James: If anyone is still listening, today the Governor of Minnesota signed into law the right to same-sex marriage. Minnesota is now the 12th state in the US to have marriage equality. Opponents argued vehemently that this violates their rights to live in a state that defines marriage as valid only between one man and one woman. Does the passage of this law violate someone's "rights"?
Jelka: To answer your question, James: yes, on a psychological [basis] perhaps. Many people's belief systems with regard to marriage are turned upside down by laws which allow same-sex marriages. Despite the high divorce rates, despite people taking a "pre-nup", still, I think that if we would ask the man and woman in the street, they would be against this law.
They will, at least, have the perception that their rights about thinking what is right and wrong, engrained in their psyche for centuries, have been taken away from them.
Jose Angel: I tend to agree with Jelka. It depends, James, on whether you assume that extending the definition of marriage to include same-sex marriages is a major overhaul of the institution. Which I think it is. In that sense, many people feel that an age-old institution is suddenly changed into something else—another institution which has some elements in common but is not the same. Let's take an analogy: imagine a country suddenly gives exactly the same treatment to both citizens and non-citizens, foreigners all, etc., declaring "we're all citizens now". That's good news for mankind perhaps in a way, but it might be very bad news to older citizens, who might feel that "their" citizenship had been scrapped with a legal legerdemain.
Thank you jelka and Jose for your thoughtful answers. In Minnesota there was a referendum last Fall in which the question was placed before the voters whether the state constitution should be amended to define marriage as between one man and one woman. That amendment was defeated 53% to 47%. Recent polls have also shown that a majority of the adult population in the state favors same-sex marriage. This of course was not true only a few years ago. So while not everyone in the state favors same sex marriage the majority of "men and women in the street" in Minnesota clearly do.
The law clearly provides that religious institutions are not forced to perform same-sex marriages. In fact, many religious congregations and clergy worked to pass the same-sex marriage bill. But those who are opposed to it are not forced to comply.
Do those who have "sincerely held religious beliefs" in favor of traditional marriage and against same-sex marriage have a legal right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage by refusing to provide goods and services such as food and refreshments for receptions, accommodations for receptions, tuxedos and wedding gowns, etc. to same-sex couples? In Minnesota, there has been a Human Rights Act for 20 years that has prohibited discrimination in providing goods and services to people based on sexual orientation and other protected classes.
I understand that some may feel the ground has shifted around them and their world view in a way that makes them uncomfortable but does that violate their legal rights in any way? Think back to issues such as allowing women to vote by constitutional amendment in the 1920's. Were mens' rights violated? How about the 1960's when the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 were passed prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, religion and sex were passed. Were the legal rights of white males violated?
Does a sense of loss, however deeply felt, equal a loss of legal rights?
I do have some empathy, though, for some old ladies and gentlemen, who cannot keep up with the rapid way life's changing; who simply shake their heads, whilst watching the horrors on t.v. and can't help thinking:"what is happening to our world?".