Several months ago, I wrote about the freedom of association that gays use as the fundamental freedom that should allow them to marry also applying to the right of private organizations and individuals to discriminate against those they choose. Recent events necessitate further thought into these matters, particularly as it pertains to the relationship between romantic association and religious expression.
The right to discriminate: rehashed
Human beings discriminate on a daily basis. Among the various discriminations we make are these: we choose our friends, we choose whom we work for, we choose what churches we go to, we choose the businesses we patronize, we choose the neighborhoods we live in, and we choose whom we marry. Why is it that once you turn from customer to business owner, people suddenly become okay with the restrictions placed on these choices by the Civil Rights Act and the overturning of voter-supported initiatives by a couple of regional court justices?
By no means am I saying that we should return to a pre-Civil War system of segregation. Neither am I saying that any protected class doesn’t deserve to be shown the decency and respect that all human beings deserve. What I am saying is that a right applies to all parties involved and does not set any above the other. Private parties have the right to associate with whom they choose on whatever basis they choose, government has no right to force or deny those choices.
Rights do not discriminate; freedom is universal
I would like to echo some of the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech:
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline…Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the [gay] community must not lead us to distrust all [homosexual] people, for many of our [homosexual brethren]…have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
I share these slightly modified words in order to emphasize a few important points. The first is that too often, our passion for whatever ideals we might hold blind and deafen us to any positions beyond our own. I know that I have not always addressed this issue with the calmness and levelheadedness I would call for in this text. However, it is something that I continually turn over in my mind and try to examine from different angles. As new information comes in, I reshape my view. In this way, a view is never stagnant, but continually evolves. However, either information supports the current view, modifies it, or it can completely destroy it and cause the need for reevaluation.
I have hoped that while one’s freedom becomes more fully realized, it does not come at the expense of another’s freedom. In an era of progressive gay rights, we seem to be witnessing a transformation or annihilate of religious rights.
A juxtaposition between religious and sexual liberty
A person’s religious view is amongst the fundamental characteristics that contribute to a person’s identity. Religious views guide moral views. These views shape choices and attitudes like few other elements of a person’s life. Thus, they are guarded carefully. One of the quickest ways to either draw closer to or separate from another person is to find out their theology. Religion is glue that has bound societies together for millennia, and still does today in many ways.
Likewise, a person’s sexual identity is another fundamental characteristic of any individual. Like religion, it guides many choices throughout their life. Whether a person is sexually liberal or conservative will determine how a person approaches his/her romantic relationships. Romantic relationships are one of the most fundamental needs a human being has. The needs to feel wanted, valued, and loved are almost as vital to human survival as the needs to eat and breathe.
The rights to religious expression and sexual identity are butting heads as religious theology is being forced by society to hold reverence for that which it had previously deemed immoral. While God is supposedly one of love, is he not also one of order? Is the god that commanded Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth able to condone relationships that have no means of fulfilling this first commandment given to Adam in the Garden of Eden?
Why marry at all?
I know there is more to a romantic relationship that the ability to produce offspring. Sure homosexuals will never be able to fulfill this fundamental role; but there are also numerous homosexual couples who are unable to conceive. Does that decrease their value in the sight of a loving God? Of course not! To think otherwise is just illogical and stupid.
If you consider the success rate of marriage just in the United States lasting until ‘death do us part,’ I know I have certainly wondered at times why anybody would want to get married. If it’s true that 40-50 percent of marriages end in divorce, then what is the point of marrying at all? Considering the falling rates of marriage, I know I’m not alone in asking this question; but I’d still like to take a stab at posing an answer.
I think the reason people want to get married is not just to bear and raise children, but to have someone with whom they can share their life. A marriage is about trust and commitment. It’s about two people coming together and sharing themselves and their lives with whomever they choose. To witness marriages that do this successfully is one of the most beautiful things that can be found in a sometimes very ugly world.
No marriage is perfect. Every relationship has it’s moments of hurt, worry, anxiety, depression, and even rejection. However, the marriages that last find ways to overcome those moments. They negotiate the difficult times and find reservoirs of love and devotion that carry them through the storms of life to the distant shores beyond the horizon. Those are the marriages that hold the greatest value.
If you can have that kind of partnership with someone who shares your gender, you shouldn’t be deprived of the opportunity to have it. Let us work things out the best we can with what we are given in this life and let whatever power lies beyond figure out the rest.
If this kind of attitude and tolerance for their choice of life partner is sought by those that seek it, remember also that you should allow others the right to hold their religious beliefs as they see fit. Don’t demand that the government intervene in our affairs more than you want any God to interfere in yours by demanding that all faiths cater to your personal theology and sexual identity.
Homosexuality is waging a war on religious freedom
I have encountered those that say, “Let the gays marry. They have no desire to infringe on your religious expression.” Certain events draw sharp criticism on this assertion. Just in the last few weeks, government is dictating religious practice in the case of the city of Houston, Texas by demanding that certain pro-religious freedom ministers turn over their sermons to the city. In addition, the government of Idaho is demanding that pastors perform marriages for gay couples or face jail time.
These events add to others where a cake maker chose to close his shop rather than provide a wedding cake for a gay couple, a photographer who did not wish to participate in a gay wedding, and a couple has been heavily fined because they did not wish to hold gay weddings on their private property. All of these have had judgments ruling in favor of the homosexual couples who took it upon themselves to be offended rather than seeking out the myriad of other professionals who would offer the services they desired.
In each of these cases, the plaintiffs asserted their religious right not to participate in events that violated their theology. Nobody should have to participate in any practice that defies his or her religious conscience. In addition, these individuals find that their right first amendment right to freedom of expression is violated. In each of these cases, the judges ruled against them and told them that they must violate their religious views or face heavy fines. Such rulings are oppressive and well beyond the scope of the constitution.
At its core, there is the fundamental human right of association. People should have the right to choose or not to choose to associate with any other individual on any basis they deem appropriate. Utilizing governmental force to achieve an opposite end is denying a human being of a fundamental right.
To deny that homosexuals are setting up a horrible double standard is to reject the reality that homosexual rights are trumping religious rights. Homosexuals spit on the right of association when they demand freedom of association for themselves while withholding the same right from others.
This double standard is hypocrisy at its finest!