The Land of The, Somewhat, Free

By Shay Mills
First things first. The recent legalization of gay marriage in select states has changed America for the better and made us all a part of history. We should be extremely proud. Nonetheless, with every victory on the side of a minority comes opposition. Despite the popular trend to amend laws against gay marriage, there are still people and states who refuse to accept gays as people with the right to marry and insist on keeping the government involved in the institution. This is perfectly fine and even somewhat expected. The great political philosopher Drucilla Cornell once said that you know for sure you live in a free society when you are offended by something at least once a day. But what exactly does this mean?
We live in America, and for as long as I can remember, this country has been famous for its liberated laws and the rights given to citizens, the First Amendment being the most popular. These liberties also give individual states the power to either conform to or disregard popular laws. Again, this is perfectly fine and, in fact, expected. However, a part of living in a real free society is tolerance, which is something that those five states are not demonstrating very well. It is one thing to still oppose same-sex marriage in general. I am sure there are hundreds of judges who cannot stand the idea of two men or women adopting such a traditionally heterosexual tradition. It is another to continue to withhold marriage from gays based on personal disapproval, despite the fact that gay marriage harms no one directly. Denying people the right to marry, a civil and human right, is equivalent to saying they are not American citizens. Here is where the problem lies.
Believe it or not, the issue I am addressing goes beyond gay marriage. This country was founded on liberty, which I am sure every last state, from Delaware to Hawaii, believes in. So the fact that gay marriage is not legal in all states is contradicting the very values which this “free” society was founded on.  That goes for all freedoms that have always been allowed, but limited without our even noticing it. I am not saying that everyone in the world should hang a rainbow flag in support. I am not saying that we are all supposed to agree on everything and live in hunky dory land forever.  I am saying that if this country is to truly be “free,” it has to stop allowing the stifling of human rights based on popular opinion.  If no one person or group of people is directly harmed, why limit something? Why not take the chance of being offended on a daily basis? This country seems to look at differences as if they are wild, headless chickens. Will chaos really break out if we stop suppressing how we feel? By the way, if you have been reading this article and still feel that this country is completely free, try walking into a movie theatre and yelling “Fire!” See where that lands you.
Think about it this way. According to Political Philosopher John Mill, people should not be forced to withhold a statement or opinion for three reasons: 1) the solution to an issue usually lies between two extremes; 2) opposition has the amazing ability of enhancing a popular argument by challenging and forcing it to prove itself; and 3) it might actually be true.  Food for thought.