Liberty and justice...for all

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I support same-sex marriage. I also support your right to fly the rebel flag. Those two positions might seem contrary to one another, but not to my way of thinking.

As everyone likely knows by now, same-sex marriage became legal across the United States when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a split decision last Friday. By a margin of 5-4, the court ruled that same-sex couples should have the legal right to marry, the same as their heterosexual counterparts.

I agree with the ruling for a number of reasons, paramount being that I view the right to marry whomever you please as a personal freedom that shouldn't be infringed upon by law.

I also see the same-sex marriage debate as a prime example of the principle of separation of church and state.

The chief argument that I hear against same-sex marriage is that it is blasphemous and contradicts the word of God. But our founding fathers made it a cornerstone of American government that religion simply shouldn't be a factor.

I suspect that the founders' insistence on separation of church and state was based more on their wishes to keep the government out of the church house than vice versa. After all, this country was born of a desire for religious freedom and tolerance.

Today, many Americans seem to have forgotten or fail to understand the wall between church and state, why it exists and what could happen if it were to disappear.

"Our government needs God," is a popular sentiment, and I don't entirely disagree with it. But then the question becomes: Whose God? Mine? Yours? Should our government follow Baptist ideology? Catholic? Buddhist? The truth is that once government and religion begin to co-mingle, individual freedoms will be lost. Maybe mine. Maybe yours.

So, that brings us back to same-sex marriage. If we accept that religion and government are separate (because the Constitution says so), then the biggest argument used by those who oppose same-sex marriage is taken out of play.

The fact is, same-sex marriage isn't hurting anyone. You might not understand it. As a heterosexual man, there's much of it I don't understand. But the bottom line is that it's not for me to understand, or you. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are among the most inalienable rights, and same-sex couples should be free to pursue their happiness just like the rest of us.

Now, let's turn our attention to the rebel flag. It has been in the news lately, precipitated by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's call for that state to remove it from the grounds of the state capitol.

My heritage is about as Southern as it could possibly be. My great-great-great-grandfather lost an eye fighting the Yankees. One of his brothers died on the battlefield at Lookout Mountain, another in a Yankee prison camp. I'm not offended by the rebel flag, although I know some people are and I can certainly understand why they would be.

I don't believe that there is any reason why the rebel flag should be flown on state property. It just doesn't make sense to me why the state would want to fly a flag that many of its citizens view as a symbol of hatred.

I don't have an issue with a private company, like Walmart, making the decision to stop selling the rebel flag. I also don't have an issue with any other private company continuing to sell it.

And if you want to proudly fly a rebel flag in your front yard, or paint it on the roof of your 1969 Dodge Charger, or wrap yourself in it and go to the movies, I believe that's your right. Just as it's your right to enter into a same-sex marriage, if that's what makes you happy.

To me, both issues are about personal freedom and liberty. After all, this is America.