--John Stuart Mills, 1786
I’m not married.
Some day I may meet someone and fall in love, and exchange religious and civil vows and then sign the license to make it all legal and cut the cake. Get hitched. Walk down the aisle. Tie the knot.
But the thing about this legal right is that, as a straight man, I’ve always had the freedom to do this. I’ve just always taken this freedom for granted. Of course I have that freedom. To say “I do”, to give my life to just one other or to keep on searching for a soul mate in the hope of a future marital event. Freedom: to make a civil and Godly commitment to another adult and then maybe even have kids too.
That decision, to marry or not to marry, is up to me and my God and my potential spouse and no one else. Not, at a fundamental legal level, the government. Not up to my neighbors or fellow citizens. Not other faith traditions which I respect, but whose beliefs on marriage are different than my own. And so last week, in the shadow of July 4th, the United States of America’s 237th birthday, the day when Americans will celebrate with gusto, our freedom and freedoms, the Supreme Court granted a bit more freedom to same sex couples. To folks who just want be able to do the exact same thing that I can do: get married and enjoy everything which accompanies this social construct.
Freedom: so in deeming unconstitutional “The Defense of Marriage Act”, the court gave same sex couples the exact same legal protections and rights granted under federal law to straight couples. There are thousands of these: everything from having the right to a spouse’s Social Security or Veteran’s benefits, to citizenship for immigrants who marry a U.S. citizen, to just being able to visit a sick husband or wife in the hospital. Some will start immediately. Others will happen through executive orders, congressional actions or in the courts. The second ruling was a decision to let stand a lower court ruling that California’s Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage, is unconstitutional under that state’s laws. Now gay and lesbian couples are free to marry in the Golden State.
So as of right now millions of same sex couples in the United States are freer. More free…to love. More free to live. More free to build lives together and make families, as they see fit. More free to enjoy what every single American, every human in a way, craves in the deepest parts of their hearts and souls. Freedom. And in a civic miracle only a messy democracy like the United States can produce, those who think the court went too far and those who wanted the court to go even further: these folks are now free to fight on, with all the vigor and passion they can muster.
Freedom: so easy to take as a given, a no-brainer, an “of course!” especially if you already have a specific freedom or freedoms. Or if you live in a country like the U.S. which, while never perfectly free, has from its creation always enshrined freedom as our most cherished ideal. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
So this July 4th I’ll thank our brave forbears who fought for and then secured my freedoms, beginning on a hot July Philadelphia afternoon long ago. I’ll try my best to appreciate that all the freedoms I possess come first from my God, and then from human law, which at its best equally protects every one, EVERY ONE, without prejudice or bias. In freedom I’ll sing out “The Star Spangled Banner”, and then “ooh and ahh” at the fireworks. I’ll grill a hot dog and listen to a baseball game. And then I’ll remember that on this July 4th, 2013, a whole group of Americans, many my neighbors and friends: they have more freedom than they did last July 4th.
And that’s a good thing. Happy Freedom Day!