NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty lays out what's about to happen to religious liberty in America in the wake of gay civil rights victories:
As gay couples in California head to the courthouse starting Monday to get legally married, there are signs of a coming storm. Two titanic legal principles are crashing on the steps of the church, synagogue and mosque: equal treatment for same-sex couples on the one hand, and the freedom to exercise religious beliefs on the other.
The collision that will play out over the next few years will be filled with pathos on both sides.
As states have legalized same-sex partnerships, the rights of gay couples have consistently trumped the rights of religious groups. Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, says that does not mean that a pastor can be sued for preaching against same-sex marriage. But, he says, that may be just about the only religious activity that will be protected.
"What if a church offers marriage counseling? Will they be able to say 'No, we're not going to help gay couples get along because it violates our religious principles to do so? What about summer camps? Will they be able to insist that gay couples not serve as staff because they're a bad example?" Stern asks.
Stern says if the early cases are any guide, the outlook is grim for religious groups.
A few cases: Yeshiva University was ordered to allow same-sex couples in its married dormitory. A Christian school has been sued for expelling two allegedly lesbian students. Catholic Charities abandoned its adoption service in Massachusetts after it was told to place children with same-sex couples. The same happened with a private company operating in California.
A psychologist in Mississippi who refused to counsel a lesbian couple lost her case, and legal experts believe that a doctor who refused to provide IVF services to a lesbian woman is about to lose his pending case before the California Supreme Court.
Georgetown University professor Chai Feldblum says it is a compelling case of what happens in a moment of culture clash. Feldblum, who is an active proponent of gay rights, says the culture and state laws are shifting irrevocably to recognize same-sex unions. And while she knows it's hard for some to hear, she says companies and religious groups that serve the public need to recognize that their customers will be gay couples.
"They need to start thinking now, proactively, how they want to address that. Because I do think that if a gay couple ends up being told their wedding cannot be filmed, five couples will not sue, but the sixth couple will."
And as one legal expert puts it, the gay couples "would win in a walk."
Rod Dreher notes:
Really and truly, read the whole thing. Next time somebody asks, "How can gay marriage hurt anybody else?" -- well, here's one answer. You don't compromise your religious beliefs to fit their orthodoxy, your church, synagogue, mosque or religious institution will pay a price. You can't deny it.
Traditionalist religious groups and religious-liberty activists had better get busy right now building momentum toward passing an amendment to the US Constitution granting a religious exemption to civil rights laws with regard to homosexuality. Or give up the fight, and conform. I don't see any middle ground.