Faith Groups Increasingly Losing Legal Battles Over Gay Rights

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By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 10, 2009

Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful and refuse to provide services to gay people are losing a growing number of legal battles that they say are costing them their religious freedom.

The lawsuits have resulted from states and communities that have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Those laws have created a clash between the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of religion, religious groups said, with faith losing. They point to what they say are ominous recent examples:

-- A Christian photographer was forced by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to pay $6,637 in attorney's costs after she refused to photograph a gay couple's commitment ceremony.

-- A psychologist in Georgia was fired after she declined for religious reasons to counsel a lesbian about her relationship.

-- Christian fertility doctors in California who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient were barred by the state Supreme Court from invoking their religious beliefs in refusing treatment.

-- A Christian student group was not recognized at a University of California law school because it denies membership to anyone practicing sex outside of traditional marriage.

"It really is all about religious liberty for us," said Scott Hoffman, chief administrative officer of a New Jersey Methodist group, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which lost a property tax exemption after it declined to allow its beachside pavilion to be used for a same-sex union ceremony. "The protection to not be forced to do something that is against deeply held religious principles."

But gay groups and liberal legal scholars say they are prevailing because an individual's religious views about homosexuality cannot be used to violate gays' right to equal treatment under the law.


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