'Gay marriage' squashes parental rights & religious liberty, experts say
Updated April 20, 2009
BOSTON (BP)--Some say the sky hasn't fallen in the nearly five years since "gay marriage" was legalized in Massachusetts, but Kris Mineau, a citizen and conservative activist in that state, begs to differ.
Sure, he says, things may look the same on the surface, but if you dig a little deeper, you'll see dramatic cultural changes. Teachers are teaching children about homosexual families over the objections of parents. A major adoption agency has chosen to shut down rather than be forced to place children with homosexual couples.
"The sky is falling in Massachusetts in two key areas: parental rights and religious liberty," Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, told Baptist Press.
Mineau says citizens in states such as Iowa and Vermont -- two places where "gay marriage" is on the march -- would do well to look at his state and the aftermath of marriage redefinition.
Mineau's Exhibit A is Robb and Robin Wirthlin, a husband and wife at the center of a Massachusetts public school dispute that has gained nationwide attention. Their son came home in 2006 and told his parents his teacher had read the class a children's story about a prince "marrying" another prince. The book ends with a picture of the two men kissing.
The Wirthins were shocked, yes, but bewildered when the school told them they would not be given advance notice in the future about any such books. They filed a lawsuit in federal court against the school, but a lower court ruled against them, asserting that "diversity is a hallmark of our nation" and that such diversity "includes differences in sexual orientation." The parents, the judge ruled, could always homeschool their son or send him to private school if they didn't like the public school options. A federal appeals court upheld the decision.
Religious liberty also took a hit in 2006 when Boston Catholic Charities decided to shut down its widely praised adoption work rather than be forced to follow a state law requiring that children be placed in the homes of homosexual couples. Catholic Charities had handled more adoptions of foster care children than any agency in Massachusetts.
In recent weeks supporters of a "gay marriage" bill in Vermont have said religious freedoms would be protected because ministers would not be forced to perform such ceremonies. The Iowa Supreme Court, in its "gay marriage" opinion, even said churches would still be allowed to define marriage as they wish. But Douglas Napier, an attorney with the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, said such protections are far too narrow and that "gay marriage" by its very nature negatively impacts freedoms.
"Religious liberties and the homosexual agenda are on a collision course," said Napier, who grew up in Iowa and practiced law there for 16 years. " ... I don't think anybody should think this doesn't affect them. It will affect them, and it will affect them in a very deep way."
Another ADF attorney, Austin R. Nimocks, has repeatedly said that by legalizing "gay marriage," courts and governments are saying that mothers and fathers are replaceable. "All non-partisan research and plain common sense tells us that children need a mom and dad, so the issue is bigger than a 'personal relationship,'" he said. "In the end, the question is this: Which parent doesn't matter: a mom or a dad?"
The Wirthlins' case is but the tip of the iceberg in what has become a steady load of controversies putting religious freedom on the line in same-sex disputes:
-- In New Mexico, where "gay marriage" is not legal, a lesbian couple filed a complaint with the state's civil rights commission after a husband-and-wife-owned photography company refused to take pictures of their commitment ceremony. The husband and wife asserted that the ceremony violated their Christian beliefs, but the commission disagreed, ruling in 2008 that the company discriminated and ordering them to pay $6,600 in attorneys' fees.
-- In New Jersey, a lesbian couple filed a complaint with the state's civil rights office after officials with an oceanfront religious retreat center owned by members of the United Methodist Church refused to allow the two women to use a pavilion for a same-sex civil union ceremony. (Civil unions are legal in the state.) The state in 2007 agreed with the couple and removed the tax-exempt status of the pavilion, located in Ocean Grove.
-- In California, the state high court ruled last year that fertility doctors must provide services to homosexual couples, even if the doctors have religious and moral objections. The case arose when a lesbian couple sought treatment at a fertility where two Christian doctors worked. The doctors referred the couple to another clinic that would provide the services, but the couple nevertheless sued.
"The list goes on and on," Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty legal organization, told BP. "Whenever you have same-sex marriage or same-sex civil unions, you end up having a clash between the same-sex agenda and freedom of religion. The two are not compatible, because the same-sex agenda seeks to force by law acceptance of its view, and that will inevitably collide with Christian values.... People really need to wake up, because this, I think, is the greatest threat to our liberty that we face today -- bar none."
Jordan Lorence, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, agreed.
"This is not a made-up threat," Lorence told BP. "This is not some sort of concocted Chicken Little cry. These are actual cases, and as those supporters of same-sex marriage get more and more bold, we'll see more action to punish and silence us."
After Massachusetts legalized "gay marriage," National Public Radio interviewed a lesbian teacher in Brookline who teaches eighth-grade sex-ed and tells the students not only about heterosexual but homosexual sex. She teaches them that lesbians can have intercourse with sex toys. "If somebody wants to challenge me, I say, 'Give me a break. It's legal now,'" she told NPR.
But parents should not just have concern about public schools, Staver and Lorence say. Down the road, the tax-exempt status of churches could be challenged as homosexuality and "sexual orientation" increasingly are placed alongside race in anti-discrimination laws. The goal of liberal and homosexual activists, Staver said, is to transform society so much that it views opponents of "gay marriage" in the same light it views racists. In fact, New York Times columnist Frank Rich -- who backs "gay marriage" -- seemed to confirm those fears April 18 in a column with the headline, "The Bigots' Last Hurrah." "Only those who have spread the poisons of bigotry and fear have any reason to be afraid," of redefining marriage, Rich wrote.
"There is no question that if same-sex marriage becomes legal, that churches eventually will have their tax-exempt status threatened -- no question whatsoever," Staver wrote. "If churches today discriminate against race, they would not be able to have tax-exempt status today. If churches discriminate on the basis of same-sex marriage -- if it became legal -- then same-sex marriage becomes the equivalent of race, and churches would not be able to have tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage."
If Staver's prediction comes true, it could impact everything from adoption agencies to Christian school accreditation to licensing for professional counselors, Lorence said. It even could impact church plants who wish to use or rent a public facility.
"The coercive aspect of this cannot be overstated, in my opinion," Lorence said.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. A version of this story ran in Baptist Press in October 2008.