Friday, July 5, 2013

Gay Marriage and Big Gulps: Liberty vs. Morality

For some, your right to drink a Big Gulp
 is more important than my right to gay marriage.
Thoughts for the day after independence day: On Rachel Maddow's show last week, Texas state senator Wendy Davis, the one who did the filibuster to stop the restrictive anti-abortion law, revealed that Governor Rick Perry vetoed a bill that would have banned texting while driving. His reason? It would infringe on the liberty of Texas citizens to recklessly endanger themselves and others. This is carrying libertarian thinking a bit too far. It reminded me of an archconservative relative who refuses to wear a seat belt because he feels the law forcing him to do so is an egregious example of government overreach. Similarly, you see that Sarah Palin and her ilk get all bent out of shape when New York mayor Mike Bloomberg bans the sale of huge sugary soft drinks, but are OK for people to have as many firearms as they like without background checks. Now if you think I should be able to text and drive, drink enormous sodas, and smoke cigarettes in public places, shouldn't I be able to marry my husband and live our lives as we see fit?

So conservatives resent government intruding on private lives--even when it's for their own safety and health--except when it interferes with their own narrow morality. We've been listening to an audio history of the Supreme Court and it's fascinating how often the justices' personal morality influences their notions of liberty. In the Hardwicke anti-sodomy case, the ruling was 5-4 that states had the right to outlaw certain types of consensual, adult gay sex because such conduct outrages the community (that Scalia's current argument), even when it's behind closed doors. Fortunately the court reversed itself in the later Lawrence vs. Texas case and just this past week they at least acknowledged the legitimacy of gay marriage, but stopped short of granting it as a constitutional right. I supposed Ruth Bader Ginsberg was afraid that would be going too far, like they did with Roe vs. Wade. (As she recently stated.)

I wonder why Ginsberg felt compelled to make that statement about Roe. Maybe because the issue of abortion remains a volatile, divisive one and some many red states are pushing at Roe to restrict women's access. In Ohio, the governor sneaked his anti-abortion law into the state budget, thereby avoiding the kind of media circus Texas generated. Recently Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe stated more young people are turning pro-life and the polls are turning away from abortion thanks to new medical technology proving fetuses show signs of viability at earlier periods in development. Actually, polls don't matter as far as constitutional rights go. Most Americans think there should be public school prayer, but the Court has rightfully forbid it. But I think most polls show that a majority of Americans still believe a woman has a right to get an abortion within the first three months of pregnancy. After that is where things get contentious.

But it's interesting how Rick Perry is so concerned about his citizens' right to own guns and text while they drive which is potentially harmful to others, but he blanches at the idea of gay Texans getting married which would hurt no one or that women have a right to make their own decisions about their own bodies (even before the first three months of a pregnancy).


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