Thursday, June 30, 2011
Many consider the English language to be a laboratory where experimental terms may be tried out for public use. The word ‘gay’, for example has been removed from its classic meaning of “Showing or characterized by cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement; merry. Bright or lively, especially in color: a gay, sunny room. Given to social pleasures.”
Now the word only refers to a man who can only be emotionally attracted or sexually attracted to other men. The classic term used to be sodomite. For women who suffer under their own version of that syndrome, the term is far older, lesbian.
There are many who believe that being attracted to members of one’s own sex can be traced back as far as the dawn of time. The debate over whether or not this is a good this has been going on for just about as long. This article, however, is not about the morality of that issue. It is about what is legal, and it is about what the constitution says about homosexual marriage where the law is concerned.
To begin with, let’s look at the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America,
”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The first clause, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, has an incredible amount to say about what the homosexual community wants to be made law in this country, to be given the same legal status as a church-married man and woman.
Based on the text and the context of the clause, the federal government is prohibited from making a law that forces any church to violate their practices, as long as those practices cause no harm to anyone. Obviously a church that insists on human sacrifice as a sacrament would be outside of those protections. States, because of this amendment’s relation to the 10th, are also prohibited from making such a law. To put it simply, any church is completely has the constitutional right to refuse to marry a homosexual couple. However, they also have the right to perform said ceremony if they choose to do so. As stated above, Congress does not have the constitutional power to make a law telling churches what they can and cannot do.
States, on the other hand, where civil ceremony is concerned, because of the 10th Amendment have the right to codify homosexual marriage or not. That amendment, ratified on December 15, 1791, states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” For a list of the powers delegated to Congress, check out this link. A careful read will indicate that marriage ceremonies of any type are not something the framers of the Constitution considered of paramount importance.
The issue is polarizing, at best. On one hand some consider even the thought of two people of the same sex being given a marriage license the paramount evil, while others believe it to be a life and death issue. Frankly, as far as our Constitution is concerned, it isn’t worth the time of day.
For those of you on either side of this issue currently grinding your teeth in outrage, get over it and think critically for a second. Remember, this discussion is dealing with the legality of the issue, not the morality. What does it matter if one state choses to recognize the legal union of two men or two women? Does that recognition cheapen a marriage performed in any number of churches, Christian or non-Christian, and if so, how? To move outside of topic for a moment, if my neighbors consist of a homosexual couple and the state I live in happens to legalize homosexual marriage, is my heterosexual marriage of close to 40 years suddenly no longer valid in God’s eyes? I cannot see how. There is a difference between what is personal and what is public.
What it comes down to is this; there is a clear separation of powers in our Constitution. There are things the Congress can do and there are things the States can do. Even more importantly there are things the people can do, and the way our founding documents read, the last has more power than the first two. Where homosexual marriage is concerned, it is up to the people, and if you happen to believe that such a marriage is against your spiritual code and your church decides to recognize homosexual unions, you have a right to leave. This also goes for states. On the other hand, if a state or church choses to not recognize said unions, they have that right and all the rainbow marches and name-calling in the world cannot force them to do so. There is a way to do things and that way is laid out in our law.
Those church groups who are attempting to force Congress to outlaw homosexual marriage are just as wrong as those who are attempting the reverse. Our constitution, as has been shown, has wisely left such decisions to the people and to individual states. It would be good to see the same wisdom and maturity shown in the current debate.