Religious colleges and universities could lose their tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage if the Supreme Court rules that it is a constitutional right, the Court heard Tuesday.
U.S. Solicitor General Ronald Verrilli made that surprising admission during a line of questioning during his presentation of the federal government’s case in Obergefell v. Hodges. The case tests whether states are obligated by the 14th amendment to recognize same-sex marriages.
Following up on a question from Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito asked whether the Court’s past decision to require religious institutions to support interracial relationships and marriages would also apply to the issue of same-sex marriage.
“Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax-exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating,” Alito said. “So would the same apply to a university or college if it opposed same-sex marriage?”
Verrilli was forced to admit that it is possible.
“You know, I – I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue,” Verrilli said. “I — I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is — it is going to be an issue.”