Incompatible Freedoms?

Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty
Emerging Conflicts
Edited by Doug Laycock, Anthony Picarello Jr., and Robin Fretwell Wilson
Rowman & Littlefield, $34.95, 320 pp.

Reasonable people can disagree about the merits of same-sex marriage. Reasonable people should recognize, though, that the adoption of same-sex marriage will bring a wave of religious-liberty disputes. That is not necessarily a compelling reason to oppose same-sex marriage, but it is a reason to pay more attention to the religious-liberty implications of the emerging legal order.

Few same-sex-marriage advocates favor a diminishment of religious liberty for its own sake. The problem is rather that the institution of same-sex marriage will need to rely heavily on state power. As a legal institution, heterosexual marriage encounters relatively little resistance from the citizenry because it is grounded not just in legal norms, but in social, cultural, religious, and biological norms as well. Same-sex marriage still encounters significant resistance from the citizenry, in part because it conflicts with the traditional religious conception of marriage, but also because it lacks the broader social and cultural supports that heterosexual marriage has, even outside the religious context.

It is not enough for society to respond to those who object to same-sex marriage simply by saying, “If you oppose same-sex marriage, don’t enter into one.” After all, those who object to same-sex marriage make up many of the associations that constitute civil society. Once the state has expanded the legal...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Robert K. Vischer, a frequent contributor, is professor of law at the University of St. Thomas and the author of Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State (Cambridge University Press).