The PJ Tatler

Judge Says 14th Amendment Trumps 10th, Pa. Can't Define Marriage as Marriage

(See update below)

Ok…that’s not how Judge John Jones said it today as he struck down a 1996 Pennsylvania law which defines marriage as a male-female thing. It was more like this…

“Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection.
We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

Of course, so-called social conservatives will see this as another slouch toward Gomorrah, though I think we’ve already exceeded Gomorrah’s wildest fantasies.

Since I’m an evangelical Christian, you might be surprised to hear that I’d like to get the state and federal government out of the business of evaluating the nature and utility of our relationships, one with another (and perhaps another, and still another). When we lather up about “homosexual marriage” or “marriage equality” we’re fighting over the wrong issue.

Constitutionally, what’s important is individual liberty — not marriage liberty. And so, if you want to live with someone, that’s your prerogative. If you want to buy life insurance or health insurance on someone, you should be free to do so. If you want someone to visit you in the hospital, you should control who gets to do that. Most of these things should be resolved with equal justice for all under contract law.

But if I work for government, you should not be forced to subsidize my family behavior — however I define it. You should pay me a fair wage, and let me decide whether I’ll spend the money on health insurance, or braces, or a new Harley, or a retirement plan. But you should not direct that spending for me, or decide what constitutes my pursuit of happiness in relationships.

For the purposes of governance and law, I don’t care what you call that person with whom you live. I just don’t want to pay for him/her/hirm. The Constitution recognizes the rights of individuals and state governments — not marriages, whether pairs or triads, or dodecatuplings.

Right now, my libertarian readers are thinking: “Yea! We turned another one!”

But you didn’t. I’ve believed this for a long time. You may have assumed because I love Jesus that I want government to enforce biblical morality on everyone. Nope. (Though you probably agree with me that it’s good for government to punish murderers, thieves, etc.)

My favorite Bible verse says, “For freedom Christ has set us free.”

My biblically-reframed worldview still considers homosexual behavior to be among the various and sundry ways that we rebel against a holy God, and among the catalog of sin that can be forgiven when you trust Christ, believing he squared your account with the Father when he suffered and died on the cross. Living forgiven by the grace of God, brings a freedom and joy unimagined when we still clung to our egocentric view of the universe.

I also believe that I’m free to speak about my biblical faith — even to attempt to persuade you — and you’re free to disagree with me and to try (perhaps in vain) to resist my charms and eloquence.

All of that said, I’ll die at a ripe old age, albeit somewhere south of 969 years, before there’s any kind of movement toward restoring the Constitution as a charter of individual liberties, and toward restoring the government it spawned to one of limited, enumerated powers–none of which has anything to do with who I love or how I define my family relations.

UPDATE 5/21/2014 15:30 EDT: Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who’s running for a second term this year, announced today that the Commonwealth would not appeal a federal judge’s ruling which declared Pennsylvania’s definition of marriage as unconstitutional.