Against: Same-sex ruling sets troubling legal precedent
Surprising few observers, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges with a 5-4 decision.
Triggering a daylong celebration, the historic ruling culminated in the lighting of the White House and Empire State Building in sparkling rainbow colors. The motif "Love Wins" trended on social media as politicians and activists reveled in the victory of "marriage equality."
As a Christian and American, I believe the Supreme Court's decision is troubling because of the legal precedent it establishes by redefining liberty. I am also concerned about religious liberty and the ability for people of faith to live according to the dictates of their conscience, especially when it diverges from the prevailing cultural opinion. This should concern all Americans.
Although the Court's decision was not surprising, the legal reasoning adopted by the Court is actually quite startling. If "Love Wins" based on the rationale exercised by the nation's highest judicial authority, liberty undoubtedly lost.
Liberty is a potent and consequential ideal, defined in the crucible of America's founding. Famously, Patrick Henry preferred death before the usurpation of his liberty, and Thomas Jefferson listed it among the unalienable rights bestowed by God. As conceived by the founders, liberty is freedom to order one's actions according to conscience.
Derived from the writings of John Locke, this understanding of liberty in a civil society safeguards from constraints and controls unnecessarily imposed by government.
Noticeably absent from this definition of liberty is entitlement to benefits or recognitions from government. Therefore, in the Court's ruling that effectively redefined marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy relied on a definition of liberty entirely foreign to American jurisprudence and the nation's founding.
For marriage to be redefined, it had to be inextricably linked with a redefinition of liberty. Our nation was founded upon the principle that every person has the unalienable right to liberty, but liberty is a term of many meanings.
For today's majority, it has a distinctively postmodern meaning. In a more pointed dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas reflected, "Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits."
For the dissenting justices, the very meaning of liberty had been hijacked. Under the facade of "reasoned judgment," liberty as envisioned by the founders had been jettisoned in favor of political expediency and cultural relevance. This conviction dominated the dissents, and rightly so.
For Christians claiming a biblical conviction about marriage, many have described their dissent as "bigoted" or "mean-spirited." While there are certainly some hateful bigots, they do not represent the majority of Christians who believe our position is motivated out of concern for the spiritual well-being and flourishing of people.
If what the Bible teaches about marriage is true, the Supreme Court is wrong. Jesus' affirmation of marriage as a union between one man and one woman provides a picture of God's design for marriage that is good for all people. Christians believe that this conviction is not rooted in bigotry or hatred but rather concern for thy neighbor.
David Closson is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.