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Michigan's Christian colleges opposed to same-sex marriage are safe for now

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Tyrone Warner
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Michigan's Christian colleges don't need to worry about losing tax exemptions for their stance on same-sex marriage.

Amid questions about whether an institution could receive governmental funds and still discriminate against gay couples, schools have moved to reevaluate their positions. Yet they can rest easy on this one – at least for now.

In spite of this week’s Supreme Court ruling, there is presently no IRS regulation to prevent this kind of discrimination. Margo Schlanger is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. She explained that “there is no Internal Revenue code regulation that talks about tax-exempt status and anything to do with gays and lesbians or same-sex marriage.”

Ultimately, last week’s decision did little to affect Christian colleges. Michigan law professor Samuel Bagenstos said that the implications were “directly nothing.”

“The idea that there is some tax-exempt status that is at stake is really very hypothetical, theoretical, and more a scare tactic then a reality.”

Bagenstos cited a decision by the IRS in 1970 to withhold tax exemptions in the event of racial discrimination, but he explained that there is presently no equivalent rule for same-sex marriage. 

Schlanger and Bagenstos agreed that the hurdles preventing the IRS from taking such a step are significant, not the least of which is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This legislation was codified in 1993 to protect religious freedom interests.

Still, Bagenstos said, “A lot of organizations that used to discriminate against gays and lesbians have abandoned these policies because of the cultural change." This is a trend he expects to continue.  

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