By Emily Belz, World Magazine.
Attorney Jim Campbell, who handles various constitutional cases for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), has a working list written down at his office in Scottsdale, Ariz. The list details benefits religious nonprofits could lose if the Supreme Court makes gay marriage a constitutional right. When he arrived at work recently, he read it off: 501(c)3 status, tax benefits, government licensing, accreditation, and government contracts or grants, among others.
More conflicts will also arise in the professional world: the religious counselor who loses her professional license over her views on marriage, or the religious florist who is fined because she serves gay couples generally but doesn’t want to design gay wedding arrangements.
“Are we going to get a court decision June 25, and June 27 the federal government files a lawsuit [against a church or nonprofit]?” said Campbell.
“No, we’re not going to see that.” But he and other religious freedom lawyers think that process could unfold within the next year.
The extent of the threat to Christian churches, schools, and nonprofits will turn on how the Supreme Court rules on the marriage cases at the end of June. Even if the court does legalize gay marriage nationwide, as many expect, it could rule in different ways that would be more or less threatening to religious groups. And in the months after the ruling, much will turn on how aggressive federal and state governments decide to be toward nonprofits and churches. The main thing organizations can do now to prepare is to state their religious stances on sexuality and marriage clearly in writing in anticipation of potential lawsuits (see sidebar).
If the high court says state marriage laws violate the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection and due process, it could rule two different ways. First, the court could say that gay marriage is a fundamental constitutional right. Or, the court could say that state marriage laws are violating equal protection, because they’re excluding gay people from the marriage institution. Both of those approaches would have serious implications for Christian organizations.
However the court rules on the 14th Amendment, the worst outcome for religious organizations would be if the justices decide that sexual orientation is a new protected class. Sexual orientation isn’t a protected class like race or gender at the federal level currently, and the lawyers arguing for gay marriage did not ask the court to create that new class. But the court could do so. Also, a ruling that says traditional marriage laws are based on “animus” toward gay couples, a word Justice Anthony Kennedy has used in his past gay rights rulings, would also be harmful to nonprofits.