Nobody has a license to limit liberty
One reason Americans have moved so rapidly toward support of same-sex marriage is their stubborn bias toward liberty. When interest groups demand something material, or when they seek to take something from other groups, the public is apt to resist.
But when a group asks to live and let live, it can usually count on getting its way.
Legal scholars have long thought that if the Supreme Court upheld same-sex marriage, it would base that decision on the 14th Amendment's guarantee of “the equal protection of the laws.” When Justice Anthony Kennedy made the case for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, though, he relied on a different provision. DOMA, he wrote, “is a deprivation of an essential part of the liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
Even Americans who have moral qualms about gay marriage may not think the law should try to dictate morality.
So how did staunch opponents of gay rights react to the decisions striking down DOMA while upholding marriage equality in California? By claiming that it would trample on their rights.
Thomas Peters, the communications director for the National Organization for Marriage, told me, “Same-sex marriage and religious freedom don't coexist very well. In fact, they probably are mutually exclusive.”
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association called the DOMA verdict “the greatest threat to the First Amendment in history.” The Liberty Institute said the rulings will mean “attempts to use government to punish those who disagree” and “create a climate of fear and oppression.”
It's a bit rich for these groups to complain that the court is infringing on their freedom to infringe on the freedom of gays. Advocates of same-sex marriage are not trying to exclude heterosexuals from matrimony. They are only asking to be free to practice it, as well.
But opponents charge that churches will be forced to host same-sex weddings and their clergy will be required to perform them. Churches that refuse, they say, may be stripped of their tax-exempt status.
The likelihood that any of these fears will come to pass ranges from minimal to zero. State laws allow divorce, but Catholic priests haven't been forced to preside at the weddings of divorced Catholics. Nor have such internal church polices led to the loss of standard tax exemptions.
The only real friction comes in areas where religious institutions provide public accommodations or act as agents of government. A Methodist organization in New Jersey lost a special tax break for an open-air pavilion after it refused to let a lesbian couple use it for a civil union ceremony. Catholic Charities abandoned the adoption business in Illinois rather than work with same-sex couples in civil unions.
The idea that believers will suffer rank oppression is a fantasy.
The only liberty they will lose is the liberty to deprive others of their liberty. Sorry, but that's one freedom a free society doesn't offer.
Steve Chapman blogs daily at newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/steve_chapman.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bodies of Kochu, Gray found in Ohio River in West Virginia
- Penguins’ protracted slump continues with 5-2 loss at Carolina
- Penguins notebook: Staal insists he never asked for trade to Penguins
- New Ken man ‘holed up’ in house
- Police arrest 4 in Pitcairn drug investigation
- Pension-letter ire I
- Death wishes & Obama’s hope
- What’s gone wrong with Democracy?
- Voter ID: A case reaffirmed
- Pirates notebook: Worley bounces back after rough start
- Pension-letter ire II