In a news conference today, a reporter asked President Obama about whether he supported same-sex marriage. He said that DOMA (the federal Defense of Marriage Act) and similar State laws that protect marriage as between a man and a woman were unconstitutional. And then he said that New York’s law that permits same-sex marriages is constitutional.
With all due respect, Mr. President, you can’t have it both ways! Either individual sovereign states do have the right to pass laws about marriage or they don’t. This is a prime example of twisting constitutionality to support your point of view.
The discussion about whether to recognize same-sex marriages legally often overlooks something. It is reasonable not to discriminate against those who believe differently from you – even about marriage. But “non-discrimination” in marriage crosses lines that it should not cross.
What lines does same-sex marriage cross?
Many who support DOMA laws also believe that same-sex couples have the right to live their lives as they see fit. Also, that employers have the right to extend spousal benefits to same-sex couples if they see fit. And that all couples, including same-sex couples, have the right to grant a legal power to someone to make health decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated. And that same-sex couples have the right to draw up their own wills and leave their assets to whomever they wish.
Supporting DOMA laws does not mean supporting life-style discrimination This is a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment begins:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Under the First Amendment, laws that interfere with one’s free exercise of religion are unconstitutional. That is exactly what New York did by passing a same-sex marriage law. When any government, State or federal, dictates what churches must recognize, it violates our First Amendment rights and our freedom of conscience.
Savvy New Yorkers have sued their State to get it out of the RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) Compact. Maybe some New Yorker will sue to test whether this law really is constitutional.
What is really at stake here?
Whether same-sex couples can enjoy civil unions is not in dispute. The real dispute is over the word marriage. Marriage is a religious institution. This is why clergy members may do legally binding marriage ceremonies. Government recognizes that marriage is a religious ceremony that ends with the issuing of a legally binding marriage license. Clergy members may also annul marriages. But they may not issue driver’s licenses, or fishing licenses, or any other type of government license, nor revoke any such license.
The same-sex marriage issue has less to do with discrimination than with free exercise of religion. Shall government infringe upon our First Amendment rights to practice our religion as we see fit without government interference? Same sex couples and their advocates may argue that those opposed to same-sex marriage are imposing their religious beliefs on society. The exact opposite is true. These advocates for same-sex marriage impose their belief system on others. In the process, they violate the First Amendment rights of their opponents.
President Obama may argue that DOMA laws are unconstitutional. But one must ask – as we have asked many times – what Constitution is he talking about?
Featured image: the Constitution of the United States. Photo: National Archives