I recently saw a post on Facebook that bothered me a little. I have seen many posts similar to this one, and it seems that with every passing day the issue only gets worse. Blame and insults are thrown from both sides, a verbal war is taking place trying to get each side to understand their own point of view. The only problem is that no one is willing to give any ground. Each has their own beliefs and way of thinking, that is 100% ok. What is not ok, is the fact that neither side is willing to allow the other to have or develop their own beliefs, and that is the problem I am having.
So, just to make sure we are clear here, I am talking about the topic of Gay Marriage. I’m not here to debate or try to prove either side right or wrong. What I hope to accomplish is to shed some light onto this battle of words and cry for tolerance. The post that I saw and which has caused me to finally write this article is of the following effect:
Why does one person’s religion and belief have to have any effect on you? And further more, Why are you trying to force your beliefs on others who don’t have the same?
Here’s the problem I have with this point. First off, I believe that everyone is entitled to believe whatever religion they wish. Or none at all if that is what they so desire. I don’t care if you’re Buddhist, Islam, Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic. It doesn’t matter to me, you are allowed to believe whatever pleases you. And I claim that same privilege. I have the right to believe in the religion of my choice, and have my own ideas, thoughts, practices, job, points of view, whatever it may be. The way I choose to think and live my life is just that, MY CHOICE. Additionally, I have every right in the world to express those beliefs, whatever they may be. So, why are you angry at me for trying to express them?
You want me to support you in what you believe? Fine. You ask that I accept you for who you are and how you live your life? Ok. I am perfectly willing to accept both of those premises. But, you have to be willing to afford me the same requests and respect that you are demanding for yourself.
So, just a little background to further express my point. Everyone who even remotely attempts to follow the news has heard the stories. States have implemented laws prohibiting gay marriage. California, Utah and Idaho seem to have gotten the most coverage since this whole debate began. Other states have chosen to allow gay marriage. Massachusetts and others. (To be honest I really haven’t kept track of which ones have allowed it simply because they don’t draw as much media attention as the ones who don’t.) In two of the three states that put restrictions on gay marriage, at least as far as I know, the people voted on whether or not to legalize the matter at hand. Let me emphasize that, THE PEOPLE VOTED!
Now this is what you call a direct democracy. The people have a direct say in what laws are implemented. This only occurs within the states themselves. The country as a whole, yes gets to choose its leaders, but those leaders decide what becomes law and what doesn’t. This is known as a Republic democracy. The United States is a Republic. The states, while having to abide within the laws of the country as a whole, are also free to implement their own laws and statutes as long as they do not counter act the laws of the country.
Ok, so, here’s the problem. the US legislature has not actually said whether or not gay marriage is legal or not. There have been no laws passed, or even any bills presented, that I am aware of, that have said people of the same gender are able to get a little piece of paper saying they are married. The US has left it up to the individual states to determine that matter.
So, states get to choose whether or not to allow gay marriage. Great. I am in line with that premise. As I understand it, when a new state law is proposed, generally a vote is given to the people of that state to decide whether the law is actually put in place. So, if the people choose to allow gay marriage, every one is perfectly happy? Who made that assumption? I am sure that there are plenty of people who voted against the law, but the majority ruled in favor of allowing it. That makes it law, and even if you don’t agree with the law, you accept it, because the voice of the people asked for it.
Now let’s take the opposite. The people within a state vote on whether or not to allow gay marriage. The votes come in, and a majority of the people have clearly stated that they don’t want it. It is voted that gay marriage will not be allowed within the state. So, did everyone want that? Of course not. Most of the people did, but not everyone. If we follow the practice taken in the previous paragraph, it would make sense that those who are not happy with the decision would just accept it and continue on with their lives, right? NOPE!
Instead, they appeal the decision. They take it through the courts demanding that the law be overturned. They keep going until they get their way. Now, you tell me. Who is forcing their beliefs on whom? The way I see it, if the people voted to make it legal or not, whichever way the majority voted, those who pose a view opposite to that chosen by the people should also be willing to accept the majority vote, even if it isn’t the one you wanted.
Throughout the history of the United States, many laws have been presented, voted on and passed that have in some way or another infringed upon the rights of a certain group of people. The first major law made, and is actually an amendment to the Constitution, is that of slavery. Back in the early to mid 1800s, there were two groups of people. Those in favor of slavery, and those against it. One group said it was perfectly acceptable for someone to own another person. The other found it horrid and morally wrong. Scriptural references were used on both sides in an attempt to convince the other that they are wrong or right.
Those for slavery were crying that their rights were being taken away. That if the other side didn’t want to practice slavery, that was their choice, but the other side should allow them the same choice to practice slavery or not. And, if a law be passed against it, it should be the choice of the state.
Eventually the US outlawed slavery, civil war ensued, one side won and one side lost. The side that lost was forced to accept the new law, despite the fact that the losers didn’t agree with it. Simply put, one group of people was forced by another to accept a way of life.
Since then, the fight has continued to increase rights of certain people when others didn’t want to allow it. When voting rights were given to black men, and then to women, their was one side that wanted it, and another that didn’t. In the end one side was forced to accept something that went against what they believed. This is how a democracy works. The people vote, and whichever side wins, the other has to accept it.
Another great example of this is the issue of polygamy as practiced by the early Mormon Church. During the 1860s various laws were passed that prohibited the practice of a man or woman from having multiple spouses. While these laws were passed, they weren’t enforced right from the get go. A lot of this had to do with the fact that Utah was on the other side of the country. The Federal Government had other things to worry about at the time and didn’t see the purpose of wasting resources in enforcing something that didn’t have a direct impact on the Country as a whole. This created quite a bit of controversy and animosity between the Mormons and the Rest of the United States. There were hearings that took place to try and determine the validity of the laws and whether or not they were constitutional. The Mormon Church argued that such laws were in direct violation of the First Amendment. The United States Supreme Court ended up ruling that the First Amendment only applied to people’s beliefs. Therefore, the US Government couldn’t restrict what a person believed, but they had every right to determine how a person, or religion, is allowed to practice said belief. The practice of polygamy within the Mormon church ended shortly after, in the 1890s.
I realize that these examples are briefly explained and lacking in concrete examples, but this is the exact same situation. And it has been played out time and time again. A group of people believe that something is wrong and they do what they can to change it. Sometimes it works out the way they want, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s the way the system works. Yet we continue to go back and forth on the same issues over and over again. We seek to implement laws and regulations that fit what we believe to be right. And if someone seeks that path, they must be willing to accept either outcome, if that is what the the majority of the people believe. I also believe that their are perfectly viable compromises that could be presented and be perfectly acceptable by both sides. But this is neither the time nor place for those. Perhaps later. For now, let us realize that this isn’t a matter of which side is right or wrong (or as I like to think of it, which side is morally superior). It is merely a matter of if we are willing to accept the decision of the masses, whether it aligns to our beliefs (or way of life) or not.
I would like to add a little more concerning directly with the definition of the word, tolerance:
(noun) a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; Freedom from bigotry.
I would like to make note of some of the key words in this definition. Fair, objective, permissive. No where in that definition does it say to agree with or to accept the other person’s side as correct, but to be reasonable and courteous towards them. We will not agree on everything. Even people with similar views will disagree on a topic from time to time. Who cares? We all see things from a different vantage point. Let us keep those differences and accept them in others.
One last thought I would like to share with you, one of my favorite quotes:
He who has never offended anyone, has never stood for anything. - Anonymous