“Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm” – Prov 3:30
The Supreme Court ruled a couple of days ago that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. For those not keeping track, DOMA was an attempt by congress to carve out an exception in the Constitution’s “Full Faith and Credit” clause. The basis of “Full Faith and Credit” is that states agree to recognize each others “judgments”. For instance, if I apply for and receive a drivers license in Maryland, I am legally allowed to drive in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and every other state in the union – I don’t have to apply for a license in each state. By the same token, if I am married in North Carolina (as I was), Maryland and all other states agree to recognize my marriage. I don’t have to remarry my wife every time I move from state to state. (Or, I should say, I don’t get to remarry my wife …)
This really isn’t an issue for drivers licenses, but if one state doesn’t recognize gay marriage (by law) we have a problem. The state would be in violation of the Constitution if any other state recognized gay marriage and a couple getting married in the latter moved to the former. DOMA simply gave the former an out – you don’t have to abide by the “Full Faith and Credit” clause in regards to gay marriage.
The Purpose of Government …
I try to stick fairly tightly to the general “purpose of government” argument when it comes to public policy. That purpose being the collective defense of individual liberties (life, liberty, property) and nothing more. As soon as the government does more than the basic purpose, it only does so at the expense of that purpose.
By this light, I have to say that my general preference is that the government have no role in defining marriage – and that the government place no restrictions on the behaviors of the free men and women of this country in how they view marriage. That is, determining the nature of “marriage” is hardly necessary to defend life, liberty, and property. Furthermore, legislating how free people recognize “marriage” (and what benefits they provide in regards to it) is also not necessary to defend individual liberties.
So, I would generally prefer to not have DOMA … or any other federal/state intervention into the business of marriage. As far as laws go we can call it a contract. What we call it before God is something each must come to grips with for himself.
The Children of This Age …
I’ve recounted the story several times of how Kirk Cameron got out of show business. He had become a Christian and didn’t want his Growing Pains character to misbehave anymore. Alan Thicke pulled him aside and told him that the TV/movie industry really wasn’t moving in the direction of moralism, and that if he wanted to be an actor he’d have to find a different way to do it. (And this foresight from Thicke came during the days of the Moral Majority.)
While I don’t think the federal government should outlaw gay marriage, or define marriage in any way, shape, or form (or treat people differently based on their marital status); there are plenty on the Christian Right who will find the DOMA ruling to be a major setback. To this I will add my own bit of Thicke-wisdom. Generational attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage have changed dramatically. The younger generation really doesn’t think this is a thing worth outlawing – they view it as a civil rights issue and want equality. I’m not just talking about average, run-of-the-mill American teenagers. You’ll actually find similar trends (trends mind you) amongst kids raised in otherwise radical evangelical households. (I say this as matter of anecdote – the kids I’ve talked to – not because of a scientific poll I’ve conducted.)
The point is this: whether the Supreme Court struck down DOMA or not, attitudes of the country are changing. Gay marriage will be legitimized at a government level some time in the next few decades regardless of the Supreme Court decision. That’s the way things are headed.
The Christian Right then has a few choices, strategically speaking. They (we) can either continue to fight the uphill and losing battle, or we can pivot to neutralize the impact of the coming gay marriage recognition. By this I mean that the next step is mandatory employer-provided spousal benefits. This will potentially put Christian employers in the odd position of having to provide benefits for a marriage they in no-way-shape-or-form recognize (and otherwise object to). Obviously I prefer the latter approach: work to end all government intervention into freedom.
Did Obama Really Say That …
The trend only gets worse, of course. After demanding spousal benefits regardless of employer objections, there will be a demand that religious organizations be forced to perform marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples.
There has been much buzz across the internet about Obama claiming he “won’t force churches to perform gay weddings” – and I suspect he won’t because he has fundamentally zero constitutional authority to do such a thing. I will also add that the text of Obama’s statement doesn’t say anything so “kingly” as “I won’t force” – he actually just indicated that he doesn’t believe the DOMA decision applies to religious institutions.
But there is a bit of “hit dog” action here. The need to get out there and deny that there will be a push to remove religious liberty is quite indicative that this is exactly what’s coming down the line. As the saying goes, never believe anything until its officially denied.
What about Freedom of Association …
While I don’t know of any instances where gay couples have sued churches to demand that they perform services, they have certainly sued to remove freedom of association from anyone who objects to their lifestyle. I’m here thinking of the photographer sued because she refused to photograph a gay wedding (see my comments here).
Isn’t this just freedom of association? There are plenty of photographers out there, quite a few who could care less about lifestyle choices. The fact that this one was sued was nothing more than making a stink about freedom if it made any moral objections.
This is the way it goes in America. Everybody loves freedom when it’s their issue, but when other folks want freedom they balk. Freedom for me, not for thee. Will those celebrating the DOMA ruling stand up for an application of freedom to the rest of the country? I won’t be holding my breath.