As we have expanded our societal tolerance for sexual behavior in recent years, the ongoing debate over same-sex "marriage" has actually started to bring about some agreement from both sides of the aisle. Agreement by same-sex "marriage" proponents and foes? Yes, you heard me right. And this agreement is worth exploring…since it will likely shape the same-sex "marriage" debate in Vermont and nationally for the next several years.
No, it's not agreement on same-sex "marriage" itself. The agreement is that a serious conflict exists between same-sex "marriage" and religious liberty. On this point, there is no debate, except among the uninformed. Even same-sex "marriage" advocate, and Georgetown law professor Chai Feldblum understands this principle, if you read her Web site and writings. The question then becomes, "What do we do about it?"
Well, in the United States of America, you should be entitled to have both your beliefs and your livelihood. As stated very eloquently by Cardinal George Pell, "Having the freedom to search for answers to questions of meaning and value, and to live publicly and privately in accordance with our answers is an essential part of human fulfillment and happiness, and gives rise to other important freedoms such as the rights to freedom of expression, thought, and conscience." Not many Americans would disagree with this fundamental principle of our society, and one's opinion of another's moral outlook should not dictate whether one is entitled to the pursuit of happiness (and a career) in the ways guaranteed to each of us by the Founding Fathers.
Unfortunately, the advocates of same-sex "marriage" are working diligently to impose their religion upon everyone else, and all in the name of "tolerance" and "sexual liberty" (but with a very myopic view of "tolerance"). Case after case demonstrates this fact. Americans should be entitled to be both a Christian and a photographer (Willock v. Elane Photography), or be both a Jew and a landlord (Levin v. Yeshiva University), or be both a butcher and a passionate member of PETA.
Now, before you stop reading because you think you're not "religious," let me assure you that everyone is. That is, everyone has a set of values or beliefs by which we order our thoughts, values, and lives. Some of us follow a Judeo-Christian ethic, while others follow one grounded in purely secular principles. However, whatever the source of your religion, you're entitled to hold those beliefs and order your life accordingly. And whether you support or oppose same-sex "marriage" is beside the point. Either way, you should unequivocally support the right of all Americans to disagree if they choose to disagree. This means that you should be able to disagree in spirit, word, and deed. And even if you're not passionate about the same-sex "marriage" debate in and of itself, you should care about how this conflict is handled because the next great social debate could surround something about which you do care. If freedoms for all aren't upheld in this battle, the legal precedents that flow might affect you next.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You can't expand leg room on airplanes without affecting how many chairs will fit and how expensive each chair will be. You can't raise gas prices without affecting how many folks will curtail their driving. Consequently, you cannot vastly expand the horizon of sexual liberties of a people without having a dramatic effect on the religious liberties of that very same population. This dynamic begs our original question — "What do we do about it?" The answer is simple. We protect everyone.
Americans are arguably the most tolerant and fair-minded people in the world. Nonetheless, on Wednesday morning, Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson told the New Hampshire Senate that it is discriminatory to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. If such a definition of marriage, as they claim, is discriminatory, then it is no surprise that multiple cases continually arise where those who believe in marriage are being asked to face legal punishments and consequences for their beliefs.
If we don't all soon stand up together on our rights to think, speak, act, and believe as we choose, the deeply-held beliefs, truths, customs, and practices of each and every one of us may soon be at risk.
Austin R. Nimocks is senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (telladf.org), a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage and the family.MORE IN Food & Dining
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