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Status seekers

Future battle: Will homosexuals go after the tax-exempt status of groups that oppose their lifestyle?

Issue: "Ugly truth of partial-birth," April 17, 2004

FEROCIOUS THOUGH THE BATTLE OVER homosexual marriage may be-all the way from Massachusetts and New York to California and Oregon-no one should pretend that the marriage issue is the only one on the homosexual agenda. Indeed, the marriage matter could even be a feint.

For it's altogether possible that the gay lobby could lose this particular battle and still win the war. The battle over marriage right now is iffy, and could go either way. But the war has other theaters; one is obvious, the other a little less so.

The obvious second-level battle is over so-called civil unions, typically extending the rights of marriage to homosexual partners. Civil unions have become the safe and secure fallback position. Late last month, for example, the Massachusetts legislature-first portrayed as a pro-family antidote to the state's liberal courts-caved without a whimper. While supposedly defending heterosexual marriage, the lawmakers spelled out a civil-unions package that in some ways gives away with the left hand all that the right hand was seeking to protect.

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The less obvious third-level battle may yet prove to be the most devious. And while I have no late-breaking evidence that this conflict is imminent, only a fool would fail to get ready for what is almost certainly just ahead. I refer to the threat faced by thousands of churches, schools, and other charitable organizations that their tax-exempt status will sooner or later be placed in jeopardy unless they follow the &quotpublic interest" and extend full rights, of every conceivable kind, to homosexuals.

Many of us-and that includes WORLD magazine-choose to discriminate on the basis of sexual behavior when it comes to initial employment, position, and promotion. But when we do so, it is not merely a matter of choice; we are obligated, we believe, by our most basic convictions to do so.

This, I say, is a more devious and a more consequential threat than is the issue of marriage. For as repugnant as the gay-marriage issue may be, there is a sense in which it affects society only from a distance. Only a tiny number of individuals are likely to be involved, and their impact on the rest of us will in one sense be minimal.

But the homosexual chant is unrelenting: "Separate is never equal," they say, drawing gratuitously on our sensitivities to racial injustices of the past. They don't just want their rights; they want the privilege to exercise those rights smack in the middle of our cherished settings. They want to change our families, our schools, our workplaces, and our churches. For until they do, they know our institutions will sit in implied judgment on their ways. It is that implied judgment they cannot tolerate.

All of which led the Alliance Defense Fund to summarize in a brief last week: &quotIf the Supreme Court, or a plethora of courts of appeal, adopt a new test-a new standard for constitutional review-for all claims of sex/gender discrimination under the same rules and policies that racial discrimination is now viewed ... , or decide that the Constitution, public policy, or law of the United States protects or provides special privileges for sodomy and other homosexual behavior, it is only a matter of time, application of legal 'logic,' and litigation before it is claimed that sex/ gender and sexual orientation/behavior 'discrimination' is akin to racial discrimination and thus is in all instances contrary to public policy and therefore not 'entitled' to the public 'benefit' of tax exemption."

So is it ominous to hear the U.S. Supreme Court rule that &quotto warrant exemption under 501(c)(3), an institution must ... be in harmony with the public interest"? Perhaps not by itself. But when you see a gaggle of gay activists working overtime to prompt us all to think of their plight as equal to that of oppressed racial minorities, and when you see their lawyers pressing hard to get the courts to define all this as in the "public interest," well, then, you have to worry a bit.

Part of the genius of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment is that it takes key decisions out of the hands of activist courts (including even the U.S. Supreme Court!) and puts them in the hands of legislatures both in Washington and close to grassroots voters through the state-by-state ratification process.

Removal of tax-exempt status, however, faces no such restraints. It can start with an IRS bureaucratic whim and surprise the nation as an accomplished fact just as fast as last June's celebrated sodomy decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. How should a thoughtful person size it up-as just a possibility or maybe a likelihood? And how much does the question have to do with who gets to appoint the next couple of judges to that high court?

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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