Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Oleske on Hobby Lobby and Same-Sex Marriage

OleskeA twofer from Jim Oleske (Lewis & Clark).  First, his piece, Obamacare, RFRA, and the Perils of Legislative History has been published at Vanderbilt Law Review's En Banc, as part of a symposium on the Hobby Lobby case.  The abstract of his piece:

In NFIB v. Sebelius, four members of the Supreme Court expressed "no doubt" about their ability to read Congress's mind based on the legislative history of the Affordable Care Act. As this essay notes, however, their reading of the legislative history was based on a fundamentally mistaken assumption and ignored the most relevant congressional debates over the Act.

In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, the Court will have another opportunity to consider confidently sweeping assertions about legislative history. This time the arguments center on the meaning of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and the specific contention is that "everyone agreed" in a subsequent congressional debate that RFRA protects for-profit corporations. A full examination of that debate, however, casts considerable doubt on the claim that it demonstrates such an undisputed understanding of RFRA. Accordingly, this essay concludes that the Court would be better advised to interpret RFRA with reference to the surrounding body of law into which it was explicitly designed to be integrated — the Supreme Court's pre-1990 jurisprudence, which had pointedly refused to require religious exemptions from statutory schemes regulating "commercial activity."

Oleske has also published a religion-related article, Interracial and Same-Sex Marriages: Similar Religious Objections, Very Different Responses, which is appearing in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.  The abstract:

One of the most active fronts in the debate over same-sex marriage laws concerns proposed religious exemptions that would allow for-profit businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples. These exemptions, which are being championed by a group of prominent constitutional scholars, would provide a shield from state antidiscrimination laws for a wide variety of commercial actors. Examples include innkeepers who refuse to host same-sex weddings, bakers who refuse to provide cakes for such weddings, employers who refuse to extend family health benefits to married same-sex couples, and landlords who refuse to rent apartments to such couples.

Today's widespread academic validation of religious objections to same-sex marriage stands in stark contrast to the academy’s silence in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s on the then-perceived conflict between religious liberty and interracial marriage. Although religious objections to interracial marriage were pervasive at the time — as reflected in the statements of politicians, preachers, and jurists, as well as in public opinion polls — those objections never found a home in the pages of America's academic law journals. 

This Article offers the first comprehensive discussion of why the legal academy has been so solicitous of religious objections to same-sex marriage when it was never receptive to similar objections to interracial marriage. After examining several factors that have contributed to this "marriage dichotomy" in the academy — including the rise of the conservative legal movement, the influence of the Catholic Church, and the unique role of race in American history — the Article explains why the most important factor for purposes of the proposed exemptions is the recent reconceptualization of religious liberty as extending fully to for-profit commercial businesses. So extended, religious liberty will inevitably conflict with the rights of third-parties in the marketplace, a dynamic that is vividly illustrated by the prospect of businesses invoking religion to deny service to same-sex couples. This Article concludes that exemptions authorizing such conduct threaten the constitutional right of same-sex couples to equal protection — a right that has received scant attention in the debate until now, but one that can no longer be ignored in light of United States v. Windsor.

Jim has long been interested int he intersection of religion and employment law, so these are well worth the read.

-JH

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