The Constitution of the United States has often been considered as one of the most important statements of the democratic establishment. In a time when human rights and civil privileges and duties alike were viewed as a debated subject, at the end of the 18th century, the era of the Founding Fathers gave birth to a set of norms and rules which allowed for a proper yet equitable equilibrium between what citizens can benefit from as opposed to their rights and obligations towards society. Throughout the centuries of American democracy, the amendment of the Constitution has been a sensitive issue and this legal instrument has been used only in matters that affected the core essence of the American values, such as the prohibition of slavery or the right to vote. Solely from the perspective of these two examples, it is obvious that amending the Constitution demands serious consideration and deep thought on the actual necessity for changing the text of the fundamental law. The prohibition of slavery was one of the most important actions taken since the creation of the United States and in theory it reflected the consideration for the breach of the right to freedom the Constitution guaranteed. Slavery or “the peculiar institution” in many situations restricted the right to life of most African Americans and committed them to a destiny of of poverty and misery. The abolition of slavery corrected this injustice and recognized the validity of the rights enshrined in the Constitution. In a similar way, the right to vote allowed an equal position in the matter of the exercise of social rights and offered the people and women in particular, the freedom to express their political, social, cultural, and economic beliefs through the mechanism established by the popular vote, as part of the democratic process.
Indeed, the issue of the amendment of the Constitution in relation to the issue of gay marriages and the burning of the flag in sign of protest has been a debated matter (U.S. Constitution Online, 2006). Nonetheless, should the Constitution be changed to allow gay marriages and flag destruction, they would eventually be considered as part of the social norm and the number of such cases may increase. Due to the fact that the Constitution is the fundamental law of the US, it would indeed stand out as a generally accepted fact and as a natural evolution of the society. The debate here does not concern the morality of these issues, but rather the necessity of dealing with them through constitutional means. In fact, they do not represent the general state of the nation, nor do they affect the large majority of the population; therefore, amending the Constitution would be an irrational resolution of the matter; even more, it would trigger a spread of the phenomena they represent.
The proponents of gay marriages have argued that the constitutional opposition to their religious and legal union is in fact an infringement of their freedom of expression and belief. Also, the flag desecration is also viewed as a means of expression and revolt against the state. However, one’s freedom is accepted to the point in which it breaches another man’s (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2003). It is in this way that the equilibrium in the society has been maintained for such a long period of time. The Constitution is essential in this sense because it offers a framework which determines the basic and most important aspects of the society and the defining elements of the nation. In this sense, the American constitution does not discuss the issue of marriage but since its interpretation, it was viewed as considering marriage to be the union between a man and a woman. Any amendment of the Constitution should only be made to strengthen this status quo present in the American society which in the end offers the equilibrium it enjoyed for centuries (Robinson, 2006). Indeed, it may be an infringement to the right to express their choice, yet, on the other hand, the acceptance of gay marriages would allow a disruption of the social values which are not subject to change because, in time, it would draw the degradation of the society and of the structure of the traditional and functional family structure.
In the case of the flag desecration, it is not necessarily a matter of the freedom of expression. The flag, as the national anthem or the capital of a state, represent sacred elements which define the identity of a people and of a nation. They are protected by the constitution and are the symbols with which any citizen of the United States can identify. The desecration of the national flag, no matter the reason, represents in fact an assault to the core beliefs of each and every citizen of the country and thus it is an assault to the basic beliefs of the social being. Although it may represent a means of expression, it enters in collision with others’ freedom of belief, which is not necessarily restricted to the religious one. Therefore, an attack on the national identity of a people cannot be considered as being an exercise of a certain freedom and should be punished not accepted.
Robinson, B.A. The Proposed "Federal Marriage Amendment". Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Retrieved 3 January 2008, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/mar_amend.htm
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2003). Positive and Negative Liberty. Retrieved 3 January 2008, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/liberty-positive-negative/
The U.S. Constitution Online. (2006). Constitutional Topic: marriage. Retrieved January 2 2008, from http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_marr.html