SL Trib: Religious liberty and gay marriage--Is Oaks right? Yes and no

If you're worried that government someday will force your minister, rabbi, imam or bishop to perform a same-sex marriage, don't be. Even if such weddings become legally enshrined and widely accepted in the United States, gay couples never will be sealed, for instance, in an LDS temple unless the church chooses to do so.

That's the consensus of religious-liberty experts across the nation. Even so, wild rhetoric on both sides of the same-sex-marriage debate persists, overshadowing real concerns arising out of the tension between religious belief and gay civil rights. And the conflicts are not likely to evaporate anytime soon.

Although 30 states, including Utah, constitutionally bar gay marriages, the drive for same-sex unions is gaining momentum. Five states currently allow it (a sixth will join them in January) and the issue is on the ballot next month in three. Maine represents an important bellwether. It already has a legal provision for gay marriage, but that is being challenged by a ballot measure.

Meanwhile, many conservative religious groups are lining up either to oppose gay marriage or to ask for religious exemptions.

"There is a battle over the meaning of [religious] freedom," LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks said in a strongly worded address last week to students at Brigham Young University-Idaho. "The contest is of eternal importance, and it is your generation that must understand the issues and make the efforts to prevail."

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