The LDS Church’s Position Taken in the U.S. Supreme Court Same Sex Marriage Case And Risk Of Losing Government Benefits

In my original blog post, I said I would provide a basis for my positions. This is one of a few smaller form posts addressing the different issues.

Summary of Issue: Elder Christofferson said the Church needed to “respond” to the new law created by the Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage. Though not discussed much, the Church receives many benefits from the Federal and State Governments. The Church is concerned it may lose its benefits.

On April 21, 2015 of this year, the LDS Church announced it signed an Amicus Curiae Brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. An Amicus Curiae Brief is legalize for friend of the court brief.

Though the article characterizes this as the Church “joining a diverse coalition of faith communities,” this was prepared by the law firm that represents the church as well as their office is in a business building built by the church near the Salt Lake Temple grounds. More importantly, this brief gives insight as to the Church’s concerns if the Court protects same sex marriages under the U.S. Constitution.

In hindsight, we know the Supreme Court recognized same sex marriage. With a quick overview of the concerns of the church, it makes the church’s new policies regarding same-sex marriage more explainable. There are likely more issues, but this is at least part of this motivation.

In the LDS Church endorsed Brief, the following cautionary statement was made if the Court ruled same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under the constitution:

[Allowing same sex marriage] would create additional risks to religious liberty. As a group of respected amici has noted, “a scholarly consensus has emerged that giving legal recognition to same-sex marriage may result in widespread and foreseeable church-state conflict.” In addition to the nondiscrimination areas noted above, potential conflicts are expected to arise in the context of:

  • access to government facilities;
  • government licensing for church-related adoption agencies;
  • accreditation for religious colleges;
  • [accreditation]…for their professional training programs;
  • participation in government social services contracts; and
  • the tax-exempt status of religious organizations. Page 32-33 (emphasis added; reformatted; citations omitted).

It is worth noting, this paragraph is using a technique called the “parade of horribles.” The best I can tell, it is not expected that every horrible will actually happen; just advocating the possibility of it.

With that being said, the same-sex marriage ruling could have a deep and long lasting impact. The reason is the federal and state governments will make new rules that recognize equal treatment of all types of marriage unless the rule has a compelling justification to treat same-sex couples differently.

Big question: What is a compelling reason to discriminate against a same-sex couple?

As of today, we don’t know. The Church’s response, along with the majority of other denominations, is that a sincere religious belief based upon scripture is a compelling reason. We will see if the Court’s are willing to accept this as a valid basis.

When it is resolved, you will know it because it will be talked about on the news. It will be a big issue.

On the State level, Utah created a law with a religious exception to legally allow a religion the ability to favor traditional marriage and retain benefits. Recently, North Carolina followed suit.

To the best of my knowledge, these laws have not been tested in the courts and so we will see if the justifications hold up.

In conclusion, this post goal was to provide a basis as to why the Church is concerned it may lose government benefits. The concern is great enough, that I called this a religious constitutional crisis. The Church created and is proselytizing what it believes is a fair legal concept called “fairness for all” for governments to adopt. Additionally, the Church has taken internal steps to comply with issues related to discrimination against a protected class. In my upcoming posts, I will provide context to the “fairness for all” doctrine and the basis for the internal changes of the church.