Today, the Supreme Court trumped each state’s decisions to decide whether same-sex marriage should be allowed by turning marriage equality into a constitutionally protected right. Same-sex marriage advocates are celebrating. But not everybody else is.
Many on the evangelical right are mourning what they see as an attack on freedom — each state’s right to make its own laws, organizations’ right to refuse services based on sexual orientation, religious adoption agencies’ right to deny same-sex couples children to adopt, bakers and florists right to refuse to make cakes and arrange flowers for same-sex weddings.
This is the first time one constitutional right has directly conflicted with another, said Doug Wardlow of the Arizona-based religious liberties organization and legal ministry the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has a strong presence at the Colorado Statehouse and much experience arguing religious freedom in Colorado’s courts.
Several historical examples that challenge Wardlow’s perspective includes the constitutional abolition of slavery which clashed with certain pro-slavery Christians’ religious belief that owning and controlling other people based on racial hierarchies was a God-given right. Certain activities protected by the First Amendment – say, the right to make and sell pornography or create anti-Christian art – also clashed with Christian notions of obscenity.
But what makes today’s Court ruling unique, from Wardlow’s perspective, is that the decision will do more than give individuals rights. It will actually strip away the rights of Christians who believe that marriage should be defined as a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman. They may no longer be exempt – based on their religion – from non-discrimination laws.
Government overreach has been a constant fear of conservatives, and Alliance Defending Freedom has waged legal battles on behalf of florists and bakers, protecting clients from a government that wants to tell them how to operate their businesses, who they can serve and how, Wardlow says.
With today’s Supreme Court decision, Aliance Defending Freedom will have a harder time waging its legal battles. Wardlow characterized the Court’s decision as a “totalitarian impulse.”
“Once you have the government coming in and telling people what they have to believe, we’re not many steps from tyranny,” he told The Colorado Independent this morning.
His hope is that the country will experience a “culture shift” and return to what he sees as the United States’ historical roots in Judaeo-Christian beliefs and the idea that marriage is an exclusively heterosexual institution.
He also acknowledges that without a change in the law, the Constitution now protects marriage equality and there is little Christians can do to change that without regaining broader power.
Photo credit: Adam Selwood, Creative Commons, Flickr.