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As more states consider marriage recognition for same-sex couples, attention turns to the conflict between marriage equality and religious liberty. Legal scholars are contributing substantially to the debate, generating a robust academic literature and writing directly to state lawmakers urging them to include a "marriage conscience protection" containing a series of religious exemptions in marriage equality legislation. Yet the intense scrutiny of religious freedom specifically in the context of same-sex marriage obscures the root of the conflict. At stake is the central role of relationships in expressing one's sexual orientation; same-sex relationships constitute lesbian and gay identity, and religious objections arise largely in response to such relationships. Marriage is merely one form of sexual orientation identity enactment, and religious objections to same-sex marriage are merely a subset of objections to sexual orientation equality.

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