In the middle of the moral consensus discussion between a Homosexual, an Amish man, and a Presbyterian Pastor, the Department of Defense issued guidance granting benefits to those in the military in homosexual marriages. This creates the perfect segue into an important discussion on consensus as it relates to civil moral liberty.
On the surface, the decision by the DofD seems like one made out of respect to equality and liberty, both of which are protected by the constitution and other similar civil rights documents. However, in the arena of moral consensus, one must be careful to distinguish between liberty and advocacy. The DoD actually gave rights and benefits to homosexual marriages that the heterosexual marriages do not have, such as a 10 day ‘honeymoon’ break to get married. In its actions, the DoD also granted rights to homosexual marriages, marriages which are still illegal in 37 states. In other words, the DoD gave legal rights and financial reward to those who break the law of their state. The DoD is not simply protecting liberty and equality, they are advocating for homosexual marriage.
The problem with Legal Advocacy of one person’s rights is that in the arena of moral consensus, this advocacy impedes on the rights of another group. For instance, if the government states that a person may not speak against homosexuality because doing so would violate the rights of the homosexual, the government is thereby restricting the free speech rights of the other person. It is an issue of liberty to state that people may be homosexual. After all, the US government is not a sexual police force. On the other hand, decisions which seek to promote or advocate for homosexuality often impinge upon the freely held opinions of those believe homosexuality to be immoral. One would be shocked if the US government began advocating for abortions instead of simply allowing them, but the larger culture seems to be okay with the US government being pro-gay, forgetting that justice is supposed to blind and impartial. In many ways, the US government is not content to simply protect the liberties of homosexuals but feels it must actually advocate for them. When a child in a public school is told they cannot speak against homosexuality but may speak against Christianity, that is advocacy which violates another’s liberty.
So how should the DoD address homosexual marriages which do exist in the military? There is actually a fairly simple solution. Military (and other legal) benefits should be available for financial dependents. Marriage has become synonymous in the US tax code (and military benefits proceedings) with “financial dependent.” So why not make this explicit? Eliminate marriage as the deciding factor and instead allow benefits for financial dependents. This would include cohabiting couples, dependent siblings parents or grandparents, and even marriages. This would return military benefits and the tax code to their original purpose of supporting financial dependents instead of weapons of advocacy for moral positions. No one should have a real objection to simply supporting legally claimed financial dependents, but they should object to the US government advocating moral positions that are not based upon consensus.