Saturday, February 26, 2011

Decision on Marriage Threatens Religious Liberty

On February 23, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that President Obama had directed him not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA protected the definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Because of DOMA, States that do not recognize same-sex unions are not obliged to recognize same-sex “marriages” contracted in other States that do.

DOMA protected States from one State Supreme Court imposing its views on marriage on the rest of the country. The Obama Administration has decided not to defend DOMA because, in their opinion, it is unconstitutional. By failing to uphold the laws of the United States, President Obama himself has violated the Constitution. This decision also threatens the religious liberty and conscience rights of those who believe in traditional marriage.

In recent years, 31 States have passed initiatives to reaffirm the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Attorney General Holder suggests that the majority of Americans who hold this view are bigots. Holder treats opposition to “gay marriage” as a form of unjust discrimination. But upholding true marriage between a man and a woman is not bigotry. Many people of different cultures and religions believe that marriage is the foundational institution of society. This belief has informed the civil law throughout history.

Gay activists compare opposition to same-sex “marriage” to opposition to interracial marriage in the past. This is ludicrous. Opposition to interracial marriage is a form of racism. Racism is unjust discrimination. African-Americans and others in the United States fought for the same rights as everyone else. But gay activists seek to change the very definition of marriage.

Most Americans are quite tolerant, but gay activists want more than simply to live and let live. Many religious institutions fear that the Justice Department will abuse its authority to suppress the religious liberty of people who dissent. The government may now treat believing Christians, Jews, Mormons, Muslims and others as though they are the equivalent of racists. Racists face civil disabilities in licensing and accreditation for fields like teaching and psychology. Universities with racist policies are refused tax-exempt status.

Gay activists are not simply content to live and let live. They seek to change the definition of marriage, impose their view on the rest of society and punish dissenters who don’t approve of the new definition.

Here are some examples:

In Great Britain, Dale McAlpine, a Baptist street preacher, was recently arrested and charged with using abusive language for preaching that homosexual behavior is a sin. He will be tried in September. McAlpine was charged under the 1986 Public Order Act, which was originally written to deal with abusive soccer fans.

In 2008, the Human Rights Commission of Alberta, Canada convicted Stephen Boisson of hate speech, fined him $7000 and ordered him never again to speak disparagingly of homosexuality. Boisson had denounced homosexuality as immoral and dangerous. He had also criticized the gay rights curricula which permeated the province’s educational system.

After the Massachusetts Supreme Court imposed same-sex unions on the State in 2004, Catholic Charities in Boston was forced either to place children with same-sex couples or to stop doing adoptions. An adoption agency must be licensed by the State to operate in Massachusetts. To get a license, an agency must pledge to obey state laws barring discrimination—including same-sex discrimination. The State refused to grant Catholic Charities a religious exemption. In 2006, Catholic Charities chose to stop doing adoptions rather than being forced to violate their principles.

Many other examples of attacks on religious liberty could be cited in the United States and elsewhere. We must vigorously reject the false charge that defending marriage between a man and a woman is a form of bigotry. If Americans are not vocal in defending our rights, we must be prepared to lose them.

The Obama Administration will no longer defend DOMA, but Congress can still retain its own counsel and defend the law which was passed by a wide, bi-partisan majority in both the House and the Senate. We must urge Congress to act. Failure to defend DOMA threatens the religious liberty, free-speech and conscience rights of millions of Americans.