Toleration, Temperament and Undaunted Liberty

 [T]he only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise… The only part of the conduct of anyone for which he is amenable to society is that which concerns others… Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

– John Stuart Mill 

I don’t often [if ever] use poor experiences with other sites, to fuel musings on this blog….but a recent encounter has left me both entertained and perplexed. Religious liberty is one of our most sacrosanct values…but religious liberty and liberty writ large, are often at odds by people who seem not to understand that the two can [and should] coexist. They are not mutually exclusive, and those who practice that exclusivity are fooling themselves if they state that they believe in freedom for all citizens.

The subject in this event was gay marriage, and the blog author considers themself both fervently religious and a Libertarian. Nothing wrong so far, both can be very valuable and enviable qualities. I, as usual, take the side of maximum liberty – that which does not harm me, steal from me, or restrict my liberties…should be allowed, excepting instances of national security and public safety. And that those opposed to such tenets not be able to gain the power of the state to enforce an emotional will.

The issue at stake, at it’s fundamental core, is the manner in which we as American citizens either affirm or deny the privileges and legal protections to our fellow citizens, that we ourselves enjoy.

With gay marriage, the obstacle to common ground I run across most, is the claim that somehow the ability for gay Americans to enjoy these same liberties and protections that I do, somehow harms another, or harms their marriage.

Here’s where I’m perplexed; I can’t seem to elicit a cogent answer as to how that harm occurs. There is no tangible injury to said person; and there certainly can’t reasonably be an emotional effect that severs or strains the bond between a married couple. So why do opponents of gay marriage so often hang their hat on this point, yet so utterly fail to provide a foundation for it?

Toleration does not equal approval. That doesn’t prevent people from conflating the two.

I have, on several occasions, proffered a course of action, to incentivize discussion; offering a logical course of action [and one that I would personally support] to exclude all civil marriages from utilizing the term ‘marriage’, defining it solely as a religious ceremony….making all other contracts ‘unions’…or some such.With this, the term marriage would no longer be allegedly ‘redefined’, and as such would theoretically take away a [or THE] major obstacle.

What I also find perplexing is that someone so vociferously opposed to maximum liberty, would consider themselves a Libertarian. I fully acknowledge that Libertarians come in many different stripes and flavors……typically, they all maintain a general defense of individual freedom, and the abhorrence of using the state to regulate and restrict those freedoms.

This issue, being so emotionally based, continues to stymie rational debate. Both sides are guilty, but the discussion should occur. It’s a shame that so often, people will assume a defensive posture and lash out, when they are simply incapable of being civil and mature.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for enduring my rambling musings. Most advocates and opponents can craft a solid argument for their position, and no matter how much I might disagree with that position, I can respect it. For those that can’t…I am left wondering why they even waste their time….

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4 thoughts on “Toleration, Temperament and Undaunted Liberty

  1. Gay marriage is now a done deal, IMO.

    I do worry about the long-term effects of same-sex partnerships with children being raised in that kind of home. I'm not sure that the verdict is in about sexual orientation: how much is learned and how much is innate.

    Oh, and one more thing….The government should not be dictating to religious institutions which marriage ceremonies can and cannot be performed in those religious institutions (within the bounds of age of majority). I do think that the recognition of gay marriage will force religious institutions to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples; not to perform such ceremonies will bring down some sort of penalty from the government.

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  2. AOW – I don't dispute that you have a valid concern…though I wouldn't place it any higher a concern than climbing divorce rates and out of wedlock births, where it regards children.

    I too could not remotely support a state decree against churches to perform gay marriages against their will. Fortunately, this not only doesn't appear to be a valid legal concern on current grounds, but several states are deciding legislative actions currently, that protect churches from this, often proffered or co-sponsored by gay marriage proponents themselves…such as California Senate Bill 1140 (Religious Freedom in Marriage Solemnization)

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  3. The rise in divorce rates and out of wedlock births also have negative impact on children — no doubt about it.

    As you may already know, I work with groups of homeschool children. The vast majority of these children have nuclear families, and I believe that such a factor has a positive impact on the children and their sense of security and, likely, their future adjustment to the joys and travails of life.

    One student lost both her father (MRSA) and her mother (cancer). During the period of time that this student had only a mother, the student was maladjusted — even before the cancer diagnosis came along. Now this student has been taken in by a nuclear family (no kin). The transformation and blossoming are remarkable in every way!

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  4. It's good to hear that the child is doing better, and I would agree that in most circumstances, a 'traditional family' with Mother and Father is a best case scenario. This of course, hings on both parents being able, capable and nurturing…as opposed to abusive, distant, selfish, etc.

    We home school our two daughters as well.

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