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Why Religious Liberty Won Today

Thomas Whitley

No doubt you've heard by now that the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the basis that it is "a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is  protected by the Fifth Amendment." (Read the entire decision here) This is a win for marriage equality, for equal rights, and a huge blow to those who want to continue discriminating. The ruling says that those who have same-sex marriages recognized by their state must also be federally recognized. This means that (some) same-sex couples can now get the benefits that opposite-sex couples have and take for granted every day ranging from tax and health care benefits to parental and immigration benefits. Today was a big day.

But not everyone is happy about it. I suspect many of you are less than thrilled with the decision today and, like Albert Mohler  see this as an indication that national marriage equality is inevitable. Or maybe, like Mike Huckabee, you think you're Jesus' spokesman on this issue:

My thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: "Jesus wept."

Today, though, I chose to wear my Baptist Joint Committee t-shirt:

BJC Shirt

But why? Because I also see today as a victory for religious liberty. Religious liberty for all means freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion. This means that you are not required to subscribe to anyone else's religious views and you also are not allowed to force your religious views on anyone else. The fear is rampant among many conservative Christians that I follow that pastors will be "dragged out of the pulpit" or will be forced to perform same-sex marriage.

These reactions fail to understand one of the things that truly does make this country great: real religious freedom. President Obama made this clear in his statement after DOMA was overturned:

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital.  How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions.  Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.

Yes, I am a Christian and a proponent of marriage equality. But I promise that I will fight just as hard for your religious freedom as I will for my own, because my firm conviction on religious liberty does not allow me to think that my religious freedom is any more important than anyone else's.