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Gay rights should not need legislation

This gay marriage issue doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon. Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards discussed it in the debate Tuesday, and The Oracle ran an Associated Press story Wednesday about a state judge in Louisiana who ruled against a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage a few weeks after it was approved by Louisiana voters. This wasn’t the first ruling of its kind, and similar ones are certainly to follow.

Everyone has an opinion about the issue. Some want a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, some want the government to recognize gay marriage, some only want the government to recognize civil unions, and some couldn’t care less what happens.

Given the unending arguments regarding this issue, the logical conclusion that the government should pull out of the marriage licensing business altogether.

I know this may shock some of my fellow religious conservatives.

First of all, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage will probably never pass; the public is too divided on the issue and so are politicians. To get a constitutional amendment passed, two-thirds of the members of Congress and 38 of the 50 states must approve it. With a polarizing issue such as this, that is bound to never happen.

Other religious conservatives may charge that we would lose God’s blessings on our nation if our government fails to recognize marriage — they also argue this if gay marriage was allowed. To that I say: God looks at people’s hearts; government action does not equal a change in people’s hearts.

And that’s where we get to the crux of the matter: What business does the government have in regulating relationships that are often based on religion? I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t.

Take for instance the fact that licensing certain divorcees — those whose previous marriage was not ended either because of death or adultery — goes against the religious principles of some people as well. One would think there would be calls for banning marriages between such divorcees as well, but you don’t see any amendments being proposed for that.

Then you have those on the other side who argue that gay relationships are healthy and worthy of respect. They argue that if you’re going to allow marriage, you have to open it up to all consenting adults. I could get into an argument about this logic leading to other less socially acceptable arrangements such as polygamy, but for the sake of space I won’t.

The point is, this issue is too complex and personal for government to be involved.

The main argument is that matters of such personal, moral and religious implication that do not involve violations of someone’s individual rights should be kept out of the government’s grasp. That’s a larger issue on which I may differ from some of my fellow religious conservatives.

I believe the same logic goes for other religious right policy goals such as outlawing homosexuality, banning alcohol use and putting public prayer back in schools because such issues don’t involve violating the rights of other people.

Those on the religious right will argue that such actions are needed to restore our nation’s biblical and moral standing. To them I would only say that forcing people to abide by religious dictates goes against the religiously enforced notion of free will.

It’s perfectly fine to oppose things such as homosexuality and promote things such as prayer; I certainly do. But to force your views on other people through government action is not moral, it’s wrong. It’s perfectly legitimate to believe, as I do, that there is a certain religious way in which people should live, but it is wrong to force anyone to live that way when they are not violating anyone else’s fundamental rights. You can’t force people to have morals — morality comes from a free-will decision.

That’s the problem that comes when people believe that the government should be used as a tool to make people observe certain moral behaviors rather than a tool to protect people from violations of their rights. Protecting people from other people is the proper role of government, not protecting people from themselves.

Adam Fowler is senior majoring in political science.