Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Freedom of Religion & Gay Marriage

Before reading, hopefully you already know what you're getting into by reading this post, just from the title. And that's your only warning...

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I think the problem with the gay marriage debate is that it is entirely missing the mark.

First of all, I feel it’s important to say:

I’m married. And my wife and I do not feel that allowing homosexuals to marry will somehow cheapen, belittle, or “ruin the sanctity” of marriage. The reason for this is remarkably simple: it is because our marriage is not based on other peoples’ beliefs, nor on other peoples’ marriages. In fact, our marriage is not even based on what governments and churches and religions and people consider “marriage” to be or to mean or to look like.

Instead, our marriage is based on what my wife and I think marriage should be.

And that’s it.

Other peoples’ marriages have no bearing on ours, because our marriage has nothing to do with them. If it did, this would be allowing a lot of people into our marriage that don’t belong there.

The sanctity of my wife and my marriage depends solely on the two of us. It is how we treat each other, how we speak to each other and about each other; it is how we handle each other when one of us is having a bad day; it is how we make it a point to always put the other first; it is how we are sure to not withhold love or joy from each other for any reason; it is the things we do and learn and experience together.

Our marriage is sanctified because we sanctify it. Governments and religion have nothing to do with this.

That said: Whoever else is married does not concern me.

Whoever else can get married, however, concerns me quite a bit.

It concerns me because who we allow to get married says something about our country, about the state of the government and the heart of the people.

And when people oppose gay marriage, it tells me that people are willing to violate the United States Constitution to support their own ideas of how the country should be.

To be clear, what I’m saying is: Any way you look at it, to oppose gay marriage is to oppose the United States Constitution.

That this is not being discussed more often is remarkable to me; this fact seems quite self-evident to me. But here we are.

Many people in favor of gay marriage argue that it’s a violation of homosexuals’ equal rights. That may or may not be the case, but that’s actually not the main violation against the Constitution that I see or that I’m interested in discussing right now.

Rather, what I’m more interested in is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Mostly, for our current purposes, I’m thinking of the first bit before the semi-colon: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Very often, people simply phrase this as “Freedom of religion.” So this is what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees us, all the citizens of the United States: Freedom of religion.

And, of course, freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.

What this simply, literally means is that the government cannot make any law which is based on the teachings of any one religion, nor can it hold any persons accountable to the teachings of any specific religion. The government cannot favor one religion over another, nor can it favor religion over atheism or non-religion.

Again: simply, literally, this means that if a law is made based on a Christian belief, then everyone who is not a Christian loses a piece of their freedom of religion.

That said, my impression of Christians’ opposition to gay marriage stems from their beliefs, from what it is they understand their scriptures to mean, what it is that they believe their God wants and expects from them. This is fine; I’ve no interest in debating whether or not homosexuality or homosexual marriage is “sinful,” nor “what the Bible actually says about it,” at least not in this piece. 

What interests me, however, is that there is not a single argument against gay marriage that is not, ultimately, based on religion.

To reiterate: I’ve never once come across any meaningful, relevant, logical argument against gay marriage that does not, at its core, stem from religion.

If such an argument is out there, I haven’t heard it, and I have yet to imagine it on my own.

So it is that when people use their religion to argue against gay marriage—which, again, is the only basis for arguing against gay marriage—what is happening is that they are indicating that their beliefs should overrule the law. They are asking the political leaders to make and enact laws based on their religion. They are pushing the government to favor their religion over any other.

In short, they are asking the government to take away the freedom of religion from everyone else.

To say that your religion’s beliefs on gay marriage should dictate the laws of the land is to say that people outside of your religion do not qualify for freedom of religion—or at least, they do not qualify for it as much as the people inside of your religion.

Any way you look at it, this is a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Any. Way. You. Look. At. It.

If your religion says gay marriage is not okay, but my religion—or my lack of religion—says that it is okay, you cannot require or expect me to abide by your religion over mine. The United States Constitution does not allow for this sort of requirement or expectation or, especially, for this sort of law.

Again, whether or not homosexuality is “sinful,” “natural,” or even “okay” doesn’t concern me. What concerns me is that the United States Constitution is being violated, because:

Based on our Constitution, gay marriage should be a self-evident, freely-granted right, which neither religion, nor even one political party or another, has the ability or the right to take away from the people.

You do not have to believe that gay marriage is “okay.” I am not asking you to believe or to think or to feel this way. You are absolutely entitled to your thoughts and beliefs on the subject—in fact, that’s the beauty and the importance of the First Amendment.

However, whether or not you agree that gay marriage is “okay,” this does not give you the right or the privilege to override or violate the United States Constitution—at least, not without undermining the core of our country’s very definition, intention, and spirit.

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