After the Supreme Court ruled last week that gay marriage is a constitutional right, immediate concerns about protections for the First Amendment and religious freedom were magnified. New York Times contributor Mark Oppenheimer called for the tax exempt statuses of churches and non-profits to be stripped in light of the ruling.
Now, former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is vowing to issue executive orders, should he be elected, protecting religious liberty and those with religious objections to participating in gay marriage. Here's the outline of actions he would take from his campaign:
1. Sign executive orders in support of traditional marriage that protect businesses, churches, non-profits, schools and universities, hospitals, and other organizations from discrimination, intimidation, or civil or criminal penalties for exercising their religious beliefs.
2. Direct the Attorney General to protect religious liberty and aggressively prosecute any violations of First Amendment rights of individuals, businesses, religious organizations, institutions and civil servants, including those who believe in traditional marriage. The Justice Department will protect and defend the rights of American citizens to follow their religious convictions without discrimination and prosecute attacks on all people of faith and their religious liberty as hate crimes.
3. Direct the Secretary of Defense to support military chaplains to exercise their faith and not force them to participate in ceremonies they find objectionable on religious grounds. People of faith will not be punished for serving their country and sacrificing to keep us free.
The plan was outlined as Huckabee makes his way through Iowa, a heavy evangelical state.
"While some cowardly politicians wave the white flag and surrender to this unconstitutional, out-of-control act of judicial tyranny, I reject this decision and will fight from 'Day One' of my administration to defend our Constitution and protect religious liberty," Huckabee said in a statement.
It should be noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges ruling gay marriage a constitutional right, dedicated an extensive paragraph to the issue of religious freedom and the ruling.
"Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex," Kennedy said in the opinion.
The Obama Justice Department stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act in 2011.