History might offer some lessons on tampering with the definition of marriage

While the U.S. Supreme is pondering two court cases that might make anything the Nevada Legislature does on the topic of gay marriage moot, nonetheless our lawmakers are plunging ahead in an attempt to overturn the state’s constitutional ban enacted by the voters in 2000 and 2002.

As a born-again libertarian, I care not what people do behind closed doors and don’t think they should be discriminated against for doing so. As a lifelong writer and editor, I have qualms about changing the definition of words. It is a qualm I share with George Orwell who said those who control words control thoughts.

In front of the Supreme Court building. (Reuters photo)

But there is also a certain historical aspect to the discussion of this topic that is largely overlooked. I was reminded of this today by a paragraph in a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial calling for the repeal of the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

“Yes, we might wish to return to a day when the sacrament of marriage was an entirely religious matter, not regulated by the state,” the editorialist remarked. “In fact, it must be reiterated at every stage that government has no power to require any church or religious organization to recognize, endorse, or financially support same-sex marriage, or anything else abhorrent to its teachings.”

But if the Catholic Church’s ancillary institutions may not “discriminate” by refusing to provide free contraceptives to all insured employees, how long before …?

Now the history lesson:  In 1882, the Edmunds Act outlawed polygamy. Any Mormon who continued to practice polygamy was stripped of the right to vote or hold public office. As many as 1,300 were jailed.

At least polygamy had a long history of acceptance, one of Biblical proportions.

Might churches that “discriminate” against the civil rights of homosexuals to marry have their tax exemptions denied and building permits rejected?

Those who control the words will eventually try to control the thoughts.

12 comments on “History might offer some lessons on tampering with the definition of marriage

  1. Wendy Ellis says:

    Some are already controlling the salt!

    Seriously, here is a link worth listening to:
    This is just the summary. If you go to the audio page, and listen to the opening monologue, you will hear an explanation that can be understood by all–with regard to this issue and the US Supreme Court.

    Why should 5 unelected people in black robes be ruling on every issue?

  2. bc says:

    As a libertarian leaning guy myself, never was all that concerned with how others live, just don’t startle the horses…

    I do not think that a church can, or should be compelled to perform or sanction a marriage that is contrary to their beliefs, I believe that the First Amendment would cover that.

    As for 5 or 7 unelected black robed people ruling on issues, that is what we have them for. Someone has to straighten out the disputes or there is chaos and dictatorships.

  3. Did the Edmunds Act violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment? Does ObamaCare?

  4. bc says:

    The Edmunds Act probably did, those who practiced polygamy in Utah in the 19th century (and those who still do) were following their religious beliefs.

  5. Vernon Clayson says:

    Members of the clergy perform weddings/marriage ceremonies routinely but only after the county government first gets their piece of the pie with licensing. A bored and harried clerk takes the information from a starry eyed couple, stamps the license, and says “next”, if they change the law to allow licensing for same sex couples, it will be the same. What do the clerks care, after the initial wonder and a few giggles when the first two men or women apply, it’s doubtful they consider the coupling of them, or any of the individuals lined up endlessly before them. I think we can forget the libertarian angle on this foolishness, it’s driven from the nation’s capital.

  6. Steve says:

    If anything at all falls under the Tenth Amendment it is this very issue. The federal government has zero authorization under its enumerated powers to regulate Marriage.

    This is what I hope the Supreme Court rules. Feds get out, any federal regulations pertaining to Marriage are unconstitutional.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I guess Steve missed the EO that Obama issued….or did he?

  8. Steve says:

    That did nothing to remove the feds from this. It only stalls it for a while.

  9. Certainly the federal government has no Constitutional authorization to delve into marriage, the Edmunds Act notwithstanding. However, the Founders had no particular problem with state and local governments enforcing most standard colonial Christian beliefs, such as outlawing miscegenation, sodomy and Sabbath-breaking.

    To some Christians, the fact that these types of laws are now considered anachronistic is simply evidence of a growing secularization of America, as part of the widespread corruption expected before the Second Coming, driven by those that seek to undermine our society by destroying religion and morality.

    “The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it.” – James Madison, letter to Frederick Beasley, 1825

    “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams

    “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and in her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. ” – Alexis de Tocqueville

    “The only foundation for… a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.” – Benjamin Rush

    “Chistianity must be considered as the foundation upon which the whole structure rests. Laws will not have not permanence or power without the sanction of religious sentiment, without a firm belief that there is a Power above us that will reward our virtues and punish our vices. In this age there will be no substitute for Christianity: that, in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions. That was the religion of the founders of the Republic, and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants. There is a great and very prevalent error on this subject in the opinion that those who organized this Government did not legislate on religion.” – House Judiciary Report in 1854

  10. bc says:

    So Winston, what are you saying, this is a Christian nation and no others need apply? Hindu, Jew, Islam or Shinto go home, you are not of virtue and not good?

  11. Steve says:

    Perhaps he is saying something similar to what Australian Finance Minister Peter Costello said in 2006 about Muslims in that country.


  12. Wow, bc, I don’t recall saying anything like that. I try to judge every individual individually, by their actions, not by some collective designation. Quoting the Founders (and a couple others) is just historical accuracy, and explaining on how many Christians perceive our current situation is simply reporting. However, I prefer that our laws stay true to our foundational roots, which brought us a level of liberty scarcely experienced throughout known history.

    Steve, to some, parts of sharia law would probably resemble some of the Christian-based laws that have been done away with, and I doubt most secularists would enjoy that 🙂

    “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” – Thomas Jefferson

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