Solicitor General of the United States, Donald Beaton Verrilli Jr. – an Obama administration appointee and a powerful advocate for Obama’s Affordable Care Act – spoke as amicus curiae (an expert witness) in a recent Supreme Court hearing that concerned whether there is a constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry.
Verrilli emphatically argues that same-sex couples have this right, insisting that “[t]he opportunity to marry is integral to human dignity. Excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage demeans the dignity of these couples. It …demeans their children, and it denies the both the couples and their children the stabilizing structure that marriage affords.”[i]
Many questions were explored during this hearing, with the Supreme Court judges asking Verrilli and several other same-sex marriage advocates their opinions about many aspects of expanding the traditional definition of marriage.
Chief Justice Roberts, for instance, wondered that while same-sex marriage advocates have said they would not push to force clergy to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, would a “religious school that has married housing be required to afford such housing to same-sex couples?”
Verilli hedged, saying that different states would have to work out the balance between civil rights enforcement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and the “accommodations” they would allow for freedom of conscience under State law.
Justice Alito held Verrilli’s feet to the fire, saying that in the case of Bob Jones University, the Court had decided opposition to interracial marriage or interracial dating would result in a loss ofits tax exempt status. “So, would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage?” he asked.
“It's certainly going to be an issue,” Verrilli conceded. “ I don't deny that. I don't deny that, Justice Alito. It is…going to be an issue.”
The justices might have asked about other tax-exempt religious institutions, such as houses of worship, parochial schools, or charities, as well. If “it’s certainly going to be an issue” for a religious college to hold traditional doctrinal views about marriage, can any other religious institution be assured that it will be granted “accommodations?” Obviously, not.
[i] Oral argument before the Supreme Court of the United States, given April 28, 2015. All quotes are taken from this document. See: SupremeCourt.gov
U.S. Navy personnel have discovered the remains of an American aviator who was shot down in combat over the Pacific Ocean in 1944. A team aboard USNS ...