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I PUT THE QUESTION to Anthony Picarello, president and general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The Becket Fund is widely recognized as one of the best religious liberty law firms and the only one that defends the religious liberty of all faith groups, "from Anglicans to Zoroastrians," as its founder Kevin J.

Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, the Republican candidate for governor in this fall's election, refused to budge: "I believe that any institution that wants to provide services that are regulated by the state has to abide by the laws of the state," Healey told the Boston Globe on March 2, "and our antidiscrimination laws are some of our most important." From there, it was only a short step to the headline "State Putting Church Out of Adoption Business," which ran over an opinion piece in the Boston Globe by John Garvey, dean of Boston College Law School.

It's worth underscoring that Catholic Charities' problem with the state didn't hinge on its receipt of public money.

Cardinal O'Malley asked Governor Mitt Romney for a religious exemption from the ban on orientation discrimination.

Governor Romney reluctantly responded that he lacked legal authority to grant one unilaterally, by executive order.

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But predicting the legal consequences of as big a change as gay marriage is a job for more than one mind.Ron Madnick, president of the Massachusetts chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, agreed with Garvey's assessment: "Even if Catholic Charities ceased receiving tax support and gave up its role as a state contractor, it still could not refuse to place children with same-sex couples." This March, then, unexpectedly, a mere two years after the introduction of gay marriage in America, a number of latent concerns about the impact of this innovation on religious freedom ceased to be theoretical.How could Adam and Steve's marriage possibly hurt anyone else?So last December, the Becket Fund brought together ten religious liberty scholars of right and left to look at the question of the impact of gay marriage on the freedom of religion.Picarello summarizes: "All the scholars we got together see a problem; they all see a conflict coming.Hasson likes to say (referring to actual clients the Becket Fund has defended).Just how serious are the coming conflicts over religious liberty stemming from gay marriage?So the governor and archbishop turned to the state legislature, requesting a conscience exemption that would allow Catholic Charities to continue to help kids in a manner consistent with Catholic teaching.To date, not a single other Massachusetts political leader appears willing to consider even the narrowest religious exemption.CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF BOSTON made the announcement on March 10: It was getting out of the adoption business. That same year, partly in response to growing pressure for gay marriage and adoption both here and in Europe, a Vatican statement made clear that placing children with same-sex couples violates Catholic teaching. The majority ruled that only animus against gay people could explain why anyone would want to treat opposite-sex and same-sex couples differently.

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