Tom Messner on Religious Freedom as a Bargaining Chip in NY


Kathryn Lopez interviews Tom Messner, a lawyer and visiting fellow at the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, on what role did religious freedom play in the negotiations over same-sex marriage in New York. Here's a sample:

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: It’s been said that protections for religious freedom were the key to winning the swing votes on the same-sex-marriage bill in New York. What do you think about that?

TOM MESSNER: If that’s true, it’s regrettable. The marriage debate is first and foremost a debate about the meaning and public purposes of marriage, not a debate about religious freedom. Yes, people on both sides of the marriage debate now recognize that same-sex marriage threatens religious freedom. But the religious-freedom consequences of redefining marriage are a threshold issue of concern to everyone, not an escape hatch for people who would rather avoid difficult issues.
Even if the religious-freedom issues were not on the table, proponents of same-sex marriage would still need to explain why marriage should no longer have any intrinsic connection between children and mothers and fathers and why people who think it should are morally equivalent to racists. Lawmakers would need to squarely confront the core issues presented by genderless marriage, even if threats to religious freedom were not a factor.

In other words, no matter what someone thinks about the merits of genderless marriage, threats to religious freedom from same-sex marriage present serious concerns about redefining marriage. On the other hand, even if same-sex marriage posed no threats to religious freedom at all, the core reasons to support marriage as one man and one woman remain just as compelling and must be addressed.