‘Fake Drama’: Gay Rights Groups Dismiss 3 Fears about Supreme Court Marriage Ruling
Gay rights advocates are largely dismissing the fears of religious groups that the legalization of gay marriage will bring down an onslaught of legal trouble for the faithful, with one group calling it “completely fake drama.”
“I think these are just fear-based concerns that don’t have any footing in reality,” Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Minter outright dismissed fears that pastors may be fined or jailed for refusing to marry gay couples, similar to the legal trouble faced by florists and bakers refusing to service same-sex weddings.
“I think that is completely fake drama,” Minter told The DCNF. “There is absolutely no way that any pastor is going to be forced to marry anybody they don’t want to marry. There’s zero danger of that, and I think everyone knows that. I think its simply an attempt to manufacture some drama.”
Conservative and religious groups warned that if the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, which the court did Friday, that churches, pastors, and religious schools would become victims of an aggressively intolerant left.
The religious right’s three main fears are:
1. Churches and religious schools fear they’ll lose their tax exempt status. The Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that schools that prohibited interracial dating would not receive tax exempt status. Now schools fear that ruling will be used to rip their tax benefits from schools that forbid same-sex dating.
2. Churches losing the right to marry. Some pastors fear that if they will only selectively marry straight couples, the state will take away their power to officiate any marriages at all. This question was raised by Justice Antonin Scalia during oral arguments in April.
3. Pastors fear they’ll be fined or jailed for refusing to marry gay couples. Wedding service providers, such as the Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, have come under legal fire for refusing to participate in same-sex marriages.
Greg Lipper, Senior Litigation Counsel for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, calls the fears “wild speculation.”
He said the church has more legal protection than florists and bakers.
“We have a long tradition in this country of respecting anti-discrimination law with respect to public accommodations,” Lipper told The DCNF. “In the same way that the government cannot intrude on the clergies when they are acting as a clergy, the flip side is when you open a business you can and should be expected to comply with anti-discrimination law.”
Shannon admits, however, that the tax exempt status of religious schools that refuse to lift bans on same-sex relationships could be jeopardized.
“Churches and faith groups will never lose their tax exempt status,” Minter told The DCNF. “Their right to believe whatever they wish to believe and organize their own churches as they wish is really a fundamental constitutional right. Now the tax exempt status of religious schools is another matter, and it is possible that somewhere down the road that may be called into question.”
Conservatives have not bought these arguments and are preparing for the worst. An article in Time calling for churches to be stripped of their tax exempt status bolstered those fears.
Pastor Robert Jeffress, who leads a 12,000 member congregation at First Dallas Baptist Church, told The DCNF earlier this month that he and his congregation are just one of many churches across the country who plan to disobey the law if it comes down to it.
“That may mean we experience jail time, loss of tax exempt status, but as the scripture says, we ought to obey God rather than man, and that’s our choice,” Jeffress told The Daily Caller News Foundation before the Supreme Court ruling.
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