In the current debate about “gay marriage”, much has been said about morality. Opponents of “gay marriage” claim the moral high ground largely for religious reasons, as the Bible clearly lays out that God has labeled homosexuality as a sin. But what about those who don’t believe in God, or who couldn’t care less about what the Bible says about ANYTHING, much less homosexuality? Are their opinions any less valuable than those they disagree with? Are their rights any less worthy of protection?
On the other hand, proponents of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples also often claim to be acting in accordance with morality, as they seek to stop the discriminatory practice of denying homosexuals the “right” to marry each other. Individuals having their rights denied is indeed an important issue – an issue of fairness, equality, and yes, even morality. But what about history, and traditions, and the very definition of marriage? What about the fact that marriage has never before – in the history of mankind – ever included the union of two people of the same sex?
I’ve heard arguments based on God’s view of homosexuality as an unnatural abomination…countered by talk about “separation of church and state” dictating that government not impose policies based upon particular religious beliefs…countered in turn by questions about whether those who support redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would also support it including polygamy, incest, or bestiality (and if you think those are any more “immoral” than homosexuality and thus less deserving of legal recognition, try telling that to the supporters of those arrangements, who view them as no less moral than any other lifestyles).
What many opponents of “gay marriage” don’t seem to get is that morality is subjective – each person defines it differently, based upon their own core beliefs (or lack thereof). You can try to persuade people to agree with your definition of morality, but you can’t force them to.
And what many “gay marriage” supporters don’t seem to get is that marriage is not a RIGHT, but rather an INSTITUTION – a “fundamental pillar of society”, as Dr. Ben Carson recently described it. And the institution of marriage doesn’t draw its definition from Merriam-Webster, but it comes from its natural evolution based upon the natural, physical differences between men and women, and the fact that one of each is needed to bring forth children. The dictionary simply lists for us the word chosen to represent this ancient institution (this is why I choose to always refer to “gay marriage” in quotation marks, so as to not allow the definition to be misappropriated).
So, where do we go from here? Who is right, and who is wrong? Whose morality trumps whose? Is there any common ground? Is there any overarching authority that both sides are subject to, regardless of their own personal versions of morality?
There is indeed. There is one constant – one thing to which we are all subject, and which every elected official takes a sworn oath to uphold and defend – the Constitution of the United States. And do you know what the purpose of the Constitution is? Ask any elected official, and I’ll bet that the vast majority of them will get it wrong.
The purpose of the Constitution is to LIMIT the federal government, in favor of individual liberty. In order to guarantee our most basic rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as laid out in the Declaration of Independence – our founders devised a system in which the government was limited, as government itself is always the most pressing danger to freedom. The Constitution lists several enumerated powers for the federal government – duties which the government is REQUIRED to do, and the only things it is ALLOWED to do. No more, no less.
Yes, our system of government is based upon a certain morality, but it is fundamentally one of support for individual liberty. Each person’s freedom is only limited by the boundaries of the freedom of others. As far as the government is SUPPOSED to be concerned, the only problem exists when the exercise of your freedom infringes upon the ability of others to exercise theirs.
Contrary to the beliefs of some, the job of government is not to “preserve” traditions and institutions that have made America great, not even one as fundamentally important as marriage. The job of government is to remove obstacles to individual liberty (with government itself being the largest obstacle of all).
This means that government does NOT get to make judgment calls on what is “fair” or get to side with one group’s definition of morality over another. It simply means that government is to stick to those VERY FEW duties with which it is tasked – basically to protect us from force and fraud – and otherwise stay out of our lives.
These strict limitations on government mean that it has no constitutional authority whatsoever to redefine a “fundamental pillar of society” such as marriage. But they also mean that it is not to pass laws to further bestow any special treatment upon marriage either.
People talk constantly about the tax benefits of being married; indeed, many of the arguments in favor of “gay marriage” center on that very issue. However, just like focusing on the national debt/deficit, this argument blows right on by the more fundamental issue of what government spends tax dollars ON.
It is a fact that most of what the federal government does is beyond its constitutional powers. Fix THAT problem – and force the government to not only live within its MEANS, but within its LIMITS – and you will go a long way toward fixing any resultant issues of the federal government taxing unequally, or granting rights, or making up new ones altogether, or redefining institutions, or imposing any strain of morality over any others.
The Constitution takes the guesswork out of it…there’s no need to argue morality/fairness/equality from either side of the issue, at least not on the federal level (of course, the states have much more leeway in this regard; but if they impose bad policies, citizens retain the right to relocate). Instead, we simply need to focus on how our founders set up a system for us based solely on limiting government. And within that system, they made sure to include mechanisms for amending the Constitution, if it was later decided that it needed to be changed.
In the meantime, short of that amendment process, the federal government is simply not allowed to do anything that the Constitution doesn’t specifically task it to do. And short of a situation in which a majority of the people vote for government to do things it’s not constitutionally required to do, the federal government is simply not allowed to overrule the will of the people. But as it stands now, we’ve grown used to the judiciary giving the government new powers, with no constitutional basis, that increase its level of control over all of our lives.
In the case of “gay marriage”, morality is irrelevant…it has already been taken care of by the limits placed upon the federal government – ALL three branches – by the Constitution. If anyone has a problem with the Constitution, there is a process in place to change it. But until then, the purpose of the Constitution is DEFINED (there’s that word again!) as being to limit the federal government in favor of individual liberty…not to impose new ideas upon us, regardless of their “morality”.
— first written on 02 April 2013