Are Same-Sex Marriages Really a Threat to Religious Liberty?

33 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2015

Date Written: April 1, 2012


Some have contended that same-sex couples' marriages pose a grave danger to the religious liberty of social conservatives whose faith traditions do not bless same-sex unions. Those who oppose recognizing same-sex couples' right to marry have even contended that their clergy and churches might be subject to hate-crime prosecutions and loss of tax-exempt status if same-sex couples may lawfully marriage. This article seeks to answer those objections, pointing out that many limitations on religious marriages -- such as Roman Catholic doctrine barring remarriage by those who are civilly divorced -- parallel religious rules similarly limiting or withholding recognition from same-sex unions. Yet the fact that many millions of Americans have divorced and remarried in contravention of Roman Catholic doctrine has never threatened the religious liberty of of America's Roman Catholics. Churches and synagogues may freely adhere to their own doctrines and rules concerning who may marry without fear of without losing tax exempt status, or of their clergy facing prosecution for "hate crimes." There is no reason to think that legal recognition of same-sex couples' marriages will produce a serious threat to anyone's religious liberty.

Keywords: same-sex marriage, gay marriage, religious liberty, religious freedom, free exercise, civil rights, marriage law

Suggested Citation

Isaacson, Eric Alan, Are Same-Sex Marriages Really a Threat to Religious Liberty? (April 1, 2012). Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2012, Available at SSRN:

Eric Alan Isaacson (Contact Author)

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