As Congress pushes through the codification of gay marriage, I think it’s important to clarify exactly what the whole “gay marriage” debate is all about.
We get caught up in trying to define things like “marriage,” “family,” “love,” and “man” and “woman” and things like that. Those are all important things, but they’re distractions from the true crux of the legal issue.
When people say that a Supreme Court decision or a law “legalizes” same-sex marriage, they don’t mean it in the way we typically think when we use the word “legalize”–i.e., taking something that previously was forbidden by a specific law (like gambling or weed), and reversing that law so that it is no longer forbidden.
That’s not what’s happening in the case of same-sex marriage. “Legalizing” same-sex marriage means that the power of the government is officially being brought to bear against people who don’t believe in same-sex marriage. It’s using the law to regulate what you’re allowed to believe.
Because people who believe in same-sex marriage are going to do what they’re going to do anyway. They’ll have relationships, they’ll pick whoever they want as beneficiary on their life insurance, they’ll shop around until they find a church that will hold a ceremony and call it “marriage” (and believe me, they will find one, no matter what the law says). The only people who will be affected by the law are the people who don’t believe in same-sex marriage. They’re the ones who will have to change their behavior; they’re the ones who will face penalties if they don’t toe the rainbow-colored line.
It’s like if the government made a law to “legalize” Big Foot. That law wouldn’t make Big Foot suddenly appear, nor would it magically mind control everybody into genuinely believing in Big Foot. All such a law could do would be to decree that the official position of the government is that there is a Big Foot, and no one is allowed to act like they believe any differently.
People who already believe in Big Foot will be unaffected by this law, as would any giant bears or very hairy hermits and anyone else putting on a show of being a Big Foot out in the woods. But people who don’t believe in Big Foot would be silenced. The law couldn’t really change their belief; it could only punish them for it.
That’s the question at the core of “Respect for Marriage Act”–does the government have the authority to force you to believe something you don’t believe? Or at least to force you to act like you believe it.
The short answer to that question is, “No.” The slightly longer answer is, “Hell, no,” and that is is how people will respond when the weight of this law is dropped on them. Not because they hate gay people or Big Foot or anything else, but because they know it’s Big Brother trying to control their minds.