Forget everything else you read about the Supreme Court case that could mandate same-sex marriages. All that matters is the swing vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. He will break the expected 4-to-4 deadlock among the other justices.
How ironic that in this nation designed to be governed by the people, instead a single man will decide the fate both for the institution of marriage and for the related issues of religious freedom. Not even King George III held this much power over the American colonies.
This is why churches representing over 50 million Americas filed a friend-of-the-court brief that squarely targets Justice Kennedy. Faiths representing additional tens of millions also filed similar briefs. They warn that it’s not the lesser number of gays who will be “second-class citizens” — it’s the greater number of believers who now are threatened.
Uniquely among the 150 briefs filed with the court, the churches’ brief singles out Justice Kennedy by name 13 times, quoting his positions in prior decisions which, if followed, should lead the court to reject a same-sex marriage mandate.
When writing the decision which overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Kennedy harped on the notion that same-sex rights are necessary to protect “dignity” and avoid “animus.” The Constitution contains no such language, whereas free exercise of religion is explicitly protected in the First Amendment. Since the justice guides himself by the “dignity” and “animus” buzzwords, the churches explain how the dignity of believers is demeaned if the court decrees that traditional marriage is abhorrent to the Constitution.
To justice Kennedy’s 78-year-old mind, marriage evidently is little more than a status symbol. As he told the lawyers during this week’s oral arguments, “I thought that was the whole purpose of marriage. It bestows dignity on both man and woman in a traditional marriage. It’s dignity-bestowing, and these parties say they want to have that, that same ennoblement.”
But if gay rights deserve dignity, then don’t religious rights deserve it as well? The churches’ brief states, “Recognizing a new right to same-sex marriage would harm religious liberty. That harm is avoidable because neither the Constitution nor this Court’s precedents dictates a single definition of marriage for the nation.”
The churches also address the propagandized notion that there is no basis for opposing gay marriage other than hatred (i.e. “animus”) toward gays: “A decision that traditional marriage laws are grounded in animus would demean us and our beliefs. It would stigmatize us as fools or bigots, akin to racists. In time it would impede full participation in democratic life, as our beliefs concerning marriage, family, and sexuality are placed beyond the constitutional pale.”
The groups sounding this warning include the National Association of Evangelicals; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod; the Assemblies of God; the Free Methodist Church - USA; the International Pentecostal Holiness Church; and several more.
Demoting people of faith to second-class citizenship is a valid concern. It’s not just the same-sex movement — The Obama Administration and a phalanx of liberals are working to confine “free exercise of religion” to the right to worship within the walls of a church. In hospitals, schools, adoption agencies and all other ministries, faiths are being told that they must do whatever government dictates (such as providing contraceptives and abortions).
A new right to be treated with dignity is identical with a right to avoid being offended. That is the dangerous claim of a right to dictate how others behave. The original goal asserted by the radical gay rights movement was to avoid having their behavior controlled by others. They have reversed that, switching to a goal of power to dictate to everybody else.
Millions have been disenfranchised because judges have refused to accept what voters said in dozens of state elections, namely that marriage should be between one man and one woman. Period. Yet courts have ignored them by reading millions of minds and deciding that bigotry (“animus”) was the basis of their votes. Those millions get no respect — no dignity.
Why? Because it all comes down to power. More power for unelected judges and unelected bureaucrats. Less power for ordinary Americans to decide what our laws shall be on marriage. And on everything else.
Government by the people? Say bye-bye to that.
• Former Congressman Ernest Istook is president of Americans for Less Regulation. Subscribe to his free newsletter here:
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