Washington Law Review

Comment

An Uneasy Union: Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Exemption in Washington State

October 01, 2013 | 88 Wash. L. Rev. 1119

Abstract:  Same-sex marriage promises to be one of the defining issues of the twenty-first century. While supporters of same-sex marriage have welcomed a shift in the public’s perception and increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage in the last decade, controversy remains over how to balance the competing rights between marriage equality and religious freedom. While most same-sex marriage statutes around the country include religious exemptions for religious officials, it is unclear how, or whether, these protections should extend to wedding service providers who have a religious objection to same-sex marriage. Conflicts between same-sex couples seeking wedding services and wedding service providers who have religious objections to same-sex marriage are inevitable, and despite the relatively recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington, such conflicts have already occurred and will undoubtedly continue to take place in the future. In order to balance these competing rights, this Comment argues that the Washington Legislature should adopt a “refuse and refer” method that allows wedding service providers with a religious objection to same-sex marriage, in limited circumstances, to decline to provide wedding services to same-sex couples. Such a solution would safeguard the dignitary interests of same-sex couples while also protecting wedding service providers with deep-seated religious objections to same-sex marriage from litigation for refusing to provide wedding services to same-sex couples.

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