Religion has always been a strong force in the struggle for same-sex rights in Virginia and the rest of the country. As outlined in headlines over the past few months, religious opposition to gay marriage has led to such acts as businesses denying service to same-sex couples, a county clerk unlawfully denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and certain religions reasserting their stances against gay marriage.
It is this alleged intolerance by religions, states the Huffington Post, which has caused many people to leave organized religious establishments. According to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, almost a third of those between the ages of 18 and 33 said they left their churches because of negative teachings or treatment regarding those with same-sex attraction. Seventy percent of these Millennials said young adults are being alienated by churches because they are too judgmental on same-sex issues.
Proponents of religious freedom say that the new gay marriage act could endanger the free exercise of religion, according to the New York Times. Some fear that pastors will be forced to perform gay weddings against their religious beliefs, or that churches will lose their tax-exempt status if they discriminate against same-sex couples. However, states the director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender Project, ministers continue to have the right to refuse to perform same-sex weddings. Additionally, the ACLU would defend clerics who are under government threat in regards to gay marriage.
Gay rights laws will likely continue to evolve, and perhaps one-day religious institutions and same-sex advocates will be able to come to an agreement that does not infringe on each other’s rights.