St. Mary's Law Journal


Obergefell v. Hodges, a United States Supreme Court case, added more fuel to the fire, leaving many to wonder how to voice religious opposition to same-sex marriages, and what are the second order effects for religious opposition in light of the new rule. The Court held the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Obergefell, brings the conflict between freedom of religion and LGBT rights to a new level by questioning how far freedom of religion can be used to refuse anti-discrimination statutes regarding sexual orientation, and conversely how far the government can intrude on freedom of religion. The United States recognizes the importance placed on the freedom to practice religion without government interference. Religious freedom, however, is not completely free from governmental action. The Supreme Court will uphold a law regarding religion so long as it meets the test set out in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Unlike the free exercise of religion, recognized as one of the most important rights since the founding of this country, the fight for LGBT rights in the United States has been a slow and gradual process. The courts will need to remain as neutral as possible to strike a balance between the two rights.

Religious freedom can be a defense to refusing marriage-related products or services to LGBT couples. The applicability of the defense should vary depending on the individual's employment or position. Religious entities should receive the most protection, followed by those in small businesses and shop owners, with the minimum protection extended to those working as government employees. America has come a long way with regard to LGBT rights, nevertheless, religious freedom holds a strong place in American hearts that will not be overtaken.

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St. Mary's University School of Law


Paul Cho