Will Same Sex Marriage in the US Affect Religious Colleges
The Supreme Court has been quite busy making news in the field of education and employment this summer. On Friday June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States of America made a bold, monumental move. This ruling on gay marriage made same sex marriage in the US possible in every state. At last, all couples in the United States can elect to get married whether the couple consists of a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man. It is not surprising that this bold decision was met with both anger and disagreement for some, and joy and absolute support from others.
Some businesses and institutions may be impacted by this decision in one way or another. Faith based hospitals, charities, and schools will likely fight to preserve their policies and rules based on the belief that same sex relationships are sinful. For many institutions of higher education, this decision will not have any sort of impact. However, conservative Christian schools and other religious colleges will be facing many uncertainties in the days and weeks to come.
Up until this point, many Christian colleges had rules that forbid same-sex relationships or same sex marriage among students and staff members. If Christian schools or other post secondary education institutions do not change their restrictive rules regarding same-sex relationships, it is possible that they may lose their federal funding and other government funded benefits. It is also possible that schools may lose their federal tax exemptions. Christian colleges may have the option to adapt their policies regarding same sex couples to maintain federal tax exemptions. It is also possible that Christian colleges may be allowed to maintain their current rules and policies prohibiting same sex couples, but they may have to forfeit their federal tax exemptions. However, this would likely cause significant financial difficulties for the schools. Donors would no longer be able to claim tax deductions for their donations. The Internal Revenue Service would need to create policies regarding discrimination and inequality in college institutions in order to revoke Christian colleges’ tax exemption status.
If higher education accreditation standards change to reflect the legalization of same sex marriage, Christian colleges unwilling to alter their policies and rules may also lose accreditation. This lose could significantly impair an institutions’ ability to function. Eventually, their business practice may no longer remain sustainable. Since many of the Christian colleges in the United States feel that the decision made by the Supreme Court threatens their religious freedoms, it is probable that they will take legal action to protect said freedoms. However, these legal processes are likely to be lengthy and may not happen for some time.
Regardless of the outcome, certain issues could arise. For example, some Christian colleges offer housing specifically for married couples. Will these schools be forced to allow same sex couples to reside in the housing for married couples? Will it (or should it) be viewed as discrimination if Christian colleges refuse to allow married same-sex couples to live together in the housing designated for married couples?
Other significant questions include the government’s right to force Christian colleges (or other religious colleges) to alter policies regarding this subject matter. Or, will the government overstep its boundaries? Should Christian schools maintain their policies and rules regarding same sex couples, or are these institutions discriminating? What will happen to other religious schools? Can Christian colleges and other religious colleges have it both ways (maintain rules prohibiting same sex relationships AND continue to receive federal funding/tax exemption)? If Christian colleges are forced to alter their prohibitive policies and rules, is this act a violation of the first amendment? And, if the government allows these colleges to ‘opt out’ from the new law, what about students and faculty who are discriminated against by these rules?
What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section. This is an extremely delicate and complicated topic. Every opinion is valuable.