When Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed legislation to ratify same-sex marriage on March 1, 2012, he made a powerful statement:
“For a people committed to the principle of religious freedom, the way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights of all.”
This is at once a great validation of the principle of the American experiment, and a proper reading of the First Amendment, which I heard someone on the radio define as being about freedom of religion. He defined it that way to force the Amendment to support the proposed Blunt amendment, which the Senate narrowly voted down on March 2. The logic is that if religion is protected first, then it’s the most important thing to protect, and therefore needs special protection, or even support. Somehow the First Amendment, which prohibits our federal government from establishing a state religion, or stopping anyone from practicing their religion freely, is really meant to champion certain religious beliefs, and legally protect them.In the cae of the Blunt proposal, a narrow Christian belief about conception would be championed above all other religious beliefs on the same topic, and protected by the federal government.
But the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, press, religion, and right to petition. Each of these is equally important. And the federal government’s role is to protect everyone’s beliefs by refusing to official sanction any of them.
So freedom of religion is about allowing all religious beliefs to thrive naturally, and this means not imposing any one church’s beliefs on others. And the last thing the federal government should do is outsource which beliefs are acceptable or condoned and which are not to the realm of business, where employers would make those decisions.
America has always been great when it extends rights to more people, not when it takes them away. When we allow more people to vote, to go to school, to work, to run for office, to marry, to immigrate here, to speak out, and to worship as they see fit, we’re doing the right thing, the thing America does best—living the experiment of freedom. The way forward is always to enshrine greater respect for the rights of all.
So thank you, Gov. O’Malley, for reiterating that point.