As the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutional right to gay marriage approaches this month, what has been a long-awaited legal decision has put conservative businesses and politicians on the defense.
In April, Indiana backed out of a stipulation that would have allowed businesses the right to discriminate based on sexual and gender identity, as reported by the New York Times. However, whether businesses can dismiss same-sex couples to protect their religious convictions is still a growing concern.
A recent USA Today column argues this shouldn’t be the reality conservatives have to face. Rather than have a “winner-take-all” outcome, a decision in favor of same-sex marriage should allow the U.S. to have the best of both worlds — allowing tax-exempt religious institutions such as colleges, hospitals and homeless shelters to have religious protections while allowing same-sex couples the right to marry.
While this seems like a fair deal, it’s a reminder of the necessity for nation-wide anti-discrimination laws for same-sex couples.
A decision in favor of same-sex marriage would be a huge victory, but that doesn’t mean politicians will stop saying same-sex marriage is the same as polygamy, as Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested, or that Christianity is being criminalized in the country, as Republican presidential nominee Mike Huckabee said, as mentioned in the Times.
This conservative pandering falls in line with the fear that an institution or charity’s tax-exempt status will be at stake since they both resist accepting same-sex couples.
As mentioned in USA Today, this was a reality acknowledged by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who pointed out that institutions not recognizing same-sex couples could lose tax-exempt status, which is what happened when a previous case ruled colleges denying interracial marriage and dating were not eligible to be tax-exempt.
Despite the religious convictions of an institution, discrimination is discrimination no matter what. It’s crucial for the U.S. to implement protections for the LGBT community so discriminating entities don’t use “do-gooder” reasoning to continue to discriminate.
Religious organizations and institutions have a choice to make. They could either continue functioning while respecting difference, or not. Though this sounds like a harsh ultimatum, discrimination isn’t any less real just because one uses religion as a defense.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the LGBT community has no federal civil rights protections. A positive Supreme Court ruling will likely lead to more conversations about the ability for businesses to deny services to same-sex couples.
Discrimination in any form shouldn’t be tolerated or anticipated. Opponents of same-sex marriage will likely continue to consider themselves victims, and, as the USA Today column pointed out, religious people defending marriage as they know it have “been sued by their own government” for turning same-sex couples away.
Still, recognition for same-sex marriage is progress, as are the hurdles to get others to recognize it. This isn’t to say people can’t hold their own religious values. It simply means that people shouldn’t be subject to different treatment or outright denial because of another’s convictions.
Isabelle Cavazos is a senior majoring in English and Spanish.