National Edition

Same-sex marriage creates uncertainties decade after Massachusetts implementation

Published: Saturday, May 17 2014 4:00 a.m. MDT

"To some extent the Knights of Columbus is a religious group (and) if you say we're going to treat every kind of membership hall as a public accommodation, you're putting them at risk (in) that if they won't yield on their religious conviction, they'd have to celebrate something they can't endorse," Wilson said.

She said it should be up to the legislatures to determine where to carve out protections for individuals, businesses and faith-based institutions that adhere to religious beliefs that prevent them from recognizing same-sex marriages.

The "worst (case) is to have to sue each other to define this," she said.

Some states have granted limited protections such as in Illinois, where religious-based schools like Wheaton College are exempt from equal housing for same-sex couples. Other states have shielded religious groups, like the Knights of Columbus, and sitting judges from performing gay marriages.

But same-sex marriage proponents vow to fight any exceptions for public facilities or services, whether owned by a religious institution or not.

"There is a problem when organizations want to have it both ways — open to the public for a revenue stream, but asserted to be private (religiously private or otherwise) when it comes to rules that regulate commercial activity," said Jennifer C. Pizer, senior counsel and director of the Law and Policy Project at Lambda Legal in Los Angeles.

That goes for religiously affiliated social service agencies as well.

"Those services are offered pursuant to state licensure and professional ethics rules for protection of the public," she said. "If the state and/or profession includes nondiscrimination rules within the standards for those services, the religious organization has a choice: either offer licensed services to the public for a fee in conformity with the applicable standards, or don’t offer them to the public."

Email: mkellner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @Mark_Kellner

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