“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

This is the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, in case you have been living under a rock your entire life and are thus unaware. It is arguably the most important right we have, as it provides us a means to petition for further rights and to express our opinions on rights we have and rights we may seek. Now, proponents of States’ rights might choose to point out that this specifies Congress and not the states themselves, but to put the kibosh on that:

“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Ah, sweet sweet Article VI of the Constitution. This says anything in the Constitution binds all the states in the union – and for those who might not understand “notwithstanding”, it means despite things to the contrary, so any state law that contradicts the Constitution is overruled by the Constitution.

Now that we have that out of the way, lets get to my point. We are a country built around personal freedoms – and freedom of expression, freedom of religion, is one of our most valued rights (although some might argue the right to bear arms over those *cough*). In order to be able to practice our religion, there can be no laws that deny us the ability to practice it and there can be no laws forcing us to practice a certain way (read: the rules of other religions). Christianity for instance cannot force a law on us that requires us to be baptized, Judaism can’t require the entire country to be circumcized, and Islam cannot force the entire country to follow Shari’a law or pray toward Mecca multiple (or any) times per day. There are of course accepted reasonable limits here – I cannot go around sacrificing people, burning witches, or putting the unbelievers to the sword. Generally these restrictions are in place to prevent harm to others or acts considered by the vast majority of people to be cruel or abusive.

Homosexual relationships are substantively no different than heterosexual ones. They harm no one if they are between consenting adults. Children raised by same-sex parents are every bit as healthy as those raised in healthy heterosexual relationships. In short, no one is being hurt. I’d like to note here that I feel the same about healthy plural marriages between consenting adults (none of that FLDS forced/child marriage crap). If you want to argue that some of those relationships can be bad, we so can some heterosexual ones. Would you ban those for the same problems? The only reason for being opposed to same-sex relationships is “because god said so”. I’m sorry, if my religion permits same-sex relationships/marriages, and I am denied the ability to enter into one because of a law supported by the dictates of your religion, my First Amendment rights are being violated, plain and simple.

This is not to say that you cannot be opposed to such relationships, nor that you cannot express your disapproval thereof; within a religious institution, you should in no way be forced to allow people who do not abide by your religion’s dictates to participate, or be forced to marry same-sex couples if your god disapproves of them. If you don’t like it, just don’t do it – and don’t force those beliefs on other people.

Some people argue that allowing same-sex marriage is a slippery slope – that it will lead to child marriage, beastiality, and plural marriage. Ignoring of course plural marriage, which I addressed earlier, let’s look at the other two. In which of those two cases can both sides be considered consenting adults? If you guessed anything other than neither, you might want to consider a career as a potted plant (no offense to potted plants).

Look, if your religion works for you, more power to you. Practice it, live it, rejoice in it. That doesn’t mean however that your religion must be correct for everyone. Try and convince people it is all you want – so long as you aren’t harassing them (hint – if they have told you to piss off a dozen times, you are being harassing), go for it. If they either don’t want to or cant “be saved”, let it go. At least you can say you tried, and at least they can go on living their life without constantly feeling judged by you.

Freedom from religion is implicitly part of freedom of religion. I cannot practice my faith if I am force to practice yours, and vice versa. Since no religion can be forced on people, this allows agnosticism and atheism as well – both of which must also enjoy freedom from religion. The sooner the religious right gets this, the better off our country will be.

Believe and let believe.

Worship and let worship.

Live, and let live.

Never forget that this is not your state, your country, your world. It belongs to all of us, and we should each have a place in it. After all, it lives and grows on all of our shoulders – not just yours.