The 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court ruling same-sex marriage is protected by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution really should come as a surprise to nobody. This amendment has been used, time and again, to establish the rights of the individual to pursue their own lives and livelihoods. Chief Justice John Roberts, in the lead dissent, leveled the statement that “the Constitution had nothing to do with it.”
Sorry, but I have to call bullshit on that one, Mr. Chief Justice.
The fact is, same sex marriage is something which our nation has been grappling with not because of its legal meaning, but because it cuts right to the heart of a moral issue. Of course, every American is guaranteed the right of practice of worship under the First Amendment, as are they also guaranteed the right to speak their minds free from government reprisal. That right, however, is limited in its scope; the notion of being able to speak freely does not absolve one from the consequences of that speech when it offends private citizens, the saying of “the right to swing one’s fist ends at the tip of another’s nose,” so to speak. The same application of the law was imposed in the case of same-sex marriage.
Simply distilled, just as we cannot restrict how one worships when doing so peacefully, we also cannot restrict how two consenting adults choose to practice their lives, so long as it is done peacefully. Just because the sight of two men or two women kissing repulses someone, that does not give that person the right to make it illegal to for those individuals to do so anymore than banning the flying of a flag from private property, even if it is in view of others. We are supposed to be a nation of reasonable individuals consenting to be governed by elected officials and, when those officials overreach in the name of the passion of the day, our courts are expected to step in and reestablish the boundaries set forth in our Constitution.
What makes this situation worrisome is the reactionary statements by some on the far right and in the religiosity. This notion of our nation being a “Christian Nation” has been buffeted by calls to make the Bible the law of the land. Some have even called for a Constitutional amendment to make the Ten Commandments paramount and its authority supercede that of even the Constitution itself. Fortunately, the American system of government has a traditional, built-in safeguard against this. That being the fact that ours is a nation created through revolution, not evolution. Our Founders understood that an elected government can trample one’s rights as easily as an autocrat. They knew humanity had a predilection to handing power over to someone who can “make the trains run on time,” or settle scores. While many Presidents have abused executive privilege and authority, they have often been brought to heel by our system. We, the people, must hold ourselves to a higher standard as we have only one body which can bring us to heel; ourselves. Ours is not a theocracy, nor a direct democracy. It is a Democratic Representative Republic, meaning the ultimate power rests in the hands of we, the voters. We hold performance evaluations on our elected officials every few years via the ballot, and those officials are expected to select justices who apply the law through an objective lens. The dissenting opinions in this case were clearly subjective, allowing moral absolutism to override constitutional reason. Thankfully, the majority displayed that very reasoning for which our nation has been so able to weather many storms.
Justice Roger Taney’s decision in the Dred Scott decision went down as the single worst in American history, and is believed to have contributed to the Civil War on some level. While many on the far right have declared a “Second Civil War” has already begun, it is hard to imagine that this court’s decision on a subject such as this, which poses no imminent economic or military threat to our nation, would be anywhere near the equivalent of Taney’s blunder. If anything, this ruling merely affirmed what has been a foregone conclusion by many in the legal profession for years; that morality cannot and should not be legislated, and that the rights of the individual to pursue their own life, liberty and happiness should be sacrosanct.