On Being Right

Gov. Snyder looked just as he should have in the press conference: like a man walking a razor blade between his conscience and Tea Party mobs. In declaring that gay couples who were married this past week were legally married and then announcing that as far as the state was concerned they were not married, he tried to walk that thin line between conscience and political survival. It was an act of tepid courage and reflexive cowardice: like sticking a toe in the water and back out again. 

Of course people should be free to marry whomever they want. It is one of those “inherent rights” that organized religion has not let go of yet – but reality has a way of intruding into life, even into the lives of the religious right. They use “laws” to enforce their religious dogma, but these are not laws intended to preserve liberty. Like most laws that codify prejudice, the laws on marriages are starting to catch up with society. What happens when a society ignores religious leaders and laws restricting liberties? Good things, usually.

First, they opposed inter-denominational marriages, forcing people for generations to violate their spiritual conscience to realize a loving relationship. Until the men at the top realized that society was ignoring them and marrying across denominations anyways. It turns out that a Catholic marrying a Lutheran would not destroy the family as an institution, as predicted. Then they forbade inter-racial marriages, until again they noticed that society was ignoring them again and, once again, the institution of family was not destroyed. Now comes marriages between same sex couples and… well, society has done it again – forcing bad laws to change.

I wonder what happened to political leaders who did what was right and bent the “arc of justice”? Kennedy sent troops to protect children integrating schools (another outcome opposed by “religious” men). Lyndon Johnson was no saint, but he passed the very unpopular and politically risky Civil Rights Bill. These days, political leadership is in the hands of (predominantly) men who know what is right, but choose to take the safe course, as if there was more honor in being re-elected than right.

But watch out Gov. Snyder, conscience is a persistent muse.

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