Groups Want Faith Exemption On Same-Sex Marriage Issue

April 21, 2009

Author: Daniela Altimari

Source: The Hartford Courant,0,7143658.story

Six months after the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in Connecticut, opponents are opening a new front in the contentious battle.

Through a high-profile campaign that includes robocalls, TV spots, newspaper ads and messages from the pulpit, the Roman Catholic Church and other groups, both local and national, are making a last-ditch effort to carve out legal protections for business owners and professionals who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

"Freedom of religion [is a] fundamental right that [has] been inscribed in our federal constitution forever," said attorney John Droney, who is providing legal advice to the Knights of Columbus. "It doesn't suddenly get put on the shelf because of this new, emerging right."

The push for a religious exemption in Connecticut is unfolding amid a national debate over gay marriage and the rules that should apply in the four states where it is legal: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa.

The Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Church and the Family Institute of Connecticut are asking the state legislature to create what they are calling a religious liberties exception when it codifies the ruling that legalized gay marriage here. The effort was turned back in the legislature's judiciary committee, but proponents are hoping it will be brought forward on the Senate floor. A vote could come later this week.

What's at stake, these groups say, are the rights of citizens whose religious beliefs teach them that homosexuality is sinful, immoral or wrong. They believe that being forced to play a part in such unions, whether as a wedding photographer documenting the nuptials, a justice of the peace overseeing the ceremony or a marriage therapist providing counseling afterward, violates their right to religious liberty.