Obergefell – the aftermath
Well, the Supremes have ruled; same-sex marriage is the law of the land in all 50 states. Rainbow flags and icons are everywhere, being waived by people who, like those who elected Barack Obama president in 2007, have no idea what they are getting into or where this will lead. But is this victory the end of the battle for the Progressive left? Of course not; they have only begun to fight.
The victory celebrations are barely over; the wine glasses haven’t even been washed yet, and already the sights are being set on the next phase of the battle. How about, for instance, this article in Politico calling for the legalization of Polygamy “Where does the next advance come”, the author asks, “The answer is going to make nearly everyone uncomfortable: Now that we’ve defined that love and devotion and family isn’t driven by gender alone, why should it be limited to just two individuals?”
Why indeed? The arguments for same-sex marriage apply just as equally to polygamy. As the article points out, “Polyamory is a fact. People are living in group relationships today. The question is not whether they will continue on in those relationships. The question is whether we will grant to them the same basic recognition we grant to other adults: that love makes marriage, and that the right to marry is exactly that, a right.”
Or then again, if multi-person marriage is still a bridge too far, perhaps the next “advance” will be legalizing incestuous marriage in some or all cases. After all, the exact same argument can be made here; why should any marriage between two consenting adults who love each other be illegal?
You can’t use the “because God says” argument; that went by the wayside with the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. Whatever reason you want to use would have to be scientific, such as the one that says it is bad for two people who are closely genetically related to have children.
But what if children are not an issue? What if the two people in question, siblings, parent and child, etc. are of the same gender? (Or the same professed gender; after all, in some states you can change it at will by simply deciding “I feel like a woman/man today”) What is the problem with that? What if one or both are sterile or otherwise incapable of having offspring? What if they can have kids? This is the 21st century; any potentially defective fetus could always be aborted; we do that on a regular basis these days. Or they could conceive in vitro and cull defectives that way, or even strip out defective genes before implantation.
This argument has already been debated. In an article in the Huffington Post last year, Jesse Bering, author of “Perv: The Sexual Deviant In All Of Us”, asserted that “it’s actually moral progress.” He went on to say that “There are certain caveats that we need to include with our analysis of whether incest is wrong or right, but for me, the biggest point is a matter of harm.”
Thomas Sobirk Peterson, a Danish professor of criminal justice ethics agrees. For him, it is a matter of practicality. He cites the growing number of births resulting from donor sperm, and the increasing likelihood that two people who have never met could marry and then discover that they are half-siblings. In fact, this has already happened. It can even happen between full siblings, who were separated for various reasons, and it did to this couple, who had been together (but not legally married) for seven years before finding out that they are in fact siblings. What do you do about that? Throw the one or both in jail? Demand that they separate? And what do you do with the children?
The National Ethics Council last September, by a two-to-one margin, called for the decriminalization of incest in Germany stating that “Criminal law is not the appropriate means to preserve a social taboo; the fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”
And it doesn’t have to be about sex. In fact, the same-sex community specifically stated that their desire for marriage was not about sex, but rather, about the benefits that accrue to married couples; tax advantages, visiting rights at hospitals, the ability to pass on inheritance, etc. What a great way to bypass the estate tax! Think of the advantages of a child marrying their terminally ill parent; bypasses inheritance taxes; bypasses the need for a will; no need for any power of attorney to decide medical, financial, or other issues; heck - you could effectively cut your other siblings out of the inheritance picture entirely!
But whatever the further redefinition of marriage may be, and once redefined there is little to stop further modification, the more immediate fallout may be the effect the redefinition will have on the church and orthodox Christianity here in America. By “orthodox Christianity” I mean Christianity as defined biblically, where marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. If you don’t think this ruling has declared open season on churches, think again.
Take this article in Time Magazine for example, entitled “Now’s the Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions,” whose author argues that it is time not only for church tax exemptions of all kinds and at all levels to go, but that the same holds true for all non-profits, including colleges and universities, many of which sit of valuable real estate that the local municipalities are getting nothing for. As he put it, “in a real sense, you and I are subsidizing Mormon temples, Muslims mosques, [and] Methodist churches.”
Interestingly, while he takes exception to exemptions for churches and non-profits, such as Planned Parenthood and the NRA whom he calls out by name, he does make room for what he calls “sensible” property-tax emptions for such entities as hospitals that he deems “an indispensable, and noncontroversial, public good." Hmmm. What about hospitals run by churches?
Many states are now scrambling to pass laws to shelter religious organizations, people, and businesses from the slew of antidiscrimination lawsuits that are sure to be filed. If such attempts by lawmakers in the past with regard to racial discrimination are any guide, these will ultimately fail, though it may take years for that to happen.
It will not surprise me to see many localities strip property-tax exemptions from churches who cling to the “one man one woman” definition of marriage, and who refuse to perform same-sex marriages. In an era where many states, counties, and municipalities are grasping for every dollar they can find to balance their bloated budgets, this Supreme Court ruling gives them the fig leaf they need to bring high-dollar properties back into the tax base.
And then of course, there is the Federal Government. How will the IRS rule when it comes to income tax emptions for churches who refuse to perform same-sex marriages? Or who preach against it from the pulpit? Surely that is hate speech in today’s America. (It is in neighboring Canada, and has been prosecuted as such.) What will happen when churches start losing their tax-exempt status, and have to start paying taxes on tithes and offerings? Many smaller churches are barely scraping by as it is. What happens when their congregants lose the ability to deduct those same tithes and offerings on their income taxes? Will they continue to pay those tithes and offerings?
Rand Paul says that the government should get out of the marriage business altogether, and I agree. But it isn’t going to happen. The business is too lucrative for them to ever give up, both in terms of money and power. And it is too intertwined to be easily disentangled. So while they probably should, it is unlikely that they ever will.
Even if other states follow Alabama’s lead and get out of the marriage licensing business, it still doesn’t fix the basic problem. The Supreme Court decision wasn’t about marriage licenses – it was about marriage, which it declared to be a “fundamental right.” So even if the state doesn’t issue a marriage license, and issues a “contract” instead, if a same-sex couple goes to the local church to get married and the church refuses, they can still file a discrimination law suit, license, contract, or no.
The problem with a Supreme Court ruling is that it cuts off debate; it is a done deal. The only way out is a Constitutional Amendment which, with the current 60% approval that the decision is polling, is unlikely to occur any time soon. Legislation can be changed; “fundamental rights,” as established by the SCOTUS, are set in stone, barring reversal by a future court – which they are loathe to do.