Saturday, May 26, 2012

Gay Marriage


There has been much conversation concerning gay marriage in the past few weeks and I felt it presented a good opportunity to discuss the topic.

Let me preface my views by saying I believe this to be a legal issue of personal liberty and not a religious issue of morality. Many have attacked the president’s stance on religious grounds, but I do not expect my elected officials to serve as spiritual guides any more than I want my ministers to author the federal tax code. As such, this is not a treatise on my religious views of homosexual relationships or how correct or incorrect I believe them to be.
A citizen can, without hypocrisy, uphold the individual liberties of other citizens without compromising their personal moral beliefs. I will give two specific examples:

I in no way agree with views espoused by Westboro Baptist Church. I do not believe that God is delighted when an American soldier is killed or someone dies of cancer. I believe their interpretation of the Bible is skewed, twisted, and offensive. However, as a citizen of a nation founded on liberty and democracy I support their right to convey their version of God just as much as I support my own minister’s right to say Jesus died for me. I do so as a freedom-loving American citizen who does not believe that government should have the power to repress the speech or opinions of those it does not agree with.

I in no way agree with the objective, message, or business model of ashleymadison.com. It is an online service that assists adults who wish to have an affair by helping them find people other than their spouses to have sex with. I find the entire enterprise to be morally reprehensible. That being said, I recognize the right of two adults to do what they please with their bodies even if it leads them to misery. Furthermore, I recognize the right of private businesses to create revenue by catering to that freedom.

This is this same principle that would allow me to vote for a Mormon candidate based on his political views, without feeling like doing so is an endorsement of his spiritual beliefs. I personally do not recognize the Book of Mormon as an authoritative religious text nor do I hold it in the same esteem as the Holy Bible, but that should not keep me from voting for someone who does if I believe them to be the best person for the job.

The two most prominent oppositions I hear toward gay marriage are:

The slippery slope – The idea here is that once we abandon our staunch legal adherence to heterosexual unions the next step will be people marrying animals or inanimate objects because such actions are the natural tendency of a society that has separated from it’s ethical moorings.

Setting aside the blatant offensiveness of such an argument, it is completely irrelevant. Why would any sane person assume that granting a right to two consenting adults would inevitably lead to the propagation of those rights to non-humans? Perhaps I am stepping out on a limb here, but I believe humanity to be rather unique among the species that live on Earth. I am not concerned that granting my fellow citizen the right to worship and bear arms will lead to being robbed at gunpoint by a Shetland pony during communion.

The legitimization – The idea here is that official acknowledgement of a lifestyle by the government constitutes legitimization (and even endorsement) of those lifestyle choices. If I allow my taxpayer money to supplement a bill that gives homosexuals the right to openly declare the same status as heterosexuals I am essentially telling them “I agree with your decisions.”

Our government does not exist to legitimize the prevailing worldview of whoever constitutes the majority at a given point in history. That would be easy. Rather, it must insure that personal liberties of even the smallest minorities cannot be marginalized or extinguished by that majority no matter how well-meaning their intentions are. Since those identifying themselves as homosexual constitute a mere 2-3% of our population it would be easy to dismiss their inequality as collateral damage, but keep in mind one could make that same mathematical argument for Jews, Filipinos, or those who are colorblind.

Let me remind you that as a country we often bestow freedoms to other individuals that we do not practice or agree with ourselves. I can legally commit adultery, drink myself into a stupor, and even burn the American flag. Personally I do not believe any of these actions are a good idea, but I have no right to use legislation to force you to accept my conclusions about them.

By that same token those individual freedoms are, and must be, reasonably balanced with the well-being of the public at large. This why there are laws against drinking and driving or sexual assault, because these are instances where one person’s freedom could destroy another’s.

I am unconvinced that allowing, say, two women to enjoy spousal rights and privileges concerning income tax, health insurance, or hospital visitation will endanger or infringe upon those same rights that I currently enjoy with my wife. I am also unconvinced that doing so will lead to the accelerated degradation of the nuclear family since we heterosexuals seem perfectly capable of doing that on our own.

The bottom line is that a person’s sexual orientation doesn’t give us the right to exclude them from pursuing what they believe will bring them happiness or withholding the basic privileges and protections of citizenship. To continue to do so is a far more frightening trajectory, one that I am proud to say our country seems unable to sustain for much longer.

There may never come a day where the majority of people agree with or endorse same-sex relationships, but there should come a day where our commitment to liberty supersedes our fear of what that liberty could bring.   

3 comments:

  1. Brian, I am just now reading this. I am reading this as a gay male and I loved it. It is so funny how people think gay marriage is going to affect them directly, but it is not. What you do in your life and your home is your business. And by the way, I am a Christian who happens to be gay! God Bless Bryan! :)

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    1. Thank you for reorienting what is political & what is moral although sometimes these two collide... You have a refreshing way of clarifying the two! Thanks

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