Do you have standing?

Do you have standing? What does that mean? It is a legal term that asks whether you are personally impacted by what you perceive as a slight.

Before the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a protected right, it first ruled on California’s Proposition 8. This state law banned gays and lesbians from marrying. What was interesting is a conservative and liberal attorney joined together to fight this injustice. The key part of their argument was do people who marry have any impact on other people? They argued successfully that other folks do not have standing to prevent such marriage.

If what I do with my life does not impact you whatsoever, even though you may not like it, you do not have standing. And, vice versa. I have no standing in what you do, as long as you are not harming me. If you choose to have multiple affairs, marry a lesbian lover, worship as a Muslim, Evangelical or Universalist, or walk around naked inside your house, that is your business. I do not have standing to take legal action about my complaint. It is only when you harm me, that makes it an issue.

I mention this as people who want their freedoms somehow forget this point when they look to deny yours. This is a human shortcoming we must guard against. My rights cannot be more important than another person’s. This is where religious freedom laws often go a bridge too far. They remind me of when African Americans could not eat in a whites only restaurant. They had to go around back and get a to-go order.

When I see the Supreme Court say it is OK to decline service because of religious freedoms, let’s change the equation around and see if it stands up. Could a Muslim bakery refuse to provide a wedding cake to a wedding between a Muslim and a Baptist or interracial couple as these run counter to their religious beliefs. What about a Catholic bakery that refuses to make a wedding cake for a second marriage? What about a gay baker refusing to serve an Evangelical couple who openly advocated against his rights?

Even though the Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the baker could deny service to a gay couple’s wedding, it was a narrow ruling. Yet, did the baker have standing? He was not harmed by the gay couple. Go back to the previous examples to see the slippery slope.

I write this today as a result of the second anniversary of the Charlottesville riots. While groups have a right to peaceful assembly and protest, there is a subtle but important distinction on standing. A white supremacist who advocates against equal rights for non-whites does not have standing. A Black man’s rights do not impact the White man’s. Yet, someone who is protesting that you are advocating against my equal rights does have standing. A white supremacist is infringing on another’s rights.

We all have equal rights. Mine are no more important than yours. And, vice versa.


20 thoughts on “Do you have standing?

  1. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    I have often questioned why some people think they have the right to inflict their beliefs on others, why it matters to others who someone falls in love with, what their religion or for that matter whether they have one. The short answer is that it shouldn’t, and legally, it doesn’t. Our friend Keith has stated this case far better than I could have, so today I am sharing Keith’s words of wisdom with you. Thank you, Keith, for this excellent post!

      • What concerns me most about the bakery ruling by SCOTUS is that it begs the question: Is the Supreme Court bending to the will of the Executive branch, rather than doing the job the Constitution sets forth of being a ‘check and balance’ on the power of the Executive?

      • Jill, this question should have been a no brainier, in my view, because if the argument was flipped, the wedding couple would have screamed bloody murder. Keith

  2. Another majestically argued post Keith.
    Back in the 1970s when the UK was indulging in a bout selfishness a hardened left-winger said to me ‘Do you know Rog’. Everyone talks about their rights. No one talks about their responsibilities,’
    To my mind a great responsibility is respecting another person’s freedom as long as their beliefs do not promulgate hate or abuse.

    • Roger, the other more important “R” word – responsibility. We seem to forget that one. The US President has trouble with this word as well as its sister “accountability.” Well added. Keith

  3. So right. No one wants to acknowledge that to have rights someone is always going to get hurt. When people expressed outrage over the religious task force I was like you brought this on yourselves. You contradicted yourselves by saying we’re a country of religious freedom then got upset by someone actually saying it to do something they don’t agree on morally that you agree on. I’m not saying the bakers and other businesses were right to do it… I thought it was cruel and rude. BUT if you cry we have religious freedom you can’t cry foul when someone uses it. Honestly, if the courts are going to say that yes they have the right to deny service than I’d rather have it put on the no shirt no service signs… not for mocking purpose or anything like some people would want but to spare people from getting their feelings hurt after getting their hopes up.

    • Thanks for your comment. One of pet peeves is when religious leaders use religions to exclude rather than include. To me, bigotry from the pulpit is a misuse of influence. I remember the conservative attorney for vilified for siding to overtime Proposition 8. He said this issue was about people wanting to be a family with the ones they love. We should celebrate that. I thought that said it nicely.

  4. Dear Keith,

    I love this concept of standing. I don’t want to interfere in someone’s life if what they are doing does not harm others or me. I am sick of Evangelicals trying to impose their belief systems on others who do not follow their beliefs but who are harming no one. It is these Evangelicals who are causing me harm as in the denial of climate change.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Thanks Gronda. We need religions to follow their better angels and be inclusive. Using the bible (or any religious text) as a weapon to divide is disheartening. These texts may have been divinely inspired, but they were written, edited, translated and interpreted by “imperfect men.” Both of those words are important. So, we should hold dear the overarching meanings to live by like treating others like we want to be treated. Keith

      • Not so much, Keith. Fortunately, the hate mongers do not have an enabler in the Prime Minister’s Office. I saw today that a prominent Conservative MP has come out criticizing Trudeau’s multicultural policy as extremist.

      • John, diversity of people, backgrounds and experiences is accretive to growth and enlightment. Saying it differently, you never know where good ideas come from, but one educator made a wonderful observation – creativity comes from the intersection of different kinds of people. Think a Venn diagram and where the circles overlap. Trudeau should be commended. Keith

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