By Gudrun Schultz

BOSTON, Massachusetts, May 9, 2006 ( – Conflict between religious liberty and same-sex marriage is inevitably going to escalate, said leading religious liberty scholars from both sides of the issue, in an article by the president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Maggie Gallagher.

In an article published by the Weekly Standard yesterday, Ms. Gallagher explored the question of state interference with the freedom of religious institutions who object to same-sex marriage. What she found, after speaking with a variety of experts in legal and academic fields, was a conviction among those tracking the development of the pro-gay movement in the U.S. that religious freedom was in danger of losing significant ground to the demands of the anti-discrimination campaigners.

“The impact will be severe and pervasive,” said Anthony Picarello, president and general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, one of the best religious liberty law firms and the only firm to defend all faith groups. “This is going to affect every aspect of church-state relations…because marriage affects just about every area of the law, gay marriage is going to create a point of conflict at every point around the perimeter.”

Marc Stern is general counsel for the American Jewish Congress. He agreed with Picarello that coming conflicts over same-sex marriage would be pervasive.

“Same-sex marriage would…work a sea change in American law. That change will reverberate across the legal and religious landscape in some ways that are today unpredictable,” he wrote in a paper for the Becket Fund.

The threat to freedom of religion cannot be dismissed as hysteria, he told Gallagher. “You look around the world and even the right to preach is in doubt. In the United States we are not foreseeably in that position. Fundamentally speech is still safe in the United States. Beyond speech, nothing is safe.”

Gallagher pointed out that it is not simply same-sex marriage but a specific vision of gay rights that has “placed church and state on a collision course.”

“Once sexual orientation is conceptualized as a protected status on a par with race, traditional religions that condemn homosexual conduct will face increasing legal pressures regardless of what courts and Congress do about marriage itself.”

Gallagher said legalizing gay marriage carries significant weight in the public perception of homosexuality and the impact on church institutions.

“Precisely because support for marriage is public policy, once marriage includes gay couples, groups who oppose gay marriage are likely to be judged in violation of public policy, triggering a host of negative consequences, including the loss of tax-exempt status.”

“Because marriage is not a private act, but a protected public status, the legalization of gay marriage sends a strong signal that orientation is now on a par with race in the non-discrimination game. And when we get gay marriage because courts have declared it a constitutional right, the signal is stronger still.”

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