Well the big news last week was the SCOTUS ruling re: marriage equality, gay marriage, or whatever else you want to call it. I’ll stick with the official title of “Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health”. I have to say, the ruling both relieves and saddens me.
I’ll start by stating from the beginning that I am happy that LGBT marriages are now recognized and have the same governmental rights as do straight marriages.
But now it’s time for me to ramble a bit. Sorry if it bothers you, but there are just so many offshoots on this topic. I’ll try to stay on track, but I’m bound to roam a bit.
First of all, it saddens me that this has been used as such a divisive issue for so long. It saddens me that so many people, even now, are using the ruling to drive wedges even deeper between one another. That people in favor of the ruling are thumbing their noses at people of religion who condemn the gay lifestyle. And that people opposed to the ruling can be so self-righteous in their condemnation. And most of all, it saddens me that so many people are completely overlooking what are, to me, some of the unintended consequences of this ruling.
If I were gay, I would counsel my friends and loved ones to be tolerant of those who condemn me and mine. I would remind them that this is nothing more than a political ruling, and that the real battle is in the hearts and minds of my heterosexual neighbors. I would point out that flaunting and taunting drives wedges, and that what we need to do is build bridges.
If I were Christian, I would counsel my friends and loved ones to remember the words of Jesus when he urged us to look to our own sins before going after those of our brothers and sisters. I would urge them to always remember that above all else, He wanted us to love one another.
But I’m not gay.
I’m not religious.
I’m an agnostic heterosexual male of mixed race and heritage. When people look at me they usually see a tall, overweight, white guy who typically has a smile on his face. I’m happily married, have a great wife of almost thirty years, great kids, and great family in general. I have a very good life. I make it a point to try to see the best in people, and I try not to judge until I know all the facts. Even then, I try to see things from the perspective of the person or persons with whom I disagree. If you know me, you know I love to play devil’s advocate. It may be my biggest conceit – thinking I can get people to see the other side of an argument. And I suppose that’s what I’m advocating here… trying to see things from the perspective of the other person. Because whether you’re straight or gay, religious or not, that whole “Love Thy Neighbor” thing? It’s a pretty good idea.
But I’m also a realist. I know that it’s the nature of people to seek out others who believe as they do. And in the absence of that, they want to justify their beliefs by making others acknowledge them. This inevitably leads to lawsuits and government getting involved, and that’s where things almost always get screwed up. Now, there is something that I do have very little tolerance for, and that’s governmental interference in personal matters. Yes, I’m pretty much a hard and fast Libertarian. I think that the Constitution that the country was founded on was another pretty good idea.
The founders of our nation were refugees. They were attempting to leave behind governments where a person could be imprisoned (or worse) for speaking against the State, or for holding differing religious views than those of the crown. So when they found themselves building a new nation, they wrote a bunch of rules that would hopefully prevent such things from happening again. They called it the Constitution. You know, the document that recognizes certain “inalienable rights”? Rights like the freedom to express yourself politically or religiously without fear of government interference or consequence.
And implicit in the first Amendment of that document is something that most of us learned about in school, but many seem to have forgotten. It’s something that Thomas Jefferson succinctly phrased as the “separation of church and state”. It guarantees a person’s right to practice (or not practice) the religion of their choice, and recognizes that not all people hold the same religious beliefs. It places a safeguard within the very building blocks of our nation, saying that the government has no business interfering with religion.
But there’s the other side of the coin, too. Religion also has no place interfering with government. So you can’t have your cake and eat it, too (so to speak). Either you’re in favor of separation of church and state, or you aren’t. It can’t just be when it pleases you. So am I in favor of removing religious icons from government buildings? Not necessarily… but I fully support the government’s right to do so. Just as I support the church’s right to a tax-free status. “Render… unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Because of that, it bothers me that marriage equality was ever a governmental issue to begin with. Because in typical fashion, the government has hosed it up yet again. Now before you get up in arms, hear me out.
There are several implications to this ruling that I think will come up in the future. For example, how is it that a marriage somehow became a contract between two people AND the government. Why is that? Why do we need to go to the state to get a marriage license to begin with? Shouldn’t it be a civil union license? If you choose to view a marriage as a religious institution, shouldn’t it be a ceremony conducted within, and recognized by a religious entity? And conversely, if you view a marriage as a governmental contract, then shouldn’t it be a ceremony conducted within, and recognized by a governmental entity?
Too radical? For some people, sure. But I’ve seen plenty of arguments for the idea of a civil ceremony that everyone must have in order to gain the government protections currently inherent in traditional marriage. Then, if you want to also be married in the eyes of your God, you can also have a religious ceremony. The religious ceremony can be done at the same time, but should have zero impact on how the State views your union.
But, in my opinion, that’s not the biggest faux pas in this ruling. No, the unintended consequence of the SCOTUS ruling is that they are now acknowledging that a right that is guaranteed in the Constitution must be recognized in all fifty states of the union. Yeah, that sounds funny when you phrase it that way, but I honestly don’t think the SCOTUS majority thought of this.
Let’s step away from whether or not marriage is a right recognized by the Constitution. There are arguments on both sides, and both have valid points. But now there is a precedent. By the logic of this ruling, if the court decides something is covered as a right in the Constitution, it MUST be accepted in all fifty states. Personally, I would think this was self-evident, but there is always a gray area in the definition of certain words.
And there are other gray areas. Because now we have added the personal interpretation of a handful of people into the equation, and that is where you end up with the government overstepping its bounds. There is already an argument being made that concealed handgun licenses (mine is actually recognized as legal in more states than gay marriage was recognized) must now be recognized in all fifty states. The logic is there. The precedent is there. And there is a more concrete foundation for the right to bear arms in the Constitution than there is for marriage equality.
So do all fifty states now have to recognize my CHL? If not, then isn’t this a case of secular cherry picking, just as many opponents to gay marriage cherry pick sections of the Bible as the foundation for their opposition? I know it’s a lot to ask on such a hot topic issue, but if you try to leave emotion out of it, and see the implications of this ruling, where does it really leave us? What will the fallout be?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know. Unlike a lot of the people screaming on both sides of the issue, I don’t have all the answers.
All I know is that I’m no better or worse off because of it. After all, I’m not gay. I’m not religious. But I have friends and family who are gay. I have friends and family who are religious. And I don’t see that this ruling has hurt any of them.
But it’s the people who claim to speak for one side or the other that I see behaving so badly. Come on people. Remember that “Love Thy Neighbor” thing we talked about? Let’s give it a try. This ruling didn’t suddenly turn the LGBT community into raving serial rapists who are out to get you and your way of life. And it didn’t suddenly turn Christians into a massive lynch mob that is going to pass judgement and stone anyone who is gay. We are all the same people we were a few weeks ago. We are all adults.
Let’s act like it.