Some religions don’t recognize same-sex marriage, and some think now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled same-sex marriage is legal, those churches could be targeted by lawsuits seeking to make them recognize or even perform such unions.
Saint Louis University Law Professor Marcia McCormick thinks it’s unlikely such a suit would survive a motion to dismiss, which is generally one of the first steps in response to a lawsuit.
“There’s clearly a first-amendment right that religious organization have to not be compelled to do things that interfere with their religious beliefs,” McCormick told Missourinet.
She said it is likely such a suit would have to be brought by a member of the church being sued.
“Generally speaking, people can only bring a lawsuit if they’ve personally been injured by the actions of the defendant, and it’s hard to see how someone outside of the Catholic church or even outside of a particular parish could be injured by a decision of the church unless they want to get married by that church, and really do want to get married by that church, and have asked and have been denied,” said McCormick.
Missouri Catholic Conference executive director Mike Hoey agrees with McCormick in that he doesn’t expect such lawsuits to be filed.
“I think that’s kind of a hysterical reaction,” said Hoey. “The [Catholic] church doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage and I don’t see any way that the government’s going to force priests or the Catholic Church to marry same-sex couples because it’s not part of the tenants of the Catholic Church, just like they wouldn’t force the Catholic Church to marry someone of a different faith. Those are decisions to be made by the churches themselves.”
Hoey calls such predictions an overreaction, and says when they don’t prove true, people will pay less attention to what he thinks is a real concern.
“I think the real question now becomes what’s going to happen to religious institutions that have objections to same-sex relationships?” asks Hoey. “What happens to a Catholic college that has marriage housing? Do they have to include same-sex couples, or if they don’t, do they lose tax-exempt status? What happens to a parish hall … are they now going to be forced to rent it out for a same-sex ceremony, and if they don’t, would that be considered discrimination?”