Is liberalism the new rule of law?

In 2015 Kim Davis’ expedient rise to fame made her the new face of Conservative Christian values. The Kentucky County Clerk captured the public’s attention after refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple on the grounds that it violated her religious beliefs, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize gay marriage. Davis argued that she “didn’t have to think about [refusing licenses]” because regardless of how the laws change, her beliefs never would.

Davis argues her detainment was a direct result of her controversial belief that marriage should be exclusively between a man and a woman. The opposition contends that Davis was detained because she refused to comply with federal law – legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states. Davis’ and her supporters’ main argumentative points continued to circle back to the idea that conservative views were under attack and the government was forcing them to conform to a liberal agenda. While the government is not forcing anyone to conform to a liberal agenda, there is validity to their concern that conservatism is in a vulnerable state. 

Naturally, this debate broadened to considerations of personal freedoms. Conservative Christians who believe, as a result of their religious affiliation, that marriage should be exclusively between a man and a woman argue their freedoms of speech and religion are threatened or infringed upon by the legalization of gay marriage. Conversely, members of the LGBTQ+ community argue that denying them a legal marriage for any reason, religious or otherwise, establishes that they are inherently less and don’t deserve the same rights – a clear suppression of freedoms.

The true underlying argument, made by Davis and those who support her, is that the government should not be able to pass a law that requires them to suppress or abandon their religious beliefs.

The counter-argument is that democratic governments, having to serve the best interest of the majority of the population, tend to make decisions based on a loose interpretation of utilitarianism – argues that the “right” action is the one that brings about the most happiness in the most people. Though it is thought to be an impossible feat, democratic governments (generally) try to keep the wellbeing and interests of the majority of their citizens at the forefront of their decision-making.

When the understanding of ‘freedom’ is looked at from a personal perspective it becomes subjective nature – making it more difficult for governments to protect it.

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