July 14, 2012

Truth Test: Could same-sex marriage law threaten religious groups' tax-exempt status?

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)


TRUTH TEST is a regular feature of MaineToday Media's campaign coverage in which we cast a critical eye on the truthfulness of advertising and public comments by political candidates.

But a footnote in the decision says the court was only addressing "racial discrimination in education." That's a far cry from gay marriage in everything religious.

There are two cases that other gay-marriage opponents often cite: one is in New Mexico, where a wedding photographer was successfully sued in 2012 after she refused to photograph a same-sex couple. She's appealing, according to The Washington Post.

The other is in New Jersey, where a church owned a boardwalk where couples often married. They refused permission for a same-sex couple to exchange vows there and lost a claim to the couple, according to the New York Times.

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights began a discrimination investigation, which the church sued for in 2007. A judge halted the suit and the boardwalk lost tax-exempt status. The Times said the state ruled "it no longer met the requirements as a place open to all members of the public."

But the photographer had a private business, not a religious organization. And the church had opened up its boardwalk to the public before rescinding that right to a specific group. That's why they lost, not because they simply didn't approve of gay weddings. 

Verdict: While the assertion's language couches the potential effect on tax-exempt status as being something that "could" happen, there's no factual or legal basis for likelihood and the case law here is a mix of apples and oranges. Many of the cases referenced here could well be won by gay couples now in Maine and aren't marriage-related. Emrich and his group are mixing apples and oranges. Claims against religious people with businesses or religious groups on the basis of racial discrimination in education are not the same as gay-marriage claims against religious organizations. This is a scare tactic, plain and simple.

We rate this statement false.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 791-5632 or at:



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