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Two Essays on Politics and Freedom in America

Expository essays in literature, politics, philosophy, and science issues allow space for affirming one's stance on issues, old and new.

Introduction

The two essays offered here focus on two slightly different aspects of the natural rights of citizens of a nation that is guided by founding documents, which claim that all members of humankind are born with natural rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The first essay, "The First Amendment and Same-Sex Lifestyles," addresses the issue of the first amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which guarantees American citizens the right to follow their own religious convictions and also guarantees the right to free speech. While each right may sound obvious and reasonable, there are always those citizens who would abrogate the free exercise of religion and speech of their fellows. Court cases fill up the jurisdictional dockets year in and year out, in the attempt to settle the issue of religious exercise and free speech vs the desire to foist on others the private proclivities of protected classes. The likelihood of permanently settling such issues remains quite bleak. But the attempt to settle them must and will continue as thinkers continue to speculate about the issue.

The second essay, "Marriage and Government," examines the issue of governmental intrusion into areas of life where it clearly has no appropriate legal function. The conclusion then is that the issue of "same sex marriage" would never have become an issue if the government had not interfered with marriage in the first place. Marriage is a private affair, and at every stage of its existence, it should remain private between the parties involved and their spiritual faith. Marriage is a sacrament; thus, it should remain in the purview of religion/spirituality not under government/legal control.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court

Essay 1: The First Amendment and Same-Sex Lifestyles

Is there a way for speech and religious freedom and the same-sex life style to share a harmonious co-existence? I suggest that there is. The Golden Rule is involved.

Pastries, Pretty Posies, and Pictures

Wedding cake bakers, florists, and photographers who do not wish to employ their art in celebration of a same-sex wedding because of their religious tenets have every right to make that exclusionary decision without government inference and without societal harassment.

Self-Realization Fellowship's "Perspective on Marriage and Same-Sex Unions," offers a statement that is relevant to the current clash between the religious freedom of artists and those same-sex couples who seek to marry, particularly this excerpt:

SRF ministers perform only the wedding ceremony originated by our founder, which is specifically for the union of a man and a woman. However, there is no requirement that SRF members who wish to marry do so in an SRF ceremony. (my emphasis)

Just as there is "no requirement that SRF members who wish to marry do so in an SRF ceremony," there is no requirement that same-sex individuals who wish to marry engage any particular cake baker, florist, or photographer. Instead the same-sex couple is free to choose any cake baker, florist, or photographer who is open to performing that service for them.

Yet zealots, seeking to punish the religious for simply practicing their faith, are attempting to abrogate constitutional protections of the basic human rights of religion and free speech. Those zealots are claiming freedom for themselves but not for others with whom they disagree.

The case of cake baker/artist, Jack Phillips, demonstrates the harassment of a religious man by the zealots who wish to destroy him simply because of his religious beliefs. In 2012, the Colorado cake artist refused to bake a wedding cake celebrating the union of a gay couple. He was taken to court—all the way to the Supreme Court—which found in his favor, but whose indecisive ruling left open the possibility that such cases would continue, and now Jack is the target of another lawsuit. Clearly, the issue is not illegal discrimination against a protected class but an attempt to quash religious freedom.

Cake artists are not the only group targeted by litigious zealots using same-sex union to further their social justice goals. In 2013, florist, Barronelle Stutzman, of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, found herself the target of a lawsuit filed by her two long-time customers, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. This case remains ongoing after having reached the U.S. Supreme Court once and being sent back to the Washington State Supreme Court.

In 2019, Louisville photographer, Chelsey Nelson, filed a pre-emptive lawsuit—Nelson has yet to become the victim of a lawsuit seeking to force her services to a gay marriage—against the city’s Fairness Ordinance, claiming that being forced to service a gay wedding would violate her free speech rights. The U.S. Department of Justice agreed. According to Eric Dreiband, an assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division,

The First Amendment forbids the government from forcing someone to speak in a manner that violates individual conscience. The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to protect the right of all persons to exercise their constitutional right to speech and expression.

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The Supreme Court with a decisive ruling that the rights delineated in the U.S. Constitution are applicable to everyone, not just a protected class, would help to stem this rising tide of societal misconduct being directed at the religious and at those who wish to engage their right to free speech.

A Daunting Societal Task

The personal choices of artists based on religious views or issues of free speech do not prevent same-sex couples from celebrating their weddings as they so choose. Society can remain harmonious, however, if both sides, the artists and the same-sex partners, respect each other's decisions. There are artists, who will happily perform the desired service for same-sex partners; therefore, there can be no complaint that the same-sex wedding cannot benefit from such artistic service.

It is furthermore incumbent upon the religion-influenced artists to continue to demonstrate that they respect the rights of the same-sex partners and individuals by continuing to sell their other goods to them. And in all the cases thus far elucidated, the artists gladly sell their products to same sex individuals. Both Phillips and Stutzman gladly sell their cakes and flowers to gay people, and Nelson states, "Of course, I serve everyone regardless of who they are. I just don’t photograph every wedding requested of me."

A wider issue comes into play when social engineers via government intrusion attempt to quash religious freedom in order to accommodate same-sex individuals: the attempt to bring the acts of same sex into the realm of valid, moral behavior. Only time can perform that daunting task. If emphasis on sexual orientation is eventually proven to benefit society as a whole, it will become part of the cultural tradition and no longer require debate about the issue.

Apart from the pandering done by the political class to assure a voting block, most members of society want to accept all of its members into a law-abiding, peaceful culture. Most religious people know in their hearts that loving their neighbor as they love themselves includes loving and respecting all who may not think and act as they do, including the same-sexed, bisexual, pansexual, queer, as well as the transgendered and the myriad other groups that exist or may, in future, come into existence, whether based on sexuality or some other human feature.

Sweet Freedom and at the Golden Rule

While freedom of speech and freedom of religion are basic rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, new ways of squelching the rights of others continue to be fomented as long as people of ill-will continue to press their animosity.

Humanity consists of individuals who have a penchant for coming up with new ways to stand out from the herd, or to express a deep-rooted, even if novel, urges. With the exception of sheer criminality—lying, stealing, murdering—that impinges on the lives of others, those urges need to be respected and made a part of society in the most balanced and harmonious fashion possible.

However, government mandates that seek to divine the thoughts of individuals for the purpose of punishment or censorship are not permissible according the Constitution. American society has no place and no tolerance for a thought police. The idea that a business owner can lose his business because a government official thinks he knows what the business owner is thinking is unconscionable.

The only way to assure equanimity is through adherence to the Golden Rule: the same-sexed do not want to be shamed and/or mandated against by law for their orientation, and the religious do not want to be shamed and/or mandated against by law into violating the tenets of their belief system. This same desire holds for those who wish to engage in free—not forced—speech.

If the government can compel an artist to make statements with which the artist disagrees for reasons of religion or speech, then freedom of religion and speech no longer remain American values.

Sources

Essay 2: Marriage and Government

Marriage should retain a private, unregulated status between the individuals involved—no government federal or state has any business controlling marital status.

Controlling Marriage

Although it currently does so, the United States government does not have the authority to exercise power to control marriage. The U. S. Constitution takes no position on marriage. Each state has its own requirements for obtaining a marriage license, which citizens must acquire in order to become legally married. For example, in Indiana couple of first cousins can marry—but only after each is 65 years of age or older. In Illinois, those first cousins can marry, if they are only 50 years old. In Tennessee, first cousins 18 or older can obtain a marriage license and marry.

Until June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the decision that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right in all states, a struggle for same-sex marriage legality state by state continued take up time and resources. At the time that the Supreme Court handed down its decision, roughly 33 states still retained a ban on same-sex marriage. Thus, an issue that should have never been on the table had been wasting the time and resources of government officials for many decades.

Having gone from the legislative branches of governments state and federal to the supreme judicial branch, the issue of same-sex marriage remained a focus of attention, distracting lawmakers and court officials from attending to business for which they were originally elected and intended. Constitutionally, the fact of the matter is that marriage should never have become a purview of state: marriage is a private issue involving only the marriage partners and their religious faith, and the state has no business wielding power over it.

Get Government Out of Marriage

No government, at any level, has the authority to exercise power to control marriage. The United States Constitution takes no position on marriage. Therefore, any Federal law on marriage is, in fact, unconstitutional, for example, the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.

Each state also has its own Constitution, and as there are variations in requirements for a marriage license, there are variations from state to state regarding a whole plethora of legal issues, but the U. S. Constitution takes no position on marriage, and neither did state constitutions. Nevertheless, since 1970, various issues regarding same-sex marital status have arisen with varying responses until in 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

Simplify the Marriage Process

Individuals desiring to marry are required to appear together in person before their local county clerk to fill out the paperwork for a license, which is then issued by the state after a short waiting period that again varies from state to state, possibly even county by county.

Marriage governance could be greatly simplified. People who wish to marry should be allowed to do so without any government oversight whatsoever. In effect, they would do what currently many individuals do, simply move into a residence together and get on with their lives.

Categories of Marriage

If, however, no legal oversight seems too radically simple for the body politic, the state could allow the marriage-seeking individuals to simply register their relationship with the county clerk; it might also be acceptable to establish several categories of relationships: traditional marriage, domestic partnership, mutual financial partnership, civil relationship, each with certain contractual agreements—offering enough paperwork to keep bureaucrats busy.

What would not be acceptable is limiting any individuals because of race, religion, sex, gender, nationality, age, number of partners, status of health, or any personal trait that might be seized upon to serve as a basis for denial of the individuals seeking the status of marriage.

And all categories would qualify as marriage, that is, the same full benefits that now belong to a traditionally married couple would be available to any individuals coming before the clerk to seek the marriage status.

Eliminate Government Red Tape and the Same-Sex Battle

Such an arrangement would eliminate much government red tape and at the same time eliminate what is likely to remain a battle over same-sex marriage. Just as the government has no authority to deny same-sex couples the opportunity to marry, it has no constitutional authority to control any citizens’ choices in marriage.

Equal freedom for all citizens should always be the goal of a democratic republic. Marriage is a relationship that can be controlled and managed only by the individuals involved, not by a bureaucratic hierarchy of government. As Thomas Jefferson averred, "That government is best which governs least."

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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