Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco made history this month. So did President Bush. Both made history by taking a stand on opposite sides of the same issue: gay marriage. Newsom, citing California's constitution as justification for ignoring a state law banning gay marriages, opened the doors to city hall on Freedom to Marry Day, February 12, 2004, and allowed the first marriage licenses to be issued to same gender couples. Less than two weeks later, Bush made history by being the first US President to ask for a constitutional amendment that would legalize discrimination against more than ten percent of the citizens of the US.
I didn't find out about Bush's speech until my wife called me on the phone. She was upset— in tears— as she listened to the President of the United States of America— land of the free and home of the brave— essentially declare war on gay Americans because we want to have legal recognition of our committed relationships just like heterosexual couples. Less than two hours after Bush's speech, a newsletter passed through my inbox asking any gay couples in the area if they would be willing to be interviewed on one of the local television stations. The reporter was having trouble finding a couple that would speak out on television because they were afraid that Bush's speech had officially delegated them to second class citizens, making them more susceptible to gay bashings and assaults from those who viewed them as a threat to American values and traditions. I was tempted not to call— figuring that someone else would have already called. But that to me is like seeing a house of fire and not doing anything on the assumption that someone else has already called. If everyone made that assumption, no one would ever call. So I picked up the phone and in less than two hours was sitting in front of a camera for an interview that would air that night on both the five and six o'clock evening news. There were many points I tried to make in that interview, but many of them didn't make the final cut (which is normal in any prolonged interview), so I wish to reiterate them here.
There is a broad misconception that the judges of this country, by overturning laws that are unconstitutional are "writing legislation". When the founding fathers of this country organized our government, they created three branches, each with a series of checks and balances that would prevent the other from overstepping their bounds. The legislative branch writes the laws, the executive branch enacts those laws by signing them or vetoing them. The judicial branch not only conducts trials when someone is accused of violating those laws, but it also determines whether those laws are constitutional or not. All three branches of the government must agree on a law before it can be enforced.
Bush, in his speech on the need for a constitutional amendment defining marriage, declared that "some activist judges and local officials have made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage." This is simply not the case. What those judges and officials have done is to declare that the laws that currently define marriage are unconstitutional and therefore are unenforceable! In Massachusetts, the four supreme court justices were doing their job. In New Mexico, country officials were simply following current law— none of which forbids same-gender marriage licenses from being issued. In San Francisco, Mayor Gary Newsom is committing an act of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is an honored and recognized way of protesting injustice and unconstitutionality— like Rosa Parks sitting in the "whites only" section of the bus.
The justices who decided that the Massachusetts laws, as they are written, are unconstitutional, are only doing what they are supposed to be doing: making sure that laws do not violate either the state or federal constitutions! They're not being activists! If anyone is being an activist, it's those who are seeking to change the very foundations upon which this country was founded: equality for all. When a legislator stands in front of the state congress and says, "Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, we have seldom had an opportunity to stand up for things that are common-sensical, things that stand up for Christian values" (Mike Boggs (D-Waycross, GA)), they are the ones who are attempting to alter the Constitution. They are the activists seeking to undermine the values and traditions of America. The president is failing in his duty to uphold the US Constitution.
Now we get to the issue of whether or not marriage is a state's right issue. While there are no laws governing marriage in the US Constitution, and the constitution specifies that issues that are not directly addressed in the constitution are issues for states to decide, marriage, like freedom of religion and the right to privacy, is a civil right, NOT a state's right. In Loving v Virginia in 1968, the justices of the US Supreme Court, in overturning the miscegenation laws that made it illegal for blacks to marry whites, said in part that the right to marry was an inherent right in the pursuit of happiness. No state may deny any citizen their civil rights. The state cannot even forbid convicted child molesters from marrying on death row or prevent a priest in the Roman Catholic church from marrying. (The priest may be defrocked, but the state cannot forbid him from marrying.) And yet they are seeking to prevent gays from marrying. Are you aware of how devastating it is to the emotional well-being of gays to realize that roughly 50% of the country thinks that we're not as good as convicted child molesters?
Let's move on, if you will, to the issue of the sanctity of marriage and the lack of desire to change the definition of marriage. It was only 36 years ago that the definition of marriage in the did NOT include a black man and a white woman or a white woman and a black man. At the time of Loving v Virginia, a far greater majority opposed allowing blacks to marry whites than those that now oppose allowing gays to marry. And yet the Supreme Court overturned all the miscegenation laws in the US overnight. People warned that it was the end of society as we know it. And yet society goes on. The definition of marriage had changed over time so many times. I find it ironic that those who are protesting so loudly against gay marriage have virtually nothing to say about the fact that a 13 year old child can marry in some states with parental permission. Where is the sanctity in legal child sexual abuse? The sanctity of divorce will not be destroyed by gays— it was already destroyed by divorce and by people marrying for social standing and just for the hell of it (like Britney and Jason). Not to mention that "sanctity" is something that is bestowed by a higher power, whatever name you call him/her. To base a law on any religion is unconstitutional.
The radical religious right is throwing out fear-fanning rhetoric that people are simply buying without question. "If we allow gay marriage, we're going to have to allow pedophiles to 'marry' their victims." As if an adult sexually abusing a child is even comparable to the actions of two consenting adults. "If we allow gay marriage, what's to stop someone from marrying their pet goat?" As if a civil contract signed between two consenting adults can even be compared to this absurd situation. However, I must say that if someone ever finds a goat that can give informed consent to marry, I will fight for that individuals right to marry said goat. "If we allow gay marriage, we're going to have to allow multiple marriages." I have to admit to this one I have to say, "So what's your problem with that?" Multiple marriages were and are allowed in many societies and society did not crumble and fall to pieces. In fact, multiple marriages were standard in the days of the Old Testament. A woman whose husband died became the wife of her husband's brother, even if he already had a wife. Solomon was blessed by God with wisdom unsurpassed by any human and he had over 700 wives and concubines. In the middle east, it is still legal to have more than one wife. Of course, I believe that women should be able to have more than one husband too.
As I write this, word has come to me that a mayor in a small town in New York will begin marrying same sex couples today. It seems that in New York, one can get married without a marriage license and the marriage is no less valid. This small town mayor is joining Gavin Newsom in an act of civil disobedience, protesting the continued and escalating violation of the civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendereds throughout the US. If you too believe that this continued discrimination is wrong, let your voice be heard. Write to your elected representatives, tell them to vote against the FMA. And if you want to find more ways to support GLBTs, don't forget to vist the home page of the Purple Hat Project.
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