Saturday, July 18, 2015

Same-Sex Marraige and the Recent US Supreme Court Ruling

I debated whether or not to write this post and initiate this conversation, but enough people have asked that I have decided to do so.

I am approaching this in a question and answer format, and my only request is that it be a civil conversation and not be approached as a debate. I have no desire whatsoever to argue with anyone about this, and I will not engage in that sort of dialogue. What I would like is an open discussion in which I can explain how I feel about the Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage and the reasons I feel that way. Rather than try to list all of those reasons, I have decided to share one (perhaps the most counter-intuitive one) initially. I will respond to any other reasons, for or against, as they are given.

The primary reason I support the Supreme Court’s decision is that I believe in religious freedom, particularly when it comes to issues as sacred as marriage. 

Just as I believe my own denomination should be able to marry whomever it chooses to marry, I believe other religions and denominations should have the same right. I believe in restrictions based on consent, including the legal ability to consent, but I do not believe in legal restrictions based strictly on religious ideology. There now are multiple religions, including Christian denominations, in this country who want to be able to perform marriages for same-sex couples; thus, if I truly believe in religious freedom in the realm of marriage, and if I insist on that right for myself and my religion, I personally must support other denominations’ right to perform marriages mine does not.

I would love it if the government got out of the marriage business altogether and focused solely on civil benefits for civil unions, leaving marriage strictly as a religious practice. Lacking that ideal, which the religious majority in the United States fought for a long time, the only way for the government to provide equal civil benefits was to issue marriage licenses.

The central issue to me is not that the government is issuing marriage licenses, although I would like to see that change; the central issue to me is that religions are performing marriages that provide civil benefits. Up until now, equal civil benefits were not possible for same-sex couples under that structure. It is the tying of civil benefits (with equality under the law as the core foundation) to religious ceremonies (with their inherent and important right to be selective based on doctrine) that is the central issue for me – and if religions were unwilling to allow the government to perform civil unions for same-sex couples (which, again, was the case in the United States), the only alternative to provide civil benefits equally and fairly was to legalize same-sex marriage within the public marriage structure while maintaining the right of religions and denominations to perform and refuse to perform marriages according to their own doctrine and beliefs.

The Supreme Court ruling has done that. Religions and denominations still can refuse to marry inter-racial couples, for example, with no legal ramifications, even though inter-racial marriage has been legal for a long time; same-sex marriage is no different, in that particular respect, with this recent ruling.

Thus, the primary reason I support the Supreme Court ruling is that I believe so passionately in religious freedom.


Eric Nielson said...

I think you argument is wrong-headed. I will attempt to explain why:

Religions have been able to do this sort of thing all along. Take polygamists for example, they will have one civil marriage, and then typically have religious marriages that are not recognized by the state. To paint some picture that religions lack freedom in this regard is not correct. It is the government license of marriage that this is about, not religious freedom.

The restrictions you speak of do not come from religious ideology at all. It has only been in the governments interest to protect the well being of traditional marriage with the possibility of creating offspring. In same-sex marriage there is no clear dependent spouse nor offspring to protect, so less government interest. The religious freedom you speak of thus forces states to recognize some new religious ideology that insists that their ideas of marriage (religious and legal) must be forced upon all state whether the state wants it or not. THIS is a what many would consider a violation of separation - forcing states to legalize same sex marriage on religious grounds.

To state that the only way to supply equal benefits is to force same-sex marriage license is absurd black-and-white thinking. civil benefits can and have been offered through civil unions, and with the above stated purpose of offspring welfare, no lack of equality exists for many of these benefits.

You state again the desire for religious ceremonies to be accompanied by civil benefits, surely an establishment of religion issue. I also think you have a cart before the horse issue. This again is all about government license of relationships here, not the other way around.

This ruling should not be seen as establishing religious freedom for religions that want their ceremonies legal (which would establish religion by the government). This ruling forced states to license relationships whether states had an interest in doing so or not. Religions already had freedom to have the type of ceremonies you advocate.

Papa D said...

Eric, I think you have misunderstood what I wrote, since I didn't say some of the things you reject. I said civil unions would have been the best solution, but the religious majority rejected and fought that arrangement, so the solution then centered on civil marriages.

Also, the courts have NOT privileged child-bearing relationships; they have privileged heterosexual relationships regardless of whether or not those relationships can or will produce children. If it was about kids, sterile couples and those who choose to remain childless by choice would receive no civil benefits for their relationships not available to other committed, childless couples - meaning childless heterosexual couples would be treated the exact way homosexual couples would be treated, in the area of civil benefits.

Again, it is equality under the law that is the issue here, not special benefits for having children. Lacking full civil benefits through civil unions, equal access to marriage was the only option left. If someone disapproves of same-sex marriage, the fault for the ruling lies with the reliigious majority, not the homosexual citizenry.

Eric Nielson said...

Gay marriage advocates were not going to stop until nationwide legal marriage was obtained. Sure there were those who disagreed, but to say this was only by a religious majority is a mischaracterization. Anyway, that is the way these laws should play themselves out - legislatively and not declared by the supreme court.

Courts have not privileged marriages in the past, it was state legislatures. And what was licensed by the state was relationships with potential for offspring. Sure there were some traditional marriages that were childless, but the states could handle that or not as they saw fit. Licensing of relationships is not really an ideal, but the states felt the need for this and potential offspring, and to promote permanence and fidelity in those potential relationships. Other relationships do not have the need for licensing.

To say the fault of the ruling is the religious majority is very strange indeed. The fault is a supreme court which knows no boundaries and rules in cases that it should not even hear. Similar benefits could have been done some other way, other than the SC forcing marriage laws on the state. It was certainly not the only option left.

Papa D said...

Marriage cannot be left to states to sanction or not sanction individually. No heterosexual couple I know would accept that their marriage was not valid in another state. This has to be a federal decision - either through the legislative or judicial branch.

Papa D said...

Also, I didn't say this was only due to a religious majority. Seriously, that is nowhere in what I wrote. It would be stupid to say same-sex marriage advocates weren't involved. I said the religious majority opposed civil unions and fought any kind of equal civil benefit legislation - and that is 100% accurate.

Papa D said...

Finally, Mormons in the Deep South, especially, ought to run screaming from the thought that state legislators could refuse to recognize their marriages. That idea would be abhorrent and damnable to each and every one of them. One way or the other, legislatively or judicially, this had to be a federal decision - and, for the same reason as I just mentioned at the state level, I believe it had to be decided in the judicial branch.

Tiger said...

Ironically, the SC decision actually paves the way for decreases in religious freedoms, which our prophets and apostles have long been warning us.

Anonymous said...

"the central issue to me is that religions are performing marriages that provide civil benefits." That actually isn't true. Religions are not performing marriages. Judges and Justices of the Peace do marriage ceremonies all the time. Marriage is a civil contract. If a religious performs a marriage ceremony, it is only because state law gives him the authority to act on behalf of the state to do that ceremony. Therefore, it was the state that didn't allow same sex marriage, not religion at all. Every state could have written civil union laws and put those civil unions on the same footing, given the same legal recognition, as regular heterosexual marriages. However, that wasn't good enough for same sex marriage supporters. They wanted more than civil equality. They want moral acceptance. They want the public to "accept" their sexual orientation. While I don't agree with the majority decision, I do agree that eventually, society would have moved towards a legislative recognition of same sex marriages. It might have taken another 10 or so years, but eventually, it was coming. I also think the acceptance of it will play out in ways that won't affect me or you, but will affect our children and grandchildren.

Papa D said...

Tiger, how, exactly? As I said in the post, inter-racial marriages have been legal for a long time now, and no religion is being forced to perform them against their will. Other forms of discrimination (meaning nothing negative I that word choice) also are and have been allowed in religious ceremony decisions.

Anonymous, I was using short-hand that I thought everyone would understand. The government has allowed religious ceremonies to replace civil ceremonies and bestowed civil benefits through them for a long time. Nobody has to be married by a Justice of the Peace or any other public employee to receive civil benefits from their religious marriage ceremony. It happens automatically when sanctioned.

Tiger said...

Papa, I hadn't checked back on this site in a while. But all I will say is that if you need to ask how, then you are not paying attention or you are being willfully ignorant, or both. SSM advocates are not going to stop with a marriage equality victory, and there will be many unintended negative consequences playing out as a result.

Papa D said...

Tiger, I ask how for a very specific reason:

When I ask, most people can't articulate why - and the ones who can give me something specific generally say things that have no basis in historical precedence. I ask because I truly am interested, but all I get, almost always, is evasion.

I promise I am paying attention, and I am not being willfully ignorant. Please give me an example of how religious freedom will suffer as a result of this ruling.

Anonymous said...

Papa D: I would love to hear any comments from you regarding the recent policy change. I read your posts as if hearing it from a wise grandpa. :)