A group of prominent Christians has published a letter indicating their intention to defy any decision by the Supreme Court that legalizes gay marriage or overturns the Defense of Marriage Act. Without bothering to wait for the decisions in gay marriage cases before the court, they have argued that natural law supersedes the Constitution.
You can read their argument here:
Natural Law is a concept from Catholic theology that has been used to provide a basis for both morality and legality. A general discussion of its history and substance may be found here:
In a nutshell, natural law is a claim that there are objective moral (or legal) standards which can be discovered by human reason. As such it is not a part of revealed religion, but might be considered as part of natural religion. Of course in the present instance the claim is that marriage is between one man and one woman is an objective moral law.
The unanswered question is what form their defiance can take. Mere refusal to recognize gay marriages is a weak kind of defiance if it can be called defiance at all. Another question is the degree to which Americans are prepared to recognize natural law as an objective basis for actual law. I would bet that the notion of natural law is not widely understood. Its purported independence of religious claims is also open to question.
Certainly but the notion of equal protection under the law is a desirable ideal to be strived for whether or not it is achieved—it is enshrined in the image of blindfolded Justice.
Should an emergency room physician be permitted to refuse treatment to someone because their religious beliefs differ from his own? Should policement be allowed to protect only those with whom they agree on religious doctrine?
This claim of natural law is consistent with uses of the term I saw while researching the early history of the US Congress, and the earlier history of the English Parliament.
As to Congress. people sometimes feared what Congress might do or disagreed with what Congress had done. They often appealed to a higher natural law that no government could set aside. Seeing the context, I wondered if they intended their words as warnings that they might turn to violence.
The early US Supreme Court was uncertain of its power and opened their written rulings with what looked like attempts to persuade the parties to a conflict that their issues were important and the Court was the proper place to resolve the conflict. I saw these attempts in enough cases that I wondered if the Court wanted the new nation to know that the Court, not the streets or a duel, was the proper place to resolve the conflict.
As to Parliament, during the centuries of conflict between Commons and monarchs, when members of Commons wanted to protest what monarchs might do or had done, they often appealed to "our ancient and undoubted rights." They settled some of their conflicts in battle.
As to the DOMA protest, many of its signers have for decades been trying to impose their religious values on all Americans.
Benjamin P. Dixon, in his 2012 book God is not a Republican, seeks to persuade evangelicals that:
1) they are biblically wrong to try to legislate their values,
2) they should instead live their values, leaving Americans free to accept or reject them, and
2) national Republicans want their votes but have done nothing, and will continue to do nothing, for them.
Dixon mentions xian leaders who want political power more than they want xian morality. If he succeeds, today's evangelical xians will see that politicians will always use them and, as earlier xians did, return to their churches.
There was a time when people believed in natural law just as much as they believed in natural theology and natural philosophy and natural history, but I think Bentham exploded the idea for most.
As an example: Using the cost to society argument, one could justify Iran style morality laws.
The problem is now and always has been to find the appropriate contemporary balance between individual and societal needs and rights. Restrictions on freedom imnpose costs on the individual, but complete individual freedom imposes costs on the rest of society.
ohhhh how I dread when that word 'balance' gets into discussions like this.. from Obama in his obscene defense of the NSA, to censorship advocates, and health nazis (you're charged with attempt to distribute supersized sodas).
mugger: give me your money
mugger: well give me half your money.that's a fair balance.
Anything can be claimed a cost to society if you try hard enough. And as society wraps itself further and further into private lives, it becomes more ubiquitous (and in ways that I NEVER invited 'society' into my life)
How about the cost to society of each loss of freedom and privacy?
Your personal dread of balance does not obviate the need for it.
The balance between individual rights and the common good is the fundamental problem of social organization and government. It is never finally resolved and requires continual adjustment as circumstances change.