Church Law & Tax: Same Sex Marriage and Gender Identity

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What Does the Recent Supreme Court Decision Mean for Churches?

A week has passed since the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. The Court chose to focus on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s handling of a baker’s decision not to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Even still, the various angles involved with the case invoke issues ranging from public accommodations laws to religious liberty.

Emily Lund, assistant editor for, reached out to four attorneys—Richard Hammar, Frank Sommerville, Erika Cole, and Stuart Lark—to find out what they think about the decision and its potential impact on churches and pastors. Read their reactions to get a better sense of what the ruling means, what it doesn’t mean, and what the future possibly holds.

For more guidance on what churches and pastors should know about public accommodations laws, particularly during this contentious cultural moment regarding sexuality and gender identity, check out our premium downloadable resource Church Issues: Same-Sex Marriage and Gender Identity.

Church Issues: Same-Sex Marriage and Gender Identity

What Churches Need to Understand about Public Accommodations Laws

Introducing Church Issues—an in-depth resource created to help church leaders gain clarity and direction on a specific topic that challenges religious freedoms or exposes a congregation to legal risk. 

In less than 30 years’ time, several developments have redefined the country’s cultural and moral, giving rise to questions and confusion by clergy and church leaders alike. Will a church or pastor be legally compelled to host same-sex marriage ceremonies? How might public accommodations laws affect bathroom access for individuals who visit your church?

Attorney Richard Hammar, senior editor of the Church Law & Tax Report, believes churches still can be equipped with the right information to use as they navigate these important issues and reach conclusions about how to act.

While it is difficult to prescribe a certain course of action that will be relevant, let alone applicable, to all churches, since virtually every church faces unique laws based on its geographic location.

In Church Issues: Same-Sex Marriage and Gender Identity, Hammar combines research and analysis to take you through a step-by-step process regarding public accommodations laws, whether pertaining to same-sex marriage ceremonies or restroom access. He offers several critical questions that church leaders must address, including:

  • Whether the church is a place of “public accommodation” under applicable local, state, or federal laws;
  • If so, whether an exemption is available for churches;
  • If a church exemption exists, whether all the conditions for the exemption have been satisfied, and
  • The constitutional protections available to churches based on applicable judicial precedent.


  • Senior and Executive Pastor
  • Board members
  • Denominational Leaders
  • Churches with public access businesses such as a coffee shop or preschool.