Professor Wilson has worked extensively with state lawmakers to provide assurances in the laws of states that voluntarily enacted same-sex marriage that religious organizations could continue to follow faith convictions around marriage. Lawmakers like then Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed (D, Newport) remarked “one of the ‘better explanations’ she’s read regarding exemptions was a Feb. 21 op-ed piece in The Providence Journal by Robin Fretwell Wilson.” Providence Journal, April 8, 2013. The effect of such religious liberty protections was to lower the temperature on a divisive debate. Professor Wilson has also assisted policymakers and the public to evaluate proposals to adopt unilateral no-fault divorce, focusing especially on women’s bargaining power and child welfare.
Voluntary Same-Sex Marriage States
After publication of her edited collection Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts with Professor Douglas Laycock, now at the University of Virginia School of Law, and Anthony Picarello, now General Counsel at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Professor Wilson was approached by Connecticut Senator Michael McLachlan to assist him with codifying the decision in Kerrigan v. Connecticut, recognizing same-sex marriage. Senator McLachlan sought to provide assurances in the law that religious organizations and individuals could continue to follow their faith convictions around marriage.
Two groups of scholars, one led by Professor Wilson and the other by Professor Laycock, crafted model legislation for consideration by the Connecticut General Assembly. The letter produced by Professor Wilson’s group gave a state-level analysis of the impact of recognizing same-sex marriage in Connecticut in the absence of robust religious protections, and argued that the General Assembly should avoid predictable conflicts “by crafting an appropriate religious accommodation provision.” Legislative accommodations proposed by Senator McLachlan ultimately became a part of Connecticut’s 2009 same-sex marriage law. Connecticut General Statutes Annotated §§ 46b-35a and 46b-35b.
- Connecticut Public Law 09-13
- Letter to Connecticut Legislature
- “The Flip-Side of Same-Sex Marriage,” Opinion-Editorial, Los Angeles Times (May 3, 2009)
- “Will Law Demand We Support Gay Marriage?,” Hartford Courant (March 9, 2009)
- Peter Steinfels,Religious-Protection Issues on Gay Marriage Pose Legal Quandary for States, Deseret News (May 27, 2009), https://www.deseretnews.com/article/705306734/Religious-protection-issues-on-gay-marriage-pose-legal-quandary-for-states.html
new hampshire (2010)
In 2010, Professor Wilson worked with New Hampshire Governor John Lynch and his Chief of Staff to craft a bill that coupled same-sex marriage with religious protections. New Hampshire’s legislature approved a bill that contained an exemption only for the clergy, precipitating a veto by Governor Lynch. The New Hampshire legislature amended the bill to include more expansive accommodations and Governor Lynch subsequently signed it into law. New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated § 457:37 (Westlaw 2012).
New York (2011)
In 2011, Professor Wilson was active in encouraging the New York legislature to include core religious liberty protections in its legislation creating same-sex marriage. Professor Wilson and other academic colleagues wrote letters to members of the New York Senate encouraging inclusion of these protections. When the bill was approved, the New York Times reported that the inclusion of religious liberty protections proved critical to the bill’s passage.
- New York Marriage Equality Act
- Exemptions Were Key to Vote on Gay Marriage, New York Times story
- New York Times “Room for Debate” Feature
- Letter to Senator Dean Skelos
- Letter to Senator Greg Ball
- Jewish Telegraphic Agency story
- Reuters story
- EWTN story
The Scholars groups also assisted with marriage laws in:
- Rhode Island, law and citation by Senate Majority Leader
- District of Columbia, law and Washington Post Op-Ed
- Illinois, law, Springfield Register Op-Ed , and reference to Scholars Letter
- Maryland, law and Engage Piece
- Hawaii, law and Hawaii Star Advertiser Op-Ed
- Washington State, law
- Minnesota, law and Scholars Letter
Evaluating Marriage and No-fault Divorce
Across a series of years, Professor Wilson has weighed in on proposals, principally in New York, to allow unilateral no-fault divorce. She has argued that fault should not be a requisite to dissolution but should matter to the financial circumstances of the break-up.
- New York Times, Room for Debate
- New York Times Op Ed
- Beyond the Bounds of Decency: Why Fault Continues to Matter to (Some) Wronged Spouses, 66 Washington and Lee Law Review 503 (2009)