Earlier this summer, the US Supreme Court ruled by a 6-3 majority that gays have as much right to privacy in their bedrooms as heterosexuals do. (I'm not even going to get into how people make themselves look like uneducated fools when they compare the loving act of two consenting adults to the sexual abuse of a minor or the breaking of a marital vow.) Just last month, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that bans on gay marriages in Canada violated the Canadian equivalent of the Constitution. (My apologies to Canadians everywhere— I'm using this phrasing to make it easier for those Americans who don't understand what your Charter of Rights and Freedoms is.) The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is already past their self-imposed deadline for issuing a ruling that could conceivably make Massachusetts the first state in the United States to grant full marriage rights to gays. (Vermont civil unions, while a giant step in the right direction, still fall short of a full civil marriage.)
These three events in such a short period of time have thrust the issue of gay marriage into the spotlight. Mr. Bush, who in recent weeks has seen his approval rating drop through the floor, is taking full advantage of that spotlight by suggesting that the federal government "codify" what marriage means. He's also appears to be trying to fulfill two other agendas: finding a way to divert attention from his failure to revive the economy, his bumbled war in Iraq, his failure to dismantle Al Qaeda and the growing protests against the limitations placed on civil rights and the rolling back of environmental protection standards while at the same time attempting to win renewed financial support from the followers of the radical religious right— the likes of Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, all self-appointed "guardians of morality" in this country. But in doing so, Mr. Bush has once again failed in his job as the President of the United States.
Since the events of September 11, 2001, George W. Bush has repeatedly failed at his job by slowly taking away the civil liberties of ALL Americans (although the poor and minorities are more affected than rich, white, heterosexual Christians) through new legislation like the Patriot Act and the executive order allowing faith based initiatives. But I'm going to focus on just this latest failure— his announcement that he has White House attorneys looking at ways in which to "codify" marriage so that it can only be between one man and one woman.
When a newly elected president is sworn into office, he takes an oath that in its totality simply states, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." That Constitution, in part states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" (Article 1), "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people" (Article 9) and "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." (Article 14)
I am a citizen of the United States of America. I pay my taxes. I vote in elections that I'm allowed to vote in. (My state has the backward policy of only allowing voting along party lines during primaries, thereby taking away the voice of independent voters. But I digress.) I practice my faith in the manner that best suits me. I'm raising my children, sending them to public schools supported by my tax dollars. I work full-time at my own business (thereby contributing to the economy). I go on vacations to visit family and friends, I go grocery shopping to feed my family, I pay my bills, I volunteer in my community. In other words, I do what every other American citizen in this country does: live their life in pursuit of happiness. But I am different from about 90% of Americans because I am gay. And because I am gay, my government has made me a second class citizen, denying me the rights granted me under the US Constitution and "codifying" discrimination against me.
In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that allows states to refuse to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states. This law is in direct violation of the fourteenth amendment to the US Constitution. That amendment is what allows a married heterosexual couple to move from Maine to California without having to get married again in California. The fourteenth amendment "forces" the state of California to recognize the validity of the marriage contract made in Maine. Yet DOMA still stands— mainly because there is no ground on which to challenge it yet since same sex marriage is not legal in any state. But once it IS legal in ANY state, DOMA will surely be immediately challenged in court. In fact, with the right of gays to marry in Canada, DOMA may be challenged sooner than that since the US, under international treaties, recognizes as valid marriages performed in Canada between heterosexuals. Therefore, the US, by refusing to recognize gay marriages, is in violation of international treaties. I'm fully aware that Mr. Bush had nothing to do with DOMA— but he does support it and will fight any challenges to it. And for that, he has failed in his job, since DOMA clearly violates the US Constitution.
Mr. Bush's statements during his recent news conference made reference to the fact that he "believes" that marriage is for one man and one woman only. The first amendment to the Constitution prohibits Congress from passing any law that establishes one set of religious beliefs over all others, which is what Mr. Bush is seeking to do by "codifying" his belief on what a "real" marriage is. It doesn't matter if 99% of the people in this country agree with him: it is unconstitutional to use religious beliefs to create a law. (Yep, I know there are a lot of laws out there based on religion— many aren't reinforced anymore, although sadly, most still are....)
The fourteenth amendment calls for equal protection under the law for all US citizens— not just all heterosexual citizens. Mr. Bush's "codification" defining marriage as only between one man and one woman would prohibit gays from what the US Supreme court declared was an inherent right in the pursuit of happiness: the right to marry. (This ruling was handed down in 1968 in Loving v. Virginia when the justices struck down miscegenation laws that made it illegal for blacks to marry whites.) By putting White House lawyers, who are paid by taxpayer dollars, to work finding a way to violate the US Constitution, Mr. Bush has once more failed to fulfill his oath of office.
The question now becomes, "What are we, as American citizens, going to do about a president who so blatantly violates the oath he took when installed in office?" Are we going to sit around and ignore it and allow him to continue to take away the civil rights of American citizens? Or are we going to stand up and say "Enough is enough!" My fear, based on how often we've let break his oath already, is the former. My hope is the latter. As the old saying goes, "Hope springs eternal."
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