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Religious Exemptions, Marriage Equality, and the Establishment of Religion
UMKC Law Review (2015)
  • Nancy J. Knauer
The advent of nationwide marriage equality has sparked a robust debate over the extent of religious liberties and the limits of civil rights protections. As public opinion regarding LGBT individuals and the families they form has evolved, religious beliefs that once served as the basis for law and policy have been increasing marginalized. Various efforts have been made to protect religious objectors who continue to believe that marriage is only between one man and one woman. For example, all of the states that had enacted marriage equality legislation included exceptions for clergy and religious organizations to ensure that they would not be required to perform or participate in marriage ceremonies contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs. Other states, such as Arkansas and Indiana, enacted broad Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) once marriage equality became a foregone conclusion. Most recently, state legislatures and Congress have begun to consider religious marriage exemptions that provide a blanket exception for private and governmental actors who object to marriage equality on religious grounds. This essay provides a critical examination of this new generation of religious exemptions. It argues that they are not consistent with our tradition of religious liberty or civil rights protections. Instead, religious marriage exemptions raise important questions concerning the role of religious conviction in public life and the nature of civil rights protections that are currently obscured under the banner of “conflicting rights.”
  • marriage equality,
  • LGBT,
  • freedom of religion,
  • religious liberties,
  • First Amendment,
  • establishment of religion,
  • same-sex marriage,
  • conflicting rights,
  • first amendment defense act,
  • religious exemptions,
  • accommodations
Publication Date
Citation Information
Nancy J. Knauer. "Religious Exemptions, Marriage Equality, and the Establishment of Religion" UMKC Law Review Vol. 83 Iss. 1 (2015)
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