I wholeheartedly believe in freedom and fairness and the separation of church and state. When I learned that the Supreme Court said marriage could not be denied to couples based on their gender, I was thrilled. Much of the rhetoric against allowing it is based in religion, and, in this country, typically the Judeo-Christian one.
In the 1967 case Loving vs. Virginia, a mixed-race couple sued the state of Virginia to accept as valid their out-of-state marriage. When they came back to Virginia, the state imposed criminal penalties on both husband and wife. The couple sued for the right to be married and live in the state of Virginia without criminal penalty. The state’s argument was that the law was valid because the punishment applied to both parties equally. The state of Virginia wanted the ends to justify the means, ignoring the fact that the criminal penalties were not the basis for their enactment of the law. Something else was, and that something else was racial discrimination. Thankfully, the Supreme Court saw through this and ruled you cannot keep the races from intermarrying.
In the last 25 years, states began passing laws that banned members of the same sex from marrying, enacting into law the definition of marriage as being between men and women only. Some states did more than that, creating constitutional amendments to further enshroud it in the law and insulate it from legal threats. I remember feeling anxiety as those laws were passed. It seemed wrong to me to enact laws for the purpose of denying rights to a segment of the population based on some people’s religious and personal beliefs. Passing laws can be done for many reasons, but to do it to deny others rights held by some members of society seems wrongheaded and unconstitutional to me.
In the last 5 years, I was glad to see challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and state laws against marriage equality struck down. It seemed that the surge of right-leaning laws against marriage equality were giving way, and I was thrilled. Watching, waiting for the day that the issue would go up to the Supreme Court, and hoping, crossing fingers, that they would vote the same way as they did in 1967, and terrified that they wouldn’t. But come to the Supreme Court it did.
And now comes to the effort by some to refuse to marry same sex couples because of their religious beliefs. This all sounds well and good…if you work in a church. If you do not work in a church, then your rights end where mine begin. I feel the same way about pharmacists who do not want to give birth control or Plan B to women because it violates their religious beliefs. I feel the same way about abortion providers forced to give false information to women seeking abortions because some people in the state feel that abortion is wrong, beliefs fueled by their religious beliefs.
To me, religious freedom is about going to the church you want, praying to the god you want, marrying the person you want that shares your beliefs, abstaining from sex if you want, eschewing sexual relations with members of the same sex, not using birth control, and not having abortions because the god you choose to believe says not to. Religious freedom is about being able to do all these things and not have the government come into your house in the middle of the night and kill you because you believe something different than the official, goverment-sanctioned religion.
And there is no officially sanctioned religion in America. None. It is not Christianity, despite the howling of many people who claim that it is. It is not. You have to educate yourself to know that The Treaty of Tripoli in 1797 starts Article 11 with the declaration:
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…
Our Founding Fathers wrote that. Enacting laws based on the Christian religion is not what our Founding Fathers wanted. When someone promotes a law that is based on their religious beliefs, they are trying to encode religion into our laws. They see it as justice, but I see it as an imposition. Religious freedom does not mean you get to impose your beliefs on me (and vice versa).
But here’s the thing: If doing your job with the public will force you to do something against your religious beliefs that you sincerely do not want to do, then I suggest that you quit your job and go find work in a church. There you will find people who believe the same things that you do who will not force you to do what you do not want. There you will be safe because you will not be encountering anyone who doesn’t share your beliefs.
For the rest of us out in the world, we want to choose the partner we want to love and marry, have and raise children or not in the number that we want, use birth control and the morning after pills, and have access to abortion. We want those things, we will get those things, and we will have those things. It may come a little at a time or all at once, but it will come.
Freedom to love and marry who we want – to be who we are – will come to all.