While the Ohio Constitution only recognizes marriages between one man and one woman, the marriage debate is still going strong in Ohio. Recently The Columbus Dispatch published an article on how gay marriage groups disagree on whether or not gay marriage should be put on the ballot this coming November or later, perhaps in 2016.
However, this debate isn’t only about marriage. Our religious liberty is at stake.
Currently, Freedom to Marry Ohio is proposing an amendment to the Ohio Constitution called The Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment. It states, “no religious institution shall be required to perform or recognize a marriage.” This religious freedom amendment is causing division among the different gay marriage campaigns. For those who support traditional marriage, this amendment is a red herring.
At first glance, it seems that this amendment would protect religious freedom; it is after all in the title of the amendment. However, words matter. In the amendment, only “religious institutions” do not have to perform or recognize a marriage. This amendment will not protect the consciences of faithful individuals or businesses, including religiously affiliated organizations, such as Catholic hospitals. What exactly is a “religious institution”? And how will this affect our churches?
Thus, even with the current provisions for religious freedom, individuals and businesses could face discrimination by the State for not condoning same-sex marriage. We’ve seen this time and time again in states that have redefined marriages; those who don’t agree with same-sex marriage are subjugated to lawsuits and heavy fines by the State.
For certain gay marriage groups, such as EqualityOhio, this religious freedom exemption in the proposed amendment is an obstruction to their agenda. They want to force religiously affiliated groups to recognize same-sex unions. If this exemption is changed or removed entirely, religious institutions and churches may be forced to perform or acknowledge same-sex unions. In New Jersey, same-sex marriage activists tried to strip away all religious protections once they had enough votes.
We’ve seen what happens in states that redefine marriage; the culture is radically changed. Now we’re getting an indication of what same-sex marriage could mean for people of faith, small businesses, religious schools, even pastors and churches in Ohio.