DOMA: Churches Will Not Have to Marry Same Sex Couples Regardless of SCOTUS Ruling

One of the oft-repeated horrors about making same-sex marriage a right throughout the country is that churches will be forced to marry everyone or lose their tax-exempt status.

It's not true.

Most churches around the country operate as 501(c)(3)s. They are recognized by the IRS as non-profits and do not pay many taxes. In effect, the public subsidizes them, as we do all non-profits.

"Churches and religious organizations are generally exempt from income tax and receive other favorable treatment under tax law," reads an IRS tax guide for churches and religious organizations. However, "Such an organization's activities may not serve the private interests of any individual or organization."

While the latter may suggest that churches would lose their tax-exempt status, should the Defense of Marriage Act be struck down, it's not the case.

"No religion would be forced to marry same-sex couples, or recognize same-sex marriages within the context of their religious beliefs," according to Freedom to Marry, a supporter of "marriage equality."

Given the history of churches and religious organizations in America, it's no surprise we create special rules for them. Part of that special treatment is that churches are essentially allowed to be publicly subsidized and also discriminate to a certain extent.

Most synagogues won't marry you unless you're Jewish. A lot of Catholic churches won't marry you if you're not Catholic. Many of both probably won't marry same-sex couples, regardless.

And they won't have to. Lawsuits may follow but this isn't new ground. It's long-running practice that priests, preachers, rabbis, and others get their say on religious freedom grounds.

For the devout, there is less to worry about than you think.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Michael McCutcheon

Michael was formerly special projects editor at Mic. Prior to that, he worked at the Open Society Foundations on electoral reform. A native Seattleite, he's still mad about the SuperSonics.

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