By Sean Gallagher
NEW ALBANY, Ind. (CNS) – The Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage will likely have broad effects across the legal system, said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.
“Marriage, as understood between one man and one woman, is embedded throughout the law,” he said, “so to upend that is to produce a sea change in our legal system.”
The archbishop made the comments in an interview with The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
In its 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the court ruled June 26 that marriage licenses cannot be denied to same-sex couples nationwide.
“It has certainly already begun to affect individuals who want to bring their Christian principles to their work,” Archbishop Lori said, noting past court rulings at the state level against Christian business owners opposed to same-sex marriage. “We certainly think of the bakers, photographers and county clerks with marriage licenses.
“On a day-to-day basis, it will certainly affect almost everyone, because every day we bump up against the institution of marriage, either because we’re part of it or because we deal with it.”
In reflecting on the possible effects of Obergefell on churches and church organizations, Archbishop Lori noted with concern how Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, said that religious groups retained their right to teach and advocate for opposing views on marriage. He did not include the right to apply those teachings as an exercise of religious liberty.
“We’ve already been driven out of adoption in many places,” Archbishop Lori said. “Hiring for mission may become a problem. So, if you don’t want to hire a teacher who is living in a marriage that the church can’t recognize because you’re trying to give a good example to the students, that would become problematic.”
He said such hiring practices could be legally questioned even in light of the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The court said churches, their schools and other religious groups “must be free to choose their teachers and employees when their primary duties consist of teaching, spreading the faith, church governance, etc., without government interference.”
“It depends how widely we can cast the ministerial mantle, so to speak,” Archbishop Lori said.