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Entitelment…Part 1: Gay Marriage

I read a blog post recently from a therapist (no, not mine) about her experience at Starbucks. What she said in this blog summed up the sad condition that has infected our society recently: a sense of entitlement. We hear a lot about social issues today: the economy, politics, gay marriage, immigration, etc. On January 12 of this year the President of the United States made a comment at a memorial about the state of our discourse as a nation:

[Now is] a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized…a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do — it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds,

Why has our country become so polarized? Well, let’s break this down…entitlement is defined as “the belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.” Let’s take, for example, a hot topic in many areas right now: gay marriage. What is the entitlement that many people feel about this issue. On one side you have a group of people saying they have the right to the same protections and privileges afforded heterosexual couples through marriage. According to one of the most well known phrases from our Declaration of Independence they may be correct:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Now look at the opposing side. There is a group of people who believe that marriage is a religious institution that should be protected. According to these people they are entitled to protect their religious beliefs. First, no one would be forcing any religious person or institution to perform these marriages. The issue of gay marriage is an issue of legal protections and privileges that should be recognized by the government, not the church. In an effort to protect their religions they have passed laws outlawing homosexual marriage, and some states have even passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But, wait, what about the article of the Constitution of the United States that forbid the government to make laws that respect the establishment of religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Doesn’t this mean that allowing this to happen is violating the first amendment? Some will say that it is the states that are adding these into their constitutions so it isn’t a violation, but shouldn’t we be upholding the ideals of the Constitution even at the state level? I know that the states seem to have no problem using the 10th amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

But for some reason these states want to ignore the first amendment. Some people will tell you that we live in a democratic nation and that the majority should be able to decide. Let’s look at that argument for a second. First, we are not truly a democracy. The United States is a constitution-based federal republic. Second, the United States follows a policy of majority rule/minority rights. According to a website maintained by the U.S. Department of State:

Majority rule is a means for organizing government and deciding public issues; it is not another road to oppression. Just as no self-appointed group has the right to oppress others, so no majority, even in a democracy, should take away the basic rights and freedoms of a minority group or individual…
Among the basic human rights that any democratic government must protect are freedom of speech and expression; freedom of religion and belief; due process and equal protection under the law; and freedom to organize, speak out, dissent, and participate fully in the public life of their society…

I would have to say that trying to dictate to a group of people that they are not allowed to marry according to their beliefs would be considered “tyranny of the majority”. Of course, I know that I have never been polled about this issue…so who is to say that this is the majority anyway?

So what does this all add up to? The people attempting to restrict, or eliminate, the rights of homosexuals feel that their personal and religious beliefs are paramount to the rights of homosexuals. The blog that started this was written by Teri Claassen, a therapist from Indiana. Her blog post was about entitlement (not centered on gay marriage). One sentence really stuck out for me. She said that some people “feel so entitled to place what they think is right on everyone else as the standard and expectation.” What made their beliefs the standard?

Are we willing to ignore the fundamental protections granted in our Constitution by allowing these people to disregard an entire group of Americans? If we allow them to restrict marriage in this way where will it lead? If a marriage between a man and woman is a sacred institution recognized by the government, wouldn’t violation of this be a punishable offense? So adultery would be a punishable crime. Furthermore, breaking this sacred institution should also be a crime, so divorce would also be against the law. Finally, if it is about children (which is an entirely different issue that has somehow been connected with gay marriage) then it would also be against the law to have children out of wedlock. Are you willing to accept these laws? How many people do you know that would be criminals under these statutes?

How do you feel?

Stay tuned for Part 2: Immigration…

Here is a list of websites used for this blog, please check them out:

Teri Claassen’s Blog at Imagine Hope Counseling Group

Majority Rule, Minority Rights at America.gov

CIA World Factbook

The U.S. Constitution – The Bill of Rights

Yahoo! News Coverage of President Obama’s Speech

The Declaration of Independence

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