A Challenge to Senator Portman

Republican Senator Rob Portman (Ohio) announced two weeks ago that he had reconsidered his views about marriage redefinition and now supports same-sex marriage. Predictably, his announcement created a great stir, and–also predictably–advocates and commentators jumped to praise him or condemn him, depending on whether or not they favor marriage redefinition.

Yet, what Sen. Portman should have heard was a loud and clear challenge to come out as a strong and clear champion of religious freedom among the ranks of same-sex marriage supporters. He has changed his views on marriage. That’s his responsibility. But what about his respect for religious exercise and the constitutional freedom of religion? Will he vigorously advocate to the proponents of same-sex marriage that they must work to carefully protect religious freedom as they seek to advance LGBT rights?

What would make a statement of support for religious freedom be more than just window-dressing by the Senator? Here is how he could demonstrate his genuine continued commitment to the freedom of religious exercise by persons and organizations. He could make these three public statements:

(1) I will insist that any federal action to promote same-sex marriage must include strong protections for persons and organizations that are committed to opposite-sex marriage (e.g., no formal or informal ban on their participation in public life);

(2) I will insist that any ENDA law or Executive Order must contain very strong protections for the employment policies of religious organizations;

(3) I will work for federal legislation that requires states that accept child-welfare funds to promulgate laws and regulations that protect the freedom of faith-based adoption and foster-care agencies to select families and make placement decisions that correspond with their religiously based convictions about marriage and appropriate expressions of sexuality.

Friends of classical marriage ought not to turn their backs on Sen. Portman and other prominent leaders whose views “evolve” into support for same-sex marriage. Rather, they should challenge them to become advocates for religious freedom among the supporters of marriage redefinition.