Why Legalizing SSM Threatens Religious Liberty and Freedom of Conscience

Daniel Doherty

4/5/2013 12:45:00 PM - Daniel Doherty

What happens to people of faith who support traditional marriage after the legal definition of marriage is redefined as anything other than a union between one man and one woman? Simple: Their views, I assure you, will be deemed “intolerable” -- and the state will feel compelled to act. Indeed, we’re already seeing this line of persecution happening in Europe (via the Catholic News Agency):

The Danish government recently determined that “gay marriage” includes a right to get married in any church in the country, even if that church objects to such unions. Churches throughout the country will now literally be forced to conduct marriages they believe to be invalid and sinful.

This should give everyone a moment’s pause. But could this happen in the United States of America? Sadly, it is already happening. The article continues:

The erosion of religious freedom is further seen in Colorado, where lawmakers recently passed a gay civil union bill – described by its supporters as a stepping stone to “gay marriage” – that intentionally left out a religious exemption for faith groups that object to recognizing gay unions.

In a heated hearing over this purposeful exclusion, gay advocates argued that religious groups do not have the right to adhere to their own beliefs on marriage as they conduct their affairs and carry out the various services that they provide for the community.

Colorado senator Pat Steadman had a message for those who object to recognizing “gay marriages” on religious grounds: “get thee to a nunnery. Live there then. Go live a monastic life, away from modern society.”

Steadman argued that there is no room in the public square for those who hold religious beliefs that object to “gay marriage.” He even went so far as to argue that they should live “(a)way from the stream of commerce” because it is intolerable for them to bring their religious views into the world of business.

The exemption-less Colorado law passed, and gay advocacy groups around the country applauded it as a victory, with virtually no mention of the impact it will have on religious groups.

We see this on a national level too, as discussions over redefining marriage routinely fail to include any mention of allowances for religious freedom.

In other words, Christians can believe whatever they like in their “houses of worship,” but once they enter the public square, they must jettison their religious convictions and shut up. Question for the tolerant left: How on earth can this thought process be described as anything other than a form of bullying and ruthless intimidation?

The singular reason for why SSM is suddenly becoming more socially acceptable -- and Senate Democrats are literally tripping over one another to be “next” in line to endorse marriage equality -- is because more and more Americans say they know someone who is gay. The issue is becoming personal, in other words, and Rob Portman is a perfect example of this phenomenon. But what gets lost in the debate, of course, is what happens to practicing Catholics who will never support, let alone publicly sanction, same-sex marriage? Are secularists really saying that because of their religious convictions they’re no longer wanted -- indeed, welcome -- in a nation that was founded on the very ideas of religious pluralism and tolerance?

Whatever one’s position on same-sex marriage is, there’s no denying that changing its legal definition will have profound implications vis-à-vis religious liberty. And I for one worry deeply about what will happen to people of faith who refuse to “evolve” -- even if the times demand it.

UPDATE: Author Eric Metaxas spoke on this very issue at CPAC 2013. Watch the full video below: