Lance Scranton: Beliefs, boundaries and our freedoms
July 14, 2015
The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision granting legal status to same-sex couples has prompted a variety of responses. Approve of the court's decision or not, the reactions by people who I have spoken to or read have been passionate and personal. If it is a rights issue then even if you disagree, you can't trample on people's right to liberty as the majority court ruled. If it is a constitutional issue, the redefinition of a traditional view of marriage should not be changed by five members of a court, according to the dissenting justices opinion.
Some think that the traditional role of marriage has been well-defined and correctly-defined down through history. Others have fought to re-define the traditional view of what takes place in the eyes of the legal scholars who mandate and approve a marital contract.
Much like abortion, the issues provide more than enough potential emotional ammunition to mow down any type of rational debate. Agree or disagree, the discussion is blunted when personal accusations are made that put the brakes on what our country has always valued — the free exchange of ideas.
When long-held beliefs bump up against legal decisions, issues of constitutional protections can get complicated. But it doesn't have to if we could all understand boundaries. I doubt very much that I can convince anyone of anything, except to put as much information as I can into their hands and let them decide. It has always been the benchmark for convincing others to take action or change their mind.
Boundaries have been useful in my life since I was growing up. Rules provided me with as much freedom as I needed within certain boundaries. We experience boundaries all around us everyday: Speed limits and street signs give us a freedom to travel without causing harm to others or chaos on the roads. I suppose someone could rationalize that the driving laws inhibit their freedom (rights), but most people realize that the safeguards provided outweigh our right to drive how we want.
If a boundary is a safeguard, then let's make sure that going forward we respect the fact that marriage (legally) has changed but that marriage for others will never change. Abortion, pornography, overeating and marijuana are legal, but I don't think they are particularly healthy for a society. I respect the fact that I live in a society that legally protects aspects of the culture of which I might disapprove.
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For freedom to continue, each of us must weigh the costs and benefits of our opinions and beliefs against the legally protected freedoms of those whom we might disagree. Legal opinions are transitory, but if your long-held beliefs are important, engaging in conversation and trying to convince others is worth the risk of being unfairly, personally attacked.