When the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 created same-sex marriage, the justices were aware they were countering millennia of precedent.
The 5-4 majority acknowledged “many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged.”
They promised that objectors “may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” They are protected by the First Amendment, the justices said.
Now the justices are being asked to protect the rights of a Christian whose religious beliefs are under attack in Hawaii.
Under scrutiny is Phyllis Young’s practice of requiring that only a married man and woman may stay together in any of the rooms she rents out in her home.
She is allowed the restriction by law under the state’s “Mrs. Murphy exemption.”
However, two women who wanted a room in her home filed a state complaint when Young rejected them and instead referred them to a nearby home.
A brief filed on her behalf asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene charged the state treated her religious faith as a “horrible evil” that must be “suppressed” and “prevented.”
The Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals “rewrote the Mrs. Murphy exemption by holding that it applied only to long-term rentals,” said the brief by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund.
“The court then declared Mrs. Young’s family home to be a place of public accommodation, and held that acting on her religious beliefs was ‘invidious discrimination’ against” the homosexuals.
That ruling subjected her to compensatory, treble and punitive damages, statutory fines, attorney fees and costs.
But the brief appealing to the U.S. Supreme court argued Young deserves “the protection promised” by the justices in the 2015 same-sex marriage case.
FCDF explained: “Phyllis rents three bedrooms in her home in Hawaii, doing business as Aloha Bed & Breakfast. In renting out her rooms, Phyllis has some ‘house rules,’ which include that only a married man and woman may sleep in the same bedroom. At issue is when a same-sex couple wanted to spend the night in her home. Mrs. Young respectfully told them about her Christian convictions and referred them to another bed and breakfast. Under a state provision called the ‘Mrs. Murphy exemption,’ persons who rent up to four rooms in their own home have the discretion to screen potential renters who conflict with their lifestyle. ”
When the two women complained, the state took over.
“As a devout Catholic, Phyllis believes she is morally responsible for any sinful sexual activity taking place under her roof,” said Charles LiMandri, FCDF’s chief counsel. “Phyllis did not discriminate against the same-sex couple because they were homosexual, but rather because she will not knowingly open her home to anyone who violates the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality.”
The brief argued the Constitution “forbids official cynicism against religious persons by those who police discrimination.”
“Treating religious objectors as an evil because they object based on religious conscience is antithetical to Free Exercise.”
The brief noted the justices’ promise of protection for religious believers was affirmed this year when the Supreme Court rebuked the state of Colorado for “hostility” to the Christian faith of Masterpiece Cakeshop baker Jack Phillips.
“The religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression,” the court said.
The brief noted the U.S. Supreme Court “recognized the temptation for some government officials to demonize religious dissenters who refuse to boy the knee to a particular public police.”
“Moreover, the court anticipated future cases involving the inevitable collision between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but said courts must resolve them with mutual tolerance and respect.”
Additionally, the Supreme Court already has upheld the religious rights of closely held corporations.
“The Constitution respects individuals in their homes and close associations, and in this case it should protect individuals in their own homes as they draw lines motivated by sincere religious conscience.”
“This court has promised that religious convictions about sexual morality, ‘long … held … in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world,’ will be treated as decent and honorable by government officials,” the argument said.