognize same-sex marriage.

On Tuesday, several Justices asked questions about the impact of a decision imposing gay marriage nationwide on the situations of religious individuals and organizations that believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  Particularly striking was U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli’s response to Justice Samuel Alito’s question about a college potentially losing its tax-exempt status for adhering to its convictions. General Verrilli stated, “…it's certainly going to be an issue…. I don't deny that, Justice Alito.  It is – it is going to be an issue.”

In a release, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, declared:

General Verrilli cleared up any confusion.  The Obama Administration would be open to targeting religious organizations if they dare stay true to the tenets of their faith on marriage. The intolerance of the LGBT lobby is no secret, but it is greatly disturbing to hear such an admission from the federal government.

Earlier in the week, Dr. Johnson also said, “"The Supreme Court cannot change marriage, but it may change America. Pray that it will not.”

NRB will continue to be a voice in defense of traditional, biblical marriage and the fundamental First Amendment freedoms of Americans to observe their religious beliefs in all areas of daily life.

  • An amicus brief filed in this case by Liberty Institute on behalf of NRB and other prominent religious organizations emphasizing First Amendment concerns is available here.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: May 1, 2015

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