Gay marriage, public opinion and the courts

Does the Supreme Court operate on public opinion or an honest interpretation of the Constitution?Gay marriage, and homosexuality in general, has been a very sensitive issue in recent years. This has become all the more apparent with California’s Proposition 8, which is heading to the Supreme Court this month.

Understanding the severity of the issue, I approach this with the utmost caution — perhaps more caution than any opinion piece I have ever penned before. I will not bring more vitriol, more condemnations or more indignation to the table of discussion. We’ve all had enough of that. Instead, I bring the many hours and days I’ve spent contemplating the political and moral implications of gay marriage.

Before I say another word, I want to be completely transparent with my readers. Belief is one of my top strengths; truth and morality are very important to me. As a follower of Christ, seeking to follow his understanding rather than my own, I must categorically reject any attempts to undermine the simple truth that homosexual relationships are anything but sinful.

I believe they are no more or no less sinful than my own many transgressions, but I believe they are sinful nonetheless. It would be a disservice for me to say anything less. Sins we don’t let go become chains, burdening our ability to live in fellowship with one another and with he who created us.That being said, let’s move on to Proposition 8 and its political implications.

Despite my moral feelings on the subject, you may be surprised to discover I support the legalization of gay marriage or at least a full legal equivalent (this excepts cases where where people or organizations are forced to act against their religious beliefs to provide benefits or services to gay couples). It shouldn’t be that surprising.

I also believe that extramarital sex and divorce are sinful, but few would expect me to advocate outlawing these. Why is this so?

Living in relationship with our savior and letting him liberate us from sin is a personal choice. Were the choice of Christian living mandated, it would make the choices involved meaningless. I have communicated with gay men and lesbian women who acknowledge their innate desires would lead them into sin and have chosen to stand against them.

If homosexual behavior were outlawed, we would no longer fully recognize and appreciate the sacrifice these courageous men and women are making for their faith. The same applies to any strict Christian morals.

Again, dodging what is probably expected of me, I must again make a turn and say I do not support the legalization of gay marriage via a Supreme Court decision. Am I contradicting myself? Not at all.

As a political science minor, I argue that the Supreme Court has no business defining a social contract such as marriage. That is solely the power of the legislature. The court doing so would represent legislating from the bench and a dangerous breach of the separation of powers our Founding Fathers so wisely instituted at our nation’s birth.

But what about interracial marriage? Wasn’t that legislating from the bench as well? Again, I say no. To explain, I turn to history.

The idea of people marrying members of other races was not even remotely new when the Supreme Court considered it 1967. When Europeans began exploring the Americas, there were countless examples of explorers intermarrying with native Americans. In one such case, Pocahontas married Englishman John Rolfe, went to England with him, and was well received by the people there.

Interracial marriage bans, or anti-miscegenation laws as they were called in the U.S., emerged in the early 18th century as a result of racist attitudes related to race-based slavery. These were a change from how marriage was understood before. Interracial marriage did not represent a perversion of marriage; it was its banning that did so.

Therefore, in lifting these bans in 1967, the Supreme Court, far from legislating from the bench, completed the work that was started just over 100 years prior with the passage of the 13th amendment.

I say all this simply to defend my point that overturning the ban on interracial marriage didn’t represent changing the definition of marriage. However, doing the same with gay marriage would. Never, in any part of our nation’s history, have we, as a nation, defined marriage as anything other than one man and one woman. That is a simple truth. Does this mean it must stay that way? No and, as I stated before, I don’t think it should in secular government.

Explicitly, I must state again that I see no Constitutional grounds upon which Prop 8 can be overturned in the courts. Yes, marriage is a right to all Americans, but, as currently defined, that means one man and one woman. Where does the Constitution grant nine appointed judges the power to change that based on some abstract idea of what is right? And, more frighteningly, how did a court answerable to the Constitution alone become answerable to public opinion?

Slippery slope arguments are so often mocked, but ponder this earnestly: If the court can define marriage as this nation has never defined it before, why couldn’t they alter it further? Why couldn’t they take other matters into their hands based on some abstract reasoning or the shifting of public opinion? Public opinion changes daily; they are fickle as the wind and unforgiving as a cruel gale. Does anyone think it wise to trust that over the wisdom of the wisest men our country has ever known?