My friends we are missing the forest for the trees. The gay marriage debate is heated, controversial, and very likely finished. As the culture of our nation has become more progressive morally the social conservatives in our midst have grown older. The majority of our young people, even our conservative young people, have become more libertarian on many so called “social issues”. I can understand the hurt social conservatives must feel to no longer have unanimity in Republican circles on certain issues, but the loss of some of these issues may lead to greater victories down the line. This week the Supreme Court of our nation heard oral arguments about the constitutionality of a California law banning gay marriage. The law was not created by the California legislature but by referendum, direct vote of the people, in California. When Proposition 8 passed, the nation was astonished. California is a liberal bastion and yet the people of California voted to uphold “traditional” marriage. The vote was heralded by social conservatives the nation over, but it opened the door for what could ultimately become something much more dangerous than the downfall of “traditional” marriage, the destruction of religious freedom.
I’m not trying to be overly dramatic with my prose. I believe that the Prop. 8 vote which made gay marriage illegal in California could ultimately bring down our Constitutionally guaranteed First Amendment right to religious freedom. It’s not the fault of Prop. 8 itself… but the fault of people who could not see the forest for the trees. The mood of the nation has swung, likely irrevocably, toward support for gay marriage. No matter the outcome of this case, gay marriage will continue its march forward – nothing short of a 3rd Great Awakening could stall its course. However the outcome of the case could dramatically impact the future of religious liberty in the USA, as well as marking the end of traditional marriage in America.
The problem is not one of recent construction, but one that dates back to the late 1800s. Through most of the last 2000 years marriage was something that only mattered in the context of a religious community, only recently over the last 100+ years have we seen the encroachment of government into the contract. Racism was the impetus for government involvement in marriage, as states began banning interracial marriage. In the early 1900s the rationale for government involvement moved away from racism and toward the development of the welfare state. Marriage licenses were used to figure out who should get what from the government and how much should they get? The marriage license is no longer a useful tool for the welfare state because it’s no longer a good indicator of who may or may not have responsibilities outside themselves.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality it will open the door to a new age of litigation against “traditional marriage” supporters, as homosexual couples engage the community for marriage issues. Churches, Pastors, wedding planners, wedding service providers – all would be open to lawsuit for refusing (hopefully politely) to serve customers for same sex weddings. I’m not overstating this. The best we can hope for at this point is that the Supreme Court merely vacates the appellate court’s ruling and invalidates Prop. 8 and hope that our legislators choose to divorce government from the job of marriage.
It’s time to get the government out of marriage – we shouldn’t be fighting with the government to define what marriage is (the definition of this supernatural union was written by God thousands of years ago). We should be fighting to tell the government they have NO SAY in defining what marriage is. When it comes to gay marriage, my friends, we must see the forest and ignore the trees.