LGBT Rights Ruling Isn’t the Beginning of the End for Religious Liberty

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Social conservatives liked Neil Gorsuch before they didn’t. Maybe they were right the first time.

The US Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia is not the last word on the conflict between LGBT rights and religious freedom rights. In fact, Bostock could be the first step in breaking the impasse.

The case will certainly have major implications for religious exercise. But contrary to initial reactions, this decision should not be read as a decision that dooms religious liberty in America, but rather as an inevitable step toward something Congress and most state legislatures have thus far been unable to do: crafting a compromise that balances LGBT rights and religious freedom.

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia involved a man named Gerald Bostock—by all accounts an exemplary worker with a decade on the job—who was fired for conduct “unbecoming” a government employee shortly after he had started participating in a gay softball league. The Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the 1964 federal law barring employment discrimination “on the basis of sex” protects people who are discriminated against because of sexual orientation and gender identity. And by a 6-3 margin, the court ruled that it does.

Social conservatives were distraught. Robert George described the majority opinion as “sophistical” and the position it endorsed “untenable.” “Hard to overstate the magnitude of this loss for religious conservatives,” added Rod Dreher. Denny Burk said the decision “eviscerated” religious liberty, while Andrew Walker called the opinion “devastating,” adding, “If you’re a Christian higher ed institution taking federal monies, buckle up.”

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