While many social conservatives were pleased by several recent Supreme Court rulings protecting religious liberty, they were dismayed by the court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County to restrict discrimination against homosexuals and transsexuals. Many liberals, by contrast, saw the decisions upholding the freedom of religious institutions from government imposition as undermining Bostock. But to Adam White, they are complementary:
[T]he Supreme Court’s decisions on sexual orientation, “gender identity,” and other issues might have been facilitated by the fact that religious liberty moderates their impact.
Stated another way, perhaps at least some of the justices in the Bostock majority—including its author, Justice Gorsuch, as well as Chief Justice Roberts and perhaps even others—might well have been made more comfortable announcing broadly that the Civil Rights Act protects gender identity and sexual orientation because they knew that some of the most significant ramifications of such a decision would be moderated by the protections of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Simply put, the Court’s appreciation of religious liberty isn’t rolling back progressive legal victories. It may well be helping to make those victories, rightly understood, possible in the first place.