Larry, over at Political Realities, wrote a very good article the other day about whether or not society should "legislate morality," as the term goes.
For those who might not be certain what that means, the idea is that there are certain things that many people consider to be morally wrong but are not illegal. For example, it's not illegal for someone who is not in the military to cheat on his or her spouse. It's also not illegal to lie to someone so long as you're not committing perjury or lying to the police. I can tell someone that I'm 30, although I'm 28, and no one can do anything legal about it.
So the real question is where do we draw the line on this? It's good to have a moral society, one in which people believe in and practice a certain modicum of goodness, but when you consider the fact that much of morality is incredibly gray, that's where the silly shit starts.
Hopefully you all know by now that I'm not a relativist. I'm a good post-modern, which unlike relativism, holds that although Truth (with a capital T) is probably universal, we've definitely not discovered it yet, or it might be harder to discover than most people think.
Larry used homosexuality as an example. It's not illegal to be gay, but should it be? More specifically, in his example should a Christian book store owner not be allowed to pass up a homosexual for employment because of anti-discrimination laws?
To answer this question I think you have to consider the nature of the relationship between society and the individual. Locke believed that society was created for protection and arbitration. Liberty cannot exist if you're constantly in the mode of having to protect your stuff from other people. Liberty also cannot exist if you've constantly got someone trying to curtail your liberties. So humans formed societies to protect property and to create an impartial mediator to settle disputes.
Basically, the purpose of the law is to allow you to be as free as possible without letting you harm anyone else or curtail their liberties. We criminalize certain acts and attatch punishments to them in order to deter people from doing it. What harm does being gay do to anyone anywhere? Does it infringe on anyone's rights?
Actually, allowing people to discriminate against gays infringes on the rights of homosexuals. Should a church be forced to allow gay people to work for them? Probably not, because it's a religious institution.
Addendum: Sorry, I had to go on lunch. Legislating certain moral standards means that you're imposing those standards upon everyone. Some moral standards are based upon religion such as homosexuality and the morality of birth control.
I side with Larry, if I took his meaning correctly, that morality should not be legislated. Matters of the soul should be left up to the person to decide for him or herself. We can't know whether each and every action is moral or immoral. We can make some pretty good guesses, but we can't be 100% certain. Some people say that we can through the bible or whatever, but take away the bible and what is there?
I don't want to live in a society that tells me how much alcohol I'm allowed to drink (so long as I'm not hurting anyone in the process). I also don't want to live in a society that tells people that they can't marry someone simply because they're the same sex. Should we have a society in which we're told who we are and are not allowed to love?