Search This Blog


Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Real Threat To Traditional Marriage, Part Two; Rethinking Rights

Previously: The Real Threat To Traditional Marriage

Last week's post here ticked some people off.  If I learned one thing, it's that all it takes to be rebarbative across the social spectrum is to articulate a position of principled ambivalence toward the subject of same-sex marriage. That's the quickest way to exasperate your friends on both sides of the issue.

I really don't care about it one way or the other, and neither do a lot of other people.[1]  I explained my reasons in this post last year, but I was dumb enough to bring the subject up again, so I guess I should have expected a reaction.  In at least three Facebook groups as well as the comment section on this blog, some folks were either miffed at me for not recognizing the social dangers inherent in the practice, or lambasting me for being insensitive, uncaring, and bigoted because, they insist, I don't know the first thing about "rights."
[1]See, for just two examples, "We Really Don't Care If You're Gay, Gay People" and "Gays Who Don't Want Gay Marriage."

Let me make it clear why I have chosen to remain detached from the fray.  No, never mind; I'll explain that later.  The important thing to know right now is that I don't give a hang about "gay rights." But I am adamantly in favor of the rights of gay people.

I left a teaser at the end of my last post regarding the question of whether Mormons need permission to be married, but I think we'll move that topic back until next time.  Judging from the reaction in certain quarters to my last post, I think it would be helpful if, before we tackled that discussion, we addressed the underlying question: what exactly are fundamental rights?  Without that basic understanding, it may never occur to ask some basic questions, such as:
If I have a fundamental right to marry, why do I need permission from the government before I can get married?
If I get a marriage license, what does that marriage license give me permission to do that I could not do before I got the marriage license?
Who is giving me that permission?
Where did they get the power to give me that permission?
If I apply for a marriage license, am I giving up any of my fundamental rights?
Where did the first marriage licenses start with in the first place?
And the most important question,
If I get married without a marriage license, is my marriage still lawful?
Let me tell you what happened immediately after posting my last piece. I was raked over the coals in certain quarters for reminding my readers that, like it or not, the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges did indeed recognize the fundamental right of same-sex couples to engage in the civil contract most of us call marriage.  However, I insisted, the ruling was a decidedly narrow one.  The Obergefell decision held that same sex couples may enjoy the same fundamental rights as opposite sex couples.  It did not grant additional rights to same-sex couples that opposite-sex couples do not enjoy. In my piece I was admittedly flippant toward those people, gay or otherwise, who who feel themselves entitled to rights that would infringe on the fundamental rights of others.

Several of my online friends took issue with that, pointing out that gay people do indeed have the right to buy cakes, flowers, and even pizza, even if the seller doesn't want to sell.  It soon became apparent that we were talking past each other, because I'm pretty certain that when I addressed that topic here on my blog it was clear I was writing about fundamental rights, which are perceptually distinct from statutory rights, the classification of rights my online friends were insisting on bringing to the table.

The more I attempted to explain the distinction, the more I was dismissed by some who do not know me as just another clueless bigot who hates gay people.  Some writers were sincere in their concern that I was wildly off base, while others were just plain insulting, challenging me to justify views and positions I never advocated and do not hold.  Typical of those challenges was this:
"So you think a store can refuse to allow someone to shop in their store just because they're gay? Do you think that's right?"
Well no. I don't think that would be right. It also wouldn't be kind.  But since when is the law concerned with kindness?

Right about now some of you are silently shouting, "But the law says you can't discriminate!  The store has a legal obligation to serve the customer!"

Maybe so, and I'll get to that. But right now we are discussing fundamental rights, a classification that is distinct from all other rights or grants of privilege, and the only kind of right to which the Obergefell court directed its finding.[2]  "The customer is always right" was a marketing ploy invented by Harry Gordon Selfredge in 1909.  Customers may have certain rights and privileges under the law in certain circumstances, and businesses may have certain obligations to the customer, but Selfredge's Store Operating Manual is not where we go when we seek to ascertain the meaning of law.
 [2] As the U.S. Constitution is a common law document, as a general rule the Supreme Court concerns itself with addressing common law issues.

I got presented with all kinds of hypothetical scenarios from challengers who were unable to distinguish between fundamental rights and moral behavior. But Since I did understand the distinction, and tried my best to articulate it, they concluded I must not be a very nice person.

It happens that I learned kindness, good manners, and respect for others from a very early age from my parents, my grandma, and Miss Frances of the Ding Dong School. My education in natural law and fundamental rights came much later and took a bit of time and effort.  What I learned through patient study was this: although law and morality are often connected, they are not the same thing.  
Here is Martin Krygier attempting to explain the problem we're having:
"It would be satisfying, of course, if we could all agree on what we are talking about, when our subject is the rule of law. This, however, is unlikely to happen. The meaning of the concept is so contested that any definition will be stipulative." (Martin Krygier, "The Rule of Law, An Abuser's Guide" from Andras Sajo, editor, The Dark Side of Fundamental Rights (Series 3, Issues in Constitutional law.)
That's a professor of law addressing other legal scholars on the difficulty of nailing down the meaning of the very topic under discussion here.  So you see the importance, in any discussion where law is the topic, to stipulate to the meaning before going off and launching personal diatribes.   None of us are likely to solve the problems of society -or really even begin to understand them- in a heated back-and-forth demand for absolution on a Facebook thread even when we do understand what the other person is saying.

Nor are we likely to come to an agreement because of anything I write here.  But let's dive in anyway and see where this takes us. 

The Law of Nature, And Of Nature's God
I didn't know much by the time I got married, but I did know the definition of the word "license."  I understood it to mean permission to do something that would otherwise be illegal or unlawful.  So I was frankly surprised when my bubbly new fiance came from a meeting with her bishop with a list of things we needed to do to prepare for our upcoming wedding.  Connie told me that one of the things on her list was for us to go and get a marriage license.

I was frankly surprised to hear that, because I had always assumed LDS weddings were performed under the jurisdiction of the Church alone.  Marriage licenses, I assumed, were for people getting married before a Justice of the Peace or some other civil authority. What interest, I wondered, did the State have in a church wedding, especially an LDS one?

The whole thing seemed mighty curious, but I didn't give it any more thought than that.  Connie was in charge of our wedding preparations, so I willingly followed her lead. I was controlled at this time by my hormones, so I was willing to pay whatever fees I had to, and jump through any hoops so long is it got me closer to the wedding night.

About four years later, once my libido had calmed down sufficiently to where I could think, I happened to learn that it was indeed strict policy of the LDS Church that no LDS couple could get married, either in church or in the temple, without first getting that permission slip from the State. Again that piqued my curiosity, and resulted in my embarking on a thirty year study focused on common law rights.

Since I had no ambitions to become a lawyer, in at least one respect I had an advantage over those who did.  Law students don't have time to study much more than the mechanics of law and legal procedure; I had the leisure to study the philosophical underpinnings of the law. I wanted to know where rights came from, how they are exercised, and how they can be lost.

So over time I read the actual works of the great philosophers of the Enlightenment, the great thinkers who influenced the men who founded our own government in the late 18th century.  I read modern editions of Paine, Burke, Rousseau, Diderot, Rutherford, Sidney, Coke, Descartes, Hobbes, Milton, Montesquieu, Locke, Bastiat, Kant, and Adam Smith.  I did not read the Durant's entire histories, nor the commentaries of Blackstone, Kent, or Joseph Story, but I owned the sets and became familiar with their contents.

They really knew how to write catchy book titles back then.
This would seem like an impressive boast if I could actually remember any of what I read. But I can't. In the mid nineties I was diagnosed with a disease of the brain and spinal column that left me massively fatigued, and wiped out entire chunks of my memory.[3] So regarding the great minds of The Age of Reason, I no longer can specifically recall which philosopher said what. I couldn't quote from Montesquieu if my life depended on it (for one thing, I don't speak French).
[3]Many of my most interesting personal experiences are missing from my memory.  Connie informs me, for instance, that I once went into the boxing ring with a kangaroo.  I was surprised to hear it, because I've always wanted to to that. (P.S. the kangaroo won.

I mention this only by way of explanation that in spite of not being able to recall particulars, I am solidly grounded in moral and legal philosophy. The details may have slipped, but my soul long ago absorbed the principles I learned, and those teachings infuse my character.  So, when it comes to the rights of man, I do have something of a grasp on the subject. Although I may walk around half the time in a stupor, the other half of the time my cognitive functions remain in play. I'm no dummy.[4] I still have the ability to reason.
[4] So if you meet me on the street, don't try to fool me into giving you my wallet; it won't work. (Plus, there's nothing in it.)

Rights Are FUN-damental!
So where do rights come from, anyway?  Well, the easy answer is "they come from God."  That was the view of Thomas Aquinas, who insisted God gave man reason so that, among other things, he could reason out how to live peacefully with other men.

Lucky for all you atheists, you don't have to believe in God to have the same rights as those who do.  The overall theme about rights as promulgated during The Enlightenment period was that basic human rights are inherent in all mankind precisely because they can be deduced scientifically through the use of reason, logic, and common sense.   Everybody has the same basic rights regardless of belief. Everybody wins.

The best philosophers are those who can scat.

Fundamental rights cannot be separated from Natural Law, but unfortunately many people don't have a clue what that term means. For centuries natural law was the main philosophical legal paradigm.  But just as a growing number of Americans today seem to think that a "right" is something that is granted to them by government, they also think rights are based on laws that people are required to obey. If we are ever going to have an effective conversation about rights, it's imperative we disabuse ourselves of the notion that Natural law is some kind of "law" that must be obeyed, or else you'll be subject to some type of punishment. We Mormons have particular trouble understanding the concept that "law" refers to principles rather than to obedience, because we have been exposed to falsehoods about it all our lives.
"Although it consists of only two words, the term 'Natural Law' has long been a battle field of semantics. The simplest term to grapple with is 'Law'. The word 'Law' is not used in a legal sense: it is not used in the sense of legislation. Rather it refers to a principle, or a governing rule, much as you might speak of the laws of physics, of the sub-law of gravity.
"The second word, 'Natural', has a more complicated history. The first question to ask is, 'Natural as opposed to what?' This particular question has occasioned great debate within the tradition of Natural Law. Some argue that the word is used as a term of distinction from 'supernatural', or the will of God. Others, such as Thomas Aquinas and those in the Thomistic tradition, interpret Natural Law in a somewhat more theistic context. Such great ambiguity exists in the term 'Natural' that long debate has raged over whether there is one tradition or many traditions of Natural Law." (McElroy, The Non-Absurdity of Natural Law, emphasis mine.)
Here is how one Thomist explains natural law in a nutshell:
"If the word "natural' means anything at all, it refers to the nature of a man, and when used with "law," "natural" must refer to an ordering that is manifested in the inclinations of a man's nature and to nothing else. Hence, taken in itself, there is nothing religious or theological in the "Natural Law" of Aquinas." (Quoted in Rothbard, Introduction to Natural Law Part One: Natural Law and Reason, from Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty; emphasis mine)
Fundamental rights are inherent in natural law, which is generally meant to refer to man in his ideal "natural" state: free, unrestrained, and unencumbered. This is where the debate is often contested.  Natural Law is sometimes confused with The Law of Nature. There is no perennial standard of what is just and what is unjust in nature, as von Mises reminds us. "Nature is alien to the idea of right and wrong. 'Thou shalt not kill' is certainly not part of natural law. The characteristic feature of natural conditions is that one animal is intent upon killing other animals..." (Quoted in McElroy, Supra)

But man's natural state places him above animals because of his ability to reason, and his ability to reason imparts in him the understanding that even though he has the right, if he wishes, to remain alone, aloof, and away from everyone else, learning to live cooperatively with others will provide him with a more fulfilling life.

This revolutionary idea that people who differ from each other in substantial ways can still manage to figure out how to form societies and get along, is what causes me to lament the unnecessary contention between some gays and some straights in this country.  Learning to get along while retaining our individual rights was a position advanced by Baron von Pufendorf, a seminal philosopher in the mid 1600's who influenced later Enlightenment thinkers with his suggestion that a man had a natural right to ownership of himself and to his own property, regardless of the opinions of kings, governments, and other people.[5]  Mankind can all live together in peace, Pufendorf  suggested, without anyone having to sacrifice their fundamental rights to the whim of kings, emperors, or the good of society.
[5] I wanted to name our third child after von Pufendorf but Connie wouldn't let me.

Baron von Pufendorf during his glam rock phase.

The important thing about natural rights is that all persons, by nature of their birth, have the right to stay to themselves and not be bothered; but if they choose to join into a society with others, they still retain their fundamental rights.  The group cannot compel an individual to act against his own self-interest if the individual doesn't want to.

Here are some of the fundamental rights you hold by virtue of your being a human being:

The right to liberty
The right to self-determination
The right to freedom of thought
The right to Freedom of expression
The right to freedom of religion
The right to privacy
The right to marry
The right to travel and move about
The right to peacefully assemble
The right to self defense
The right to freedom of association
The right to due process of law

You'll notice all those rights fit into the encapsulated phrase Jefferson used when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. They all embody the rights to life, liberty, and/or the pursuit of one's own happiness.  They also often overlap. For example, the right to marry is inclusive in the right to privacy, the right of self-determination, the right to free association, and the right of religious freedom.

Hold on, I forgot one:

Your Right To Go To The Movies
So, how can we tell the difference between fundamental rights and rights that are not fundamental?  Simple. You can do whatever the hell you want to with your life, but if a supposed "right" you are attempting to exercise involves the threat of coercion upon another person, that right is not fundamental.  Coercion is commonly associated with the phenomenon of feeling pressure to do something that one does not want to do. (See Robert Nozick in Philosophy, Science, and Method, pg 440, Morganbesser, ed.)  If  the exercise of your "right" involves making the other person do what he does not want to do, you are infringing on his fundamental rights. You do not have a fundamental right to do that.

However, you can often avail yourself of rights that are not fundamental. These rights are conditional, because their enforcement depends upon certain conditions. Conditional rights are not fundamental rights per se, but rather privileges granted by the legislature.  Normally (but not always), the philosophical underpinnings behind conditional rights can be soundly reasoned out, so that when properly exercised they don't intrude on the fundamental rights of others.

About twenty-five years ago I found myself sitting in a hotel lobby having a casual conversation with a man in the chair next to me.  In the course of the conversation I discovered he was the author of a book I happened to own, so it turned out I knew something about him.  He was a rights advocate who had something of a reputation as a rabble-rouser.  Although by this time I was fairly well versed in the concepts of natural law, I was unclear how natural law rights can be extended into the public arena without interfering with the autonomy of others.  In the course of our conversation, I got my basic education in civil rights.

My new friend Des told me about an experience he had the previous week at a movie theater.  He and a friend had set up a table in a shopping mall where they were handing out brochures and soliciting people to sign petitions. After a couple of hours, Des decided to call it a day, stuffed his few remaining brochures in his back pocket, and went across the hall to the Cineplex to catch a movie.  He had some time to kill before the movie started, so he bought himself a tray of cheesy nachos and sat down to eat.

Not long after, he was approached by a uniformed cop who was accompanied by the theater manager. The cop told Des the manager wanted him to leave.


The manager replied, "I don't want you disturbing the other customers."

"How am I disturbing the other customers?"

"I saw you outside handing out those brochures," the manager said, pointing to the brochures jutting out of Des's back pocket. "I don't want you handing them out in here."

"I'm not handing out brochures in here," Des responded. "I'm eating a tray of nacho cheese chips, and then I'm going to watch a movie.  I'm here because you invited me here."

That one surprised the manager. "I never invited you here!" He turned to the cop. "And I want you to make him leave." 

Well, long story short, the cop didn't make Des leave. The cop was the one who left.  Because this cop understood why Des had a right to be there.  As Des patiently explained to the manager, the theater had indeed invited him there by placing a public advertisement in the paper.  Further, the theater held itself out as a place where the public could purchase entertainment.  The venue was open for business at the time Des had arrived, and he had paid for his ticket. So Des had as much right as any other member of the public to be present and to be served in the same manner as any other customer.

Des had not passed out any of his brochures in the theater, nor had he any intention to.  The theater was private property holding itself out for public commerce, and Des understood he did not have a right to sell or promote his personal interests on someone else's property.  (Malls, on the other hand, have been declared by the courts to be public spaces -the modern equivalent of the public square- so Des did have a right to exercise free speech in the pathway of the mall -just not inside any of the stores.)

Des had a right to accommodation in that theater the same as anyone else as long as his behavior was not disruptive.  This statutory right is codified in United States Code 42.21.  The moral underpinning of that right is based on solid legal reasoning.  A public store, hotel, restaurant, or theater has invited the general public to be its customers.  It therefore has an obligation not to turn away a customer based on appearance, characteristics, or beliefs.

That's the difference between public rights and fundamental rights.  Des's decision to go the movies in the first place was motivated by his fundamental right to pursue his own happiness at that moment.  His right to be in the theater, however, was not fundamental; it was conditional.  It was conditioned on such things as the theater being open, and by its nature in commerce being a venue of public accommodation.  If Des had attempted to go to the manager's home, settle in on the couch, and start watching TV there, he would be infringing on that man's rights.  Why? Because the general public isn't invited there.

Which brings us to the question that prompted this whole discussion:  Do gay people have the same rights of accommodation in stores and restaurants as straight people?

Of course they do. This shouldn't even be a controversy.

When The Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie, That's A-Painful
There is a myth currently circulating online that a pizza parlor in Indiana has refused to sell pizzas to gay people.  This has a lot of people up in arms. These people hate gays! Let's run 'em out of business!

But that story is not true. A reporter for a local news channel was interviewing businesses for their thoughts on a state referendum that would guarantee to business owners that their rights to freedom of conscience and religion would be protected. In light of that ruling, and in an answer given to the reporter in the context of offering catering services to a gay wedding, one of the owners of Memories Pizza indicated such an invitation would probably be declined.

It was apparent from the interview that the owner had nothing against gay people, and the reporter even ended her report by confirming that the proprietors said if someone who was gay, or a member of another religion, came in to sit down and order pizza, they would be served just like anyone else. (Which makes you wonder why the station reported this non-story in the first place.)

The pertinent section of Title 42 that is concerned with discriminatory practices has to do with the "accommodation" of customers "on the premises." Catering an outside event is a whole different matter.

A "Caterer" is defined as a "purveyor," someone who provides food that is typically prepared off-site and delivered to an outside home or event.  In the middle ages, purveyance was a right claimed by the king to force certain people to provide him with provisions at a fixed price determined by the sovereign. These purveyors were required to have nearby and ready to deliver anything the king or his household might be in the mood for at any time.  They had to pander to the whims of the king, which is why pander is found in the Oxford American Dictionary under the definition of "cater."  Blackstone and Adam Smith both note that by the time of the Enlightenment, purveyance had been done away with in England because it violated an individual's common law rights. 

Today, catering is still not mandatory because it puts the caterer in a position of servility to the person or group that is being catered to. You can certainly volunteer to be a caterer, but you get to decide who you will select as a client. That is your fundamental right. And because catering to a wedding implies a degree of participation in the celebration of that wedding, no one has the right to force you by law to be involved in their celebration.  You can decline the invitation to that wedding if you like. Anyone can still come to the store and buy pizza for their wedding if that's what they want; they just can't make the store come to them.

That was the view of the owner at Memories Pizza. She stated that she had a belief that prevented her from "supporting a gay wedding."  From other statements she made, it would appear she didn't care one whit about whether someone was gay or not, what their personal beliefs permitted them to do, or that she had any desire to prevent them from doing it.  She also made it clear that gay customers were welcome.

That's why I had to shake my head and smile when I read the account of a couple of guys who thought they had tricked Memories Pizza by purchasing pizzas which they then served at their own gay wedding reception.  The headline in the Huffington Post trumpeted "Whoops! Pizarria That Refused To Cater Gay Weddings Just Catered A Gay Wedding!"

Whoops, no it did not. What Memories Pizza did was sell their product to some fool who drove eighty miles just to buy a couple of pizzas, put those pizzas in his car, then drive those pizzas eighty miles back to his own wedding reception. I'm willing to bet the folks at Memories Pizza didn't care if their customer was gay, or what he planned to do with those pizzas when he left. Memories Pizza got "tricked" into making $27.00 on the transaction. 

Of Wedding Cakes And Puritanical Collectivism
I borrowed the above subheading from Will Grigg, who has a unique facility for getting to the nub of a controversy. In my last post I openly ridiculed anyone who felt they had a constitutional right to force another person to bake them a cake. This was prompted by an actual incident where a bakery owned by a couple named Klein was fined $135,000 for turning down the opportunity to create a wedding cake for a gay wedding. Here's an excerpt from Will's piece. You can decide for yourself which party in this controversy has been treated unjustly:
"By declining to make a wedding cake for Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, Aaron Klein and his wife Melissa saved the lesbian couple roughly $350. This is a case in which discrimination on the part of a business materially benefited the supposed victims."
That's right, the "victims" saved a lot of money when the Kleins turned down their business:
"In January 2013, the Kleins, who operated a bakery called “Sweetcakes by Melissa,” turned down the couple’s business proposal. Within a few days, the would-be customers contracted with another bakery called Pastry Girl. The second vendor charged $250 to create the celebratory confection..."

"Had they accepted the job, the Kleins 'would have charged $600 for making and delivering the same cake'...If the Kleins had acted out of mercenary motivations rather than being governed by their religious convictions, Rachel and Laurel most likely would have settled for their first choice, rather than testing the market and quickly finding another vendor who produced the desired cake at less than half the price."
That favor didn't matter to the happy couple. They went crying to the Oregon Board of Labor, which levied a heavy fine against the Kleins.  If the constitution were properly operating in Oregon, and Rachel and Laurel had a complaint that their rights had been violated, the immediate question would be "what injury did Rachel and Laurel suffer when the Kleins refused their business?"

Well, they didn't suffer any injury at all. They gained a benefit.
"By forgoing the transaction, the Kleins paid a fairly sizable “opportunity cost” in the service of their beliefs while inflicting no injury on Rachel and Laurel. In fact, they actually did the couple a considerable favor in light of the fact that they wanted a ceremony “as `big and grand as they could afford,’” according to the BOLI’s account. The hundreds of dollars saved on a cake were thus available to be spent on other facets of the event.
"By declining to participate, however, the Kleins had hurt the couple’s feelings. As members of an officially recognized victim group in the People’s Republic of Oregon, Rachel and Laurel had the ability to summon official retaliation against someone whose opinions offended them."
Ah! Hurt feelings. So this is what we're going to divide the country over.

I would encourage anyone truly concerned about the violation of rights in this country to read Will's entire post on this controversy, and maybe also this one and this one. And "Let 'Them Eat Cake" by Jack Perry. Then come back and explain to me why you feel there is any reason the right to buy cake should even be a thing, let alone be taken seriously as a shining example of a fundamental right. It bothers me that I even feel the need to address this topic, because normally my concerns are occupied with real injustices taking place in the world.

Put On Your Big Boy Pants And Suck It Up
Do you know why so many straight people are getting tired of hearing about gay marriage?  Because so little of the debate is actually about marriage.  Too much of it is focused on imagined slights and niggling offenses.  During the past few years while proposals over gay marriage were being considered in the various state legislatures, some opponents were concerned that gay advocates were not so much lobbying for the right to marry, but to transform society to their liking.  I gotta say that every time I read some foolish comment about how justice was served when one party is put out of business by someone else who can't even claim an injury more serious than hurt feelings, those predictions appear to be coming true.

People instinctively don't like bullies, and whenever someone enlists the heavy hand of the State to bully another, most folks are smart enough to recognize who the little guy is in that scenario. Yes, some straight people bully gay people.  But now we're hearing too often about things going the other way.  That doesn't bring balance, that just rallies the opposition.  Why do you think so many people rushed to the support of  Sweetcakes by Melissa and Memories Pizza? The Kleins have received over 500,000 dollars from well-wishers who wanted to help them stay in business, and Memory Pizza received in excess of $800,000, all completely unsolicited.

This rallying of strangers to the plight of other strangers was a counter to the demands of those who advocated driving these small business owners into the ground as payback for their supposed sins.  Do you think all this support comes because most Americans are hateful bigots?  Surely some are, but think again.  It's mostly because Americans dislike bullies.  How else do you explain the fact that some of those supporters are gay?

I am well aware that many gay people have been the victims of vicious bullying their entire lives. But the only way we will heal this nation is to seek true justice on an individual basis.  Rights belong to individuals, not to groups. There is no such thing as "the gay community" just as there is no such thing as "the straight community" or "the white community" or "the black community."

If you doubt any of that, then try and define "the Mormon community."  I spend time on several Mormon Facebook groups, and the reason there are so many is that Mormons don't all think alike.  Not by a long shot. Even within the various Mormon Facebook groups there is a wide spectrum of diverse opinion.  A definable, uniform "Mormon community" does not exist.

It would help the cause of justice if everyone stopped identifying themselves in groups and stopped to think before blindly rallying to the support of "the group" when they half-hear some complaint or rumor.  Don't let the media lead you around by the nose; if you hear of something that doesn't sound fair, investigate before making assumptions. A little investigation on the part of Justin Trevino might have saved him a one hundred and sixty mile round trip for pizza just to make a point that didn't need making.  Had he bothered to investigate closely, he might have found out that the pizza parlor owner 1)
says he wouldn't turn anyone away from his pizza shop, 2) doesn't have a problem with gay people, and 3) had never actually refused to cater a gay wedding because he had never been asked to. 

A Lot Of Noise About Nothing
We can't get people to change.  Well, actually we can, but that takes love, not lawsuits. And in order to bring unconditional love into play, we're going to have start by changing ourselves. So, raise of hands: who wants to go first?  

As Butler Shaffer  affirms, gays have always been free to marry
"Years before 'gay marriage' became a political issue – at least twenty years ago – I attended three such gay marriages."

Natural law will always triumph, as I demonstrated in
this post regarding the fundamental right of the people to avail themselves of the use of marijuana, in spite of the fact that for almost a century their government has told them they can't. People who know they are free will find a way to pursue their own happiness whether their king grants them permission or withholds it.  

Well, today it's all become political theater and if we don't learn to settle our differences without enlisting the State as our personal bodyguard, it's only going to get worse.  Yes, yes; you have the fundamental right to be married and gay, even if other people don't like it. And you also have the fundamental right to refuse service, even if other people don't like it. The debate will never end as long as some people insist they have the right to coerce others against their will. But it will never change the nature or meaning of fundamental rights, even long after all those rights have been lost.

Adam Smith, in his 1759 classic The Theory of Moral Sentiments, suggested that societal change for
the better will come when people put themselves in the place of others; when they learn to gain true sympathy for the other person's plight.  Two hundred and fifty-six years later, we still haven't gotten it.

But then, Jesus taught much the same thing two thousand years ago, so I don't know what I'm expecting.

Update, October 6, 2015:A reader has brought to my attention this fascinating report by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt which encapsulates the reasons we have such divisive debates, and how we can turn things around.  Don't let the words "social psychologist" scare you away; it's a fascinating and very informative read; plus you can get the gist of it in one page.

Another reader tipped me off to Russ Robert's newly published commentary on Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, pictured above.  I haven't read it (the book won't be available until next week), but it looks to be a fun way to take in Smith's ideas if you don't want to have to wade through Smith's entire book to get at the good stuff.  Applying Adam Smith's principles can heal the problems of society. And  if society isn't interested in changing, well, as the title suggests, Individuals can use those principles to change their own lives. Not a bad place to start.