Constitutional Amendment Unnecessary to Protect Religious Liberty

The Goodridge decision is not an attack on religion or religious belief. No church or other house of worship can be forced to marry or give its blessing to any couple. The First Amendment guarantees that religious communities will always be able to make their own decisions about who to marry. It should also be noted that some religious denominations do offer their blessings to committed same-sex relationships, and many religious leaders support the move toward equality.

There is an important difference between the legal institution of marriage, which provides couples and families with specific legal protections, and the religious celebration of marriage. Some Americans choose to get married by a judge or other court official. They have the same rights and responsibilities under the law as couples who are married in a religious ceremony.

Some churches do not condone divorce or remarriage. But the law does not allow those religious objections to prevent people from getting divorced and remarried, and couples on their second or third marriage have the same legal protections and obligations as people married for the first time. But no church is forced to give its religious blessing.

The separation of church and state protects both individuals and churches. Most Americans respect that distinction, and so does the Massachusetts decision. If our rights and laws were based on one group’s religious teachings, birth control, divorce and remarriage could be illegal. Books and movies considered heretical or blasphemous might be banned. Fortunately, our laws are based on the Constitution, which guarantees basic rights and equal treatment for everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs or the beliefs of others. In a religiously diverse country like ours, it is especially important to ground public policy in constitutional principles, not on any group’s religious doctrine. Individual Americans can support the principle of equality under the law without giving up personal religious beliefs about same-sex relationships.

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