First off, I would like to say congrats to all the gay couples that will be able to marry now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of gay marriage. Fundamentally, I think this ruling reflects the growing consensus that individuals have the right to choose the kinds of relationships they want to have and with whomever they want to have them. This falls squarely in the right of free association that all people should have.
There is one major concern that I have with the movement that helped move forward the issue of gay marriage. I fear that the movement is not philosophically based on the principle of free association, but on the drive to force others to accept and support gay marriage. There have been a number of examples where businesses and individuals that do not support gay marriage or do not want to provide their services to gay couples have been viciously attacked on social media, sued in court, and run out of business.
The push for gay marriage should be based on the individual’s right to freely associate how they want. Like the right to free speech, the right to freely associate allows people to do things that you disagree with or even find offensive. This includes businesses or Churches that would rather not do business with gay couples. Otherwise the underlying goal of the gay rights movement is to force people to think like they do and in doing so become just like the people they have been struggling against.
I am not sure why a gay couple would want to associate with a business or a Church that did not want to serve them. Allowing people to discriminate does two things. First, you can find out who doesn’t want to serve you. I would say that it is better to be served by people that want to serve you. Second, this lets everyone around them know that they discriminate against same sex couples. I, for one, would like to have this information so that I can avoid these places. The freedom of association cuts both ways. If a business or some other organization discriminates against certain people, then it is completely reasonable to boycott that organization. This way no one is forced to do something they don’t want to, but bad actors can still feel the negative repercussions for their actions.
Herein lies the common ground that gay marriage advocates and critics can stand on. Each group should go about their business and freely associate with those that are willing to. Individuals should be able to enter into gay marriage if they wish and individuals that find that kind of union morally unsettling can choose not to not associate with them. This is a much more sustainable arrangement then trying impose belief systems on each other. There is one very large hurdle to overcome to reach this end, though. We need a separation of marriage and state. Let marriage be a social and legal contract between willing individuals.
If marriage is a religious institution, then the Church should not want an earthbound institution full of crooks, liars, and panderers to be the authority that blesses all marriage unions. If marriage is a right, then homosexuals should not want an institution that has legally barred them from marriage (until recently) to be in charge of marriage. Why would anyone want the government to be the guardian of marriage after it has been messing it up for so long?
Gay marriage advocates are right that people should have the choice to associate with others as they wish. To be morally consistent they also need to allow everyone else to have that right too. This is not to say that people should not be criticized for their beliefs or businesses boycotted for their policies. All of that is fair play in a society that values free association. What should be shunned is the use of the government or the courts to force others to act in opposition to their beliefs, even if they are wrong.
Congratulations to those who are now allowed to be married. I support your right to marry and to peacefully associate with others in anyway you see fit. Don’t ruin your moment of victory by becoming like those that would force their beliefs on you (you already have the societal momentum on your side) and don’t be satisfied with allowing the organization that has denied you marriage for so long remain in control of it.