What is Really Threatened by Gay Marriage?
As a Soldier and someone who will soon be applying to become Chaplain, I am forced to write this article under a pseudonym. It isn't because I am afraid that my beliefs or convictions are wrong but it is entirely possible that this could be used by some to keep me out of the Chaplains Corps where I think I can do such good for the Soldiers of the United States.
I not writing my personal beliefs about homosexuality or gay marriage. Instead I would like to focus on a constitutional issue: how would legalizing homosexual marriage affect the First Amendment? I have seen and heard many arguments about the effects that gay marriage would have (or not have) on society and why it is such a Neanderthal viewpoint to be against gay marriage. My concern is if gay marriage is legalized, how will that affect the constitutionally protected idea of freedom of religion?
I find it strange that the biggest story of the day on April 29, 2013 was an NBA player coming out of the closet. He was immediately hailed as brave, admirable, a courageous individual, etc. Personally, I think it is a bit silly that this is a story, for two reasons: first, does anyone really care, or are they personally affected by what happens in the bedroom of Jason Collins? And secondly, if Mr. Collins was coming out so that young adults had a role model to look up to, what about Baylor basketball player Brittney Griner who is going to the WNBA and came out last week? Do lesbians not count as role models in sports?
Clearly, the implication of a male pro athlete coming out is part of the shift that has been seen in the debate about homosexuals and how they are viewed and treated by the general population. A Gallup poll of 121,000 conducted in 2012 put the percentage of self-identified homosexuals at 3.4% But listening to the national debate one would assume the numbers are closer to the numbers of blacks or Latinos, which number around 12% and 16% respectively, because of the "oppression" and lack of "civil rights" (read: marriage) that are not being extended to homosexuals.
Being in the military, I am very fond of looking at "second and third order effects." It is fairly easy to put out an order and say it needs to be done. However, if the individual giving the order doesn't consider the other steps that are needed, or how those orders are going to impact other missions or soldiers, then the second and third order effects can be devastating. In the case of gay marriage, I have not read many articles or heard much discussion of the effects that will come down the line if gay marriage is legalized nationally. Most arguments are on moral or biblical grounds while ignoring the Constitutional argument.
I am worried about how gay marriage will affect Americans ability to practice their religion. Many will argue that this is not really an argument and that the First Amendment's reading of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." simply won't be affected by gay marriage.
Not only do I disagree that the First Amendment won't be affected, we have already seen test cases where individuals have been found guilty of "discrimination" because they wanted to practice their First Amendment rights. Take the case of the Aloha Bed and Breakfast in Hawaii. A judge ruled that the owners discriminated against two lesbians by not renting them a room based on their religious beliefs. There are cases from Washington to North Carolina with similar entanglements. Private businesses, especially those that are wedding-based like florists, cake makers, etc., are being sued for discrimination against homosexuals while their First Amendment Rights are being ignored.
Taking the next logical step, what happens when a homosexual couple demands access to using a Catholic, Baptist, or Mormon church for their wedding and are rejected? The groundwork for that lawsuit has been laid in the private business cases.
What will happen when a military chaplain turns down gay soldiers who want the chaplain to marry them? The military has already seen a major shift in policy towards homosexuals as well as significant rules towards political correctness. If the Army decides that gay marriage is more valuable than the religious beliefs of their chaplains there will likely be a significant change to the Chaplain Corps.
After discussing this with a couple of liberal friends, they reject my argument because they say, "any gay marriage legislation would come with religious protection." I am not convinced because there should be no need for "religious protection" written into any law. The religious protection should come from the First Amendment!
America is currently awaiting the decision of the United States Supreme Court regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. If upheld, it will significantly damage the arguments of the pro-gay marriage crowd, at least on the federal level. It is likely individual states will continue to be able to legalize gay marriage and lawsuits against those who discriminate against gays will continue and eventually end up at SCOTUS' doorstep once again. While the current court stands at 4 conservatives, 4 liberals and one swing vote, what will happen if the current (or next) administration is able to swing the court to 5-4 for liberals? Does anyone really think that the First Amendment will be upheld at that point?
That is why I am worried about the legalization of gay marriage. The solution is simple: states should not issue marriage licenses at all, just civil union licenses. But until that compromise is discovered by both sides if the aisle, the real threat of gay marriage isn't against traditional marriage, it is against the First Amendment.