Should the Marriage Battleground Shift to Religious Freedom?

After New York vote on same-sex marriage, conscience questions draw more emphasis. Web exclusive published July 1.

Was the shot heard ’round the evangelical world fired June 24 in New York? The passage of a same-sex marriage law by that state’s Republican-controlled Senate sent a clear message, a leading religious liberty expert says.

That message: Religious conservatives who advocate traditional marriage must shift their focus to fighting for religious freedom.

“It’s just a matter of time before it’s possible to enact these bills in more and more states,” said Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia. “The greater the support, the less leverage anyone trying to get a religious liberty provision [will have]. The time to get protection for religious liberty in these bills is now, while they’re still difficult for the supporters to enact.”

Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, isn’t ready to advocate such a drastic detour—at least not yet.

But as more states pass civil-union and same-sex marriage laws, he acknowledges a need for gay-marriage opponents to press for language in such laws that protects faith-based organizations.

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