Ruling reflects modern society’s ‘pursuit of happiness’


Christine Flowers

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching this week, trying to figure out why the legalization of same-sex marriage has administered such an emotional sucker punch to my solar plexus. Some would say it’s because I’m a bigot, and a bigot is never ready for the sea change that annihilates her bigoted world view. Others, including my caring and cautionary friends, have said that they understand how difficult it must be to see my concept of constitutional integrity ignored and displaced by that branch of government that represents the pinnacle of my profession, my secular Vatican, as it were.

I suppose if you think that gay marriage is a fundamental right, my opposition to Anthony Kennedy’s sweeping and historical (and to some extent hysterical) opinion could fit both bills, but that doesn’t really answer why I feel like a stranger in my own skin today. After thinking, and reading, and watching, and praying, and thinking some more, I finally arrived at the reason for my existential angst:

Humility has finally met its Waterloo.

I don’t mean that word in its narrowest sense, the one where we shrink from any acknowledgement of our accomplishments and eschew legitimate pride in success. I’m not talking about those people who assume a false sense of abnegation, only to appear even better in the eyes of the public. I’m not really talking about personal humility at all.

What I’m referring to is this collective sense that people are entitled to plumb the infinite possibilities that life has to offer simply because we want them, all of them, and that to prevent us from seeking them is a violation of our civil, and human, rights. It’s the “pursuit of happiness” principle on steroids.

We are no longer willing to accept that there are some things that, even though we can do them, should remain untouched. I wrote about this a decade ago when I talked about the designer baby craze where parents were engaged in choosing the eye color, gender, number and musical proclivities of their as yet un-conceived children. It wasn’t an attack on assisted reproduction or in vitro fertilization, because it is a noble and godly effort to bring a child into the loving arms of a mother and father. It was a direct hit on the arrogance of people, including single by choice mothers, who wanted a child as an accessory to their incomplete emotional wardrobes and were intent on designing that child to specifications.

Well, the ship carrying my indignation sailed years ago, and it could be seen circling the horizon under a rainbow sky this past week. Because the idea that we are not limited by our biology and can indeed redefine our identities (thank you, Caitlyn) has taken such root in this western society that now we scoff at those who think procreation is of any true importance to the meaning of marriage. We don’t need an ovary and testicles any longer, because technology has rid us of those annoying limitations on pleasure and potential.

And so, if we don’t need a man and a woman to create life any longer, we can just dispense with the fiction of marriage as the primary guarantee that society will self-perpetuate. Yes, in the past, children were born out of wedlock and marriage was incidental to their creation, but it was never incidental to their welfare. Now, thanks to a Supreme Court decision that springs from the fertile minds of five justices and bursts forth like a heavily-perfumed judicial flower, it is.

Supporters of same sex marriage push back and say that it is wrong to deprive people who love each other of their right to “be happy.” If you look at it that way, through the rainbow screen on your Facebook profile picture, that makes a lot of sense. But being happy at the expense of others was not what the framers meant when they talked about that cherished pursuit in the Declaration of Independence. And make no mistake that this ruling is coming at the expense of others.

As many have already noted, it could come at the expense of those who follow a creed that still, touchingly, venerates the union of man and woman. But even beyond the threat to religious freedom, it comes at the expense of individual liberty.

You will be shaking your head at that one and tweeting out comments to #SheIsWacked. But the truth is that when we deliberately twist the laws to satisfy a social movement, when we turn our constitutional integrity into food for some culture war beast, we have demeaned and diminished those who do not share that sweeping view of entitlement.

And that’s what I mean about losing our humility. As a nation, our greatness has always derived from two things, the sense that our capabilities are infinite and the concomitant wisdom to impose limitations on that Promethean fire.

Now, we have snatched a constitutional right from a void, untethered to legitimate precedent (no, Loving v. Virginia isn’t controlling if you consider its context) and common sense. There will be lawsuits, and the name-calling has already begun for those not yet on board with the same-sex juggernaut.

We have upended the social structures so that one group can continue to pursue its happiness while others try and find solid ground in the whirlwind.

That explains my nausea.

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