Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why do conservatives oppose same-sex marriage?

Maybe I just don't completely understand modern conservatives. I'd like to. My understanding of conservative values is:

  1. The Constitution is highly valuable, and we should interpret it in line with the intentions of the Founding Fathers
  2. Government should be only large enough to do that which private concerns cannot or should not
  3. The Federal government should not impinge the rights of the States
  4. Personal liberty should be protected, especially when it's a liberty enumerated in the Constitution
So let's look at same-sex marriage bans, and particularly the extremely-poorly-named "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA):

  1. The Fifth Amendment requirement for due process, and the Fourteenth Amendment's "equal protection" clause (no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws), seem to require that State's not create classes of people for whom the laws or their implementation are different. Isn't telling someone they can't marry the person they love as the result of their sexual orientation a problem here?
  2. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, which means that the government shouldn't be passing laws that serve only to enforce anyone's religious belief. Since the majority of the objections to same-sex marriage are religious – and since there are religions that permit same-sex marriage – isn't the government interfering in free exercise of religion if it tells a church that it will only recognize some of that church's marriages?
  3. Some States have decided to ban same-sex marriages, and others to formally recognize them. DOMA says that even if a State decides to recognize a same-sex marriage, the Federal government won't.  Isn't this the Federal government interfering in States' rights? Why does the Fed get to tell the States it won't recognize their marriages?
  4. The idea of personal liberty is that individuals should be free to do as they please as long as it doesn't harm anyone else (by impinging on others' rights). If the gay couple next door wants to be married, how does that harm anyone else? What justification does a conservative have for butting into their personal lives and deciding what they're allowed to do?
To me, any one of those should be sufficient reason for conservatives to oppose any effort to restrict same-sex marriage.

Is the moral outrage that the religious conservatives feel so overpowering that they're willing to compromise their other principles to ensure that no one can offend their delicate sensibilities on this topic?  I really don't get it.

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