We are a Republic of Laws

Dred Scott, whose famous case to gain his free...
Dred Scott, whose famous case to gain his freedom began as a lawsuit filed in St. Louis in 1846 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There has been much said this past week about the rise in American acceptance of the right for two non-heterosexual people to marry. Polls, my friends, never determines what is right. It should never determine what we value as a society. At one time in our history, it was accepted that we could enslaved Africans. Likewise, it was accepted that women need not vote, own property, and if you were from North Carolina, publicly embarrass her husband. Polls were high for the Iraq War, and ten years later, we see the result of that. Polls are notoriously fickle. So why do we decide anything in our Republic by polls?

Our Republic. It is not a democracy. A democracy decides issues — any issue — by a majority vote. We are a Republic, one founded on laws. It is on the rule of law we have based many of our decisions. Indeed, when the support of slavery was starting to wain, the Supreme Court decided the Dred Scott case. We don’t agree with it, but it was decided on the basis of law. The recent Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Health Care Act was decided on law, and not on what polls where. Our Republic must decide issues based not on polls, emotions, or such subjective things; it must decide certain questions based on law. Laws, as even Lincoln discovered, mean something and should not be circumvented so easily.

One of the hopes we see in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is equal rights. This is our moral charter. This charter supports the notion that one day all people will be equal under the law. This has not always been the case and in several ways now, it still is not the case. But, this is our hope. It is our hope that one day, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, or religion, all people shall be treated fairly under the law. What does this mean? Not that all people are given everything, but that everyone regardless of difference — pronounced, chosen, or hidden — have the same access to rights shared by all — that whatever minority we may create can have the same freedoms the majority enjoys. This view is enshrined in us as a people.

When we examine the issue of gay marriage, we interject into it the matter of religion. I view marriage as a sacrament — it communicates God to us and something of ourselves to God. I do not view it as a political union, although at times it is little more than a contract for property transfer. Religious marriage, then, is one I would rather enjoy seeing abandoned by the State. We do not ask the State to validate our baptisms or to decide who can and who cannot partake at our communion table. Yet, we have allowed for the State to decide marriages between two consenting adults. First, it was between two people of different races. There are two marriages, Herr Luther. The first is civil in which we have some sort of legal contract. The second is the religious sacrament.

There is no Government created under God that can force the change of the religious sacrament. Yet, in the United States — a Republic based on the rule of law — we can define and redefine marriage of the civil variety. To this, then, I must concur with legal authorities, that two consenting homosexual adults regardless of race, creed, color, religion, or sexual orientation must enjoy the same civil rights as two heterosexual adults. If marriage between two consenting adults is extended to one group, it must be extended to another. If we deny rights to one, it must be denied to all. The tyranny of the majority is one democracies love, but Republics eschew. It is time, then, to eschew this discriminatory practice and allow for civil unions to take place between any two consenting adults. While I advocate for protections for religious groups who do not condone homosexuals to marry, just as I would for those who do not support marriages between Catholics and Protestants or the like, I would rather the end of Government sanctioned marriage altogether. This, however, is not likely to happen.

This must not be a religious issue, but one decided by civil rights — by laws. While we can speculate in fear about polygamy, beastiality, and pedophilia, these are little more than strawman arguments. I hope that others will see the Republican virtue of this position, even if they disagree with the divine validity of so-called gay marriage.

Enhanced by Zemanta

You Might Also Like

6 Replies to “We are a Republic of Laws”

  1. Joel, Unless I have misunderstood what you are saying, this has been my position for 10 or 15 years. Under our system of constitutional laws, the government should have none to very limited say as to the manner of sacraments a religious organization should hold and the religions have a prior claim of their definition of the marriage sacrament. Civil contracts are the venue of the government and as you say should be equal for everyone including those professing the sacrament of marriage. Unfortunately those pushing for gay marriage almost universally demand to keep a civil union as marriage and those opposed– well I’m not quite sure yet. I applaud your speaking out on this and just wish the politicians in both camps would start to think rationally rather than in fear. I also believe the churches could use a little rational thought on this subject and maybe come down out of their cloud. They may be giving up the sacrament of marriage to the government.

  2. I might try to do a post in response but just some randon thoughts

    I am tad confused about the terms. Are you advocating for Civil Unions that do not require a sexual component or are you calling for unions where the sexual component is a needed part of the dynamic.

    As to equality one basic function in equal protection analysis to see if unjust discrimination has occured is if the parties are of equal standing. In that case that means a examination of what exactly marriage is.

    In essence we have to decide is marriage a conjugal understanding that we have seen in recorded history or this rather new thing many promote today.

    Second I would be careful of exactly we have religion on one side and the supposed malleable law on the other on this

    The world’s major religious traditions have historically understood marriage as a union of man and woman or as we have seen on some cases a man and women because of the nature of procreation and childrearing

    That I think suggests that no one religion invented marriage but our common human nature have shaped (at times imperfectly) our religious traditions to recognize this natural institution. The state through its law also gets this I would say

    You said:

    “Yet, we have allowed for the State to decide marriages between two consenting adults. First, it was between two people of different races. There are two marriages, Herr Luther. The first is civil in which we have some sort of legal contract. The second is the religious sacrament”

    I think there is again a crucial difference. When we went from a society with slaves to a slave society antimiscegenation laws was about whom was
    allowed to marry not what marriage was essentially about . As to that sex, unlike race, is rationally relevant to the latter question.

    As a general matter most people that argued for bans on interracial marriage did not deny unions could not take place. Just like those that argued for separated drinking fountatin did not base this on the fact that blacks physcially were incapable of drinking from a “white “fountain. I was a matter of keeping white supremecy in place which was largely about economic power.

    Im many ways this is apt to Catholics and Protestants marrying. No one was really denying that a Catholic or Protestant could not give consent not have procreative conjugal relations have children and thus actually marry. They were trying deny for various political and religious reasons for a marriage for the same reason that racists wanted to prevent black and whites from marrying. That is these couplings would produce offspring that would produce more blood alliances that would be a threat to the established order. This is all centered around the procreative functions and realties of “real marriage”.

    Again there is a lot more to say including the discussion if talking polygamy is really a “straw man ” argument. Also there are very legitimate reason why the state is so into marriage and why its important

    Anyway just random thoughts.

    1. Civil unions are what is granted by all governments to two consenting (heterosexual only for many governments). We call them marriages because this is the language we have incorporated from the Church. This is the same as suggesting an authoritative book on any subject is the bible.

      What I would rather see is the completely abandonment by the Government of control of marriage.

      Equal standing should not be the sole factor in determining discrimination. As a matter of fact, it was because African Americans at one time and women at another did not have equal standing that they were considered discriminated against. It is the refusal to allow equal standing that causes discrimination.

      Marriage has never been identified as one thing. I would be careful in drawing such a black and white picture of it.

      We have gone from a different level of societies – from theocracy to non, from feudal to monarch to others, and the like. This is about the progress of society and as we have progressed in our understanding not least of the nature of human rights, it is time to reconsider what rights are natural to the person. We have come from a society that believes women are second class, that homosexuals should be killed, and the like.

      You define marriage as only procreative in nature. Not many Catholics and most Protestants would agree with you. This is the point. What is marriage? In certain religions, it is one thing while in civil society, it may be another. If the point of marriage is only children, then we should ban marriages involving infertile people. But, marriages aren’t just about procreative acts. Neither is sex.

      The State must concern itself with the securing of individual rights and liberties, not about protecting one view above another. In this case, the sacrament of marriage is not to be preferred by the State against the idea of two people choosing to devote themselves to one another in a committed relationship.

      Again, I would rather all such unions find themselves out of the rule of the State.

  3. it is not a straw man to suggest that the basis of marriage has been removed, and that now any union may be called a marriage, regardless of relationship, regardless of the number of individuals (why do you persist in stating’ two?’ on what basis must there be only two?). you have removed any foundation from the term ‘marriage,’ what reason would there be for limiting it in any way? whomever says they want to be married, will now have the blessing of the government; there is no basis for anything otherwise.

    1. Um, no. While I realize this is an emotional issue for you, you have no basis for your assumptions or facts.

      The point I’ve tried to make is that the government needs not to give a blessing whatsoever. This is why governments should get out of the business of marriage and instead recognize civil unions.

      Oh, and I noticed you skipped over the part where Christian teaching is used and has been used to authorize all sorts of evil. Thanks.

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.