MacLeod: Marriage, Religious Liberty, and the Ban Myth


Adam, an associate professor at Faulkner University’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law writes in the Public Discourse that "It’s a myth that marriage law 'bans' same-sex relationships because it treats marriage as the union of a man and a woman":

In a column at, Marc Stern asks whether “gay rights” will infringe religious liberty. By “gay rights” he means eradication of sexual complementarity from marriage laws.

His answer is yes, sometimes: “In some instances the rights of same-sex couples will unavoidably trump religious liberty rights.” Why? If the Supreme Court redefines marriage by judicial fiat, religious observers will be forced to choose between obedience to conscience and full participation in public life, because the definition of marriage applies to everyone, including those who perceive inherent differences between men and women.

The evidence is now too extensive to ignore that one effect of redefining marriage is to force everyone to embrace a conception of marriage as a genderless institution, grounded in norms of companionship and personal fulfillment, rather than complementarity, fidelity, and permanence. Even half measures, such as civil unions, leave few domains for religious liberty. When the law abandons the traditional conception of marriage and sexuality in favor of the companionate conception, citizens must deny sexual complementarity, even in contravention of their core religious convictions, in order to participate fully in public life.