Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Grounds for Dispute: Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Raises Equal Housing Questions at Religious Schools

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Grounds for Dispute: Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Raises Equal Housing Questions at Religious Schools

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma Wesleyan University students are still expected to adhere to a code of conduct based on biblical morality, regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling on recognizing the legality of same-sex marriages, President Everett Piper said.

In short, sexual relations are forbidden outside traditional marriage, and students who step beyond those bounds are declaring they don't want to be part of the Wesleyan academic community. It doesn't matter that the Christian university in Bartlesville doesn't even have on-campus housing, a same-sex couple renting an apartment elsewhere would face the same consequences, he said.

And that might have an effect on the school's federal tax-exempt status someday, legal experts said.

"We are a Christian university; it was founded as such over 100 years ago," Piper said. "We do expect all of our students and faculty to honor the code of conduct they voluntarily signed when they chose to become part of the community. We do not intend to change that code of conduct.

"That's the traditional, historical, Judeo-Christian, biblical ethic of sexual morality," he said. "And as a Christian institution, we believe marriage is a sacrament of the church and defined by the church. The government does not intrude into the definition of sacrament."

Matthew Hickey, an attorney specializing in tax law at the Crowe & Dunlevy law firm in Oklahoma City, said he expects such student codes of conduct will be scrutinized following the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Some larger religious schools could be challenged as well for their housing policies if they treat same- sex couples differently than other couples, he said.

Hickey said legal experts will need time to sort out the consequences of the law, but the most likely arguments will be based on two cases: Bob Jones University v. United States in 1983 and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. in 2014.

The former case was based on a 1970 rule by the Internal Revenue Service that disallowed tax-exempt status to private schools that engaged in racial discrimination. …

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