Advocacy News - America: a symbol of hypocrisy & injustice?
August 30, 2006
a symbol of hypocrisy & injustice?
By Bud Evans
If marriage means "to honor and to hold…for richer or poorer…in sickness and in health…till death do us part" – then my partner-in-life and I are married, and no one on Earth can change that fact. For nearly thirty years we have endured good times and bad times together; we have shared, in equal parts, our sadness and our joyfulness; we have celebrated good health and, nursed each other in poor health.
By all reasoned virtue -- due to the mutual commitment and love we have for one another, which defines the ideal in any marriage -- we are, in every way, married. But, alas, we are not recognized as such legally in our home country. And now there are fearful, and yes, even spiteful, people who desire to make that a permanent condition of alienation; that is, to make us strangers to the protections of law, in our own country of birth; pushed legally outside of the very laws which protect every other loving couple in America.
The U. S. Constitution is an enduring legal instrument which has been altered only on rare occasions, and then primarily to expand citizens’ rights -- certainly not rewritten or amended to limit American citizen’s rights. Under our constitutional republic we are not obligated to conform, or even give deference, to the questionable moral dictum of another citizen’s particular religious beliefs. We are only required to bend to secular law, with the right to redress if laws are not administered fairly and impartially. The proposed federal constitutional amendment -- the so-called "Marriage Protection" Amendment -- would eliminate that right to redress.
This blatantly discriminatory and improperly named amendment does not protect the marriages of thousands of same-sex couples already legally married in the United States and abroad. In fact, it decrees that not only are those legally entered into marriage not protected, but it tries to pretend that they don't even exist. That would be as if the freedom of speech clause of First Amendment to the United States Constitution declared that only the ruling majority had "freedom of speech" and that right did not exist for anyone who did not belong to a favored class. The very concept of this "Marriage Amendment" would be laughable in its absurdity if it weren't so poisonous in its intent. Its sole intention is to do grievous harm by being an impediment to the well-being and to security of tens of millions of same-sex oriented American citizens for generations to come.
In the meanwhile, most of our individual states, whipped up into a hysterical frenzy by right-wing politicians, are rapidly amending their own state constitutions in order to imbed homophobic bigotry into every judicial and administrative branch, on every level, of each state's governmental structure. The false veneer of a "Bill of Rights" in the United States is rapidly becoming a synonym for hypocrisy and injustice in the eyes of all civilized nations of the world.
This abuse of the constitutional process for political advantage is un-American at its very core. Yet its proponents are rushing to push through the codification of second-class citizenship upon tens of millions of fellow Americans. They do this horrible deed knowing full well that when the typically reactionary American public comes lumbering back to its senses, in the ensuing years, it will see that this great "threat" to the American family of the early 21st century was not only very much exaggerated, but entirely false. Instead we shall have again a new legacy of self-deceit and group-hate as shamefully as racism was in American's recent past.
The truth of the matter is that the only American families which are threatened by this hysteria are the millions of disenfranchised same-sex families who are constantly under attack in the United States of America. What future generations will pay the price for this wrong-headed and politically exploitive populous gesture of the worst kind? The US Supreme Court -- perhaps in the future, in a more enlightened age -- should be left alone to exercise its constitutional power to undo rash state constitutional decisions (such as Romer v Evans -- Colorado Amendment 2). But to hamstring federal courts and state courts with ill-conceived, group-specific constitutional amendments, that do not expand but rather contract civil rights, shall set a dangerous precedent that will inevitably put all of our constitutional rights in jeopardy.
How does one square a "heterosexuals only" marriage amendment without conflicting with the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution which guarantees "Equality under the law" for each citizen regardless of distinction? Some say that "activist" judges shouldn’t decide these matters, but if it weren’t for so-called "activist" judges, black children may still be going to segregated schools; inter-racial couples prevented from getting married; women forced into back-alley abortions, and loving, committed same-sex couples hauled off by police officers in the middle of the night to jail from the sanctity of their very own bedrooms where they lie in each others arms -- as in the case of Lawrence -v- Texas. Yes, tampering with the U.S. Constitution in an attempt to amend it to reflect popular prejudices truly is the real "slippery slope" -- certainly not marriage equality.
The last debacle of this kind was the Volstead Act, resulting in the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1919, which imposed prohibition nationwide mainly due to the disproportionate political influence of the self-styled "moralists" of the time. But people still drank alcohol, they just did it illegally. The affect of prohibition was simply to make a mockery of individual rights and to provoke widespread disrespect for the law. That "mistake" resulted in fourteen years of the federal government invading people’s personal lives and habits with heavy-handed liquor raids on homes and "speak-easies" with the affect of only driving more and more law-abiding citizens into the hands of organized crime. This, one of the most divisive and irrational acts of the early twentieth century, was finally overturned with the passage of the 21st Amendment in 1933.
Do we now want enshrined in the U. S. Constitution that Gay and Lesbian Americans are to be forever exempt from equal treatment under the law? Is apartheid to be proscribed by a hetero-centric constitutional amendment which codifies marriage as a "heterosexuals only" legal contract and then robs millions of same-sex couples, in lifelong committed relationships too, of their hopes and dreams as well as denying them basic legal protections and recognition of their relationships? Do countless numbers of same-sex couples have to flee to Canada, or some other progressive democracy, in order to avoid constitutionally mandated oppression in their home country, the United States of America? What kind of stabilizing force in society is that which legally disadvantages the millions who exist in one type of family so that another, more common form of family can retain its purely symbolic supremacy at the expense of the other? Is that the legacy this country is going to leave to her children – her multiracial, multicultural, and affectionately diverse children? Have we not already learned the lessons of social destruction from biased and the self-styled, wrong-headed "moralists" who once divided this great nation? We can only hope that people of goodwill may recall the painful lessons of our reactionary past before we repeat those very same mistakes at the expense of tens of millions of fellow Americans present today.
We trust that fair-minded people will not support this blatantly biased and bigoted attempt to circumvent the US Constitution’s guarantees of equal treatment under the law. Robbing one group of their rights in this nation is an unconscionable act made even more reprehensible when it is motivated by preserving the status quo of a larger group whose own civil rights are by no means limited by the expansion of those very same rights to other Americans. In this case, it is American same-sex couples in intimate, loving and mutually supportive monogamous relationships who are in jeopardy of being forever consigned to second class citizenship; relegated to a lower caste; perpetually stigmatized as being less than fully American. Today, law abiding same-sex oriented Americans are accorded fewer relationship rights than convicted mass murders and unrepentant child-rapists who can join in legally recognized heterosexual marriages, and who are often entitled to conjugal rights as well during their incarceration in prison. There is something very, very wrong and morally unjustifiable about this kind of inequity.
As to the "sky is falling" Chicken Little crowd out there -- this isn’t about opening the floodgates to "whatever goes". If one was to follow that logic, then when black slaves were finally freed in America’s shameful past, some opposed to it could have irrationally claimed then that all convicts should be set free as well since, in essence, they too were held in bondage by the state. No, same-sex civil marriage does not open the proverbial Pandora’s Box and confer the same right to marry one’s sister or one’s poodle or to have two or three sets of spouses. It changes nothing in regard to the numerical structure or the relationship requirements of those who wish to enter into marriage. It conforms in every way possible to the existing definition of two non-related adult human beings who desire to be legally bound to one another and united in monogamous civil marriage.
To compare same-sex civil marriage to bestiality and to incest is simply an invidious ploy shamefully exploited by self-absorbed bigots in order to obfuscate the issue of equality. Apparently growing public acceptance towards any minority, not under their direct control, tends to threat their stranglehold on the status quo. This same tactic was used by their kind in similar arguments against legalizing interracial marriage not too many decades ago. Eventually, people of good will found the courage to stand up to them and a new generation grew up mostly uncontaminated by their predecessor’s twisted assumptions on race. So, if anyone can justify those problematic assertions made by contemporary opponents of Gay and Lesbian equality, with their self-serving and exaggerated "slippery slope" arguments, then let them petition the courts with both law and reason as to how it can be so. Until then, I would say that "herring" is very red indeed and not worthy of rational discourse. Hyperbole is always the last refuge of the scoundrel.
Same-sex oriented Americans have for decades fought long and hard for recognition of their birthright of equality. Ours is not a racial distinction, ours difference lies in the shading of our hearts. It is an emotional attribute that is just as innate and clings just as close to us as skin color does to others. What could be more natural than romantic attraction, followed by idealistically mapping out a future together with the object of one’s affection? What could be more intrinsic than the need for lifelong companionship with those of our own kind? Nothing in Heaven or on Earth can be more rewarding or more enduring than true love. Nothing.
Yes, contrary to the presuppositions of inculcated hate and politically whipped-up hysteria, there really is room enough at the marriage table for everyone. And not just an apartheid-like system of separate tables (i.e. Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships, etc) but room at the same table of marriage for each of us who wish to take on all the responsibility which it demands -- as well as reap its rewards. And as tempestuous as marriage sometimes is, it most often provides for couples pledged to one another for life, be they heterosexual or same-sex couples, the only real promise of a safe harbor in which to lay anchor and to protect their most precious cargo -- each other.
Bud Evans is a studio artist and writer who lives in Kansas City, Kansas USA with his partner, Bill, of over thirty-one years. Bud and Bill were legally married on September 13, 2004 in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. His blogs are at bud2000.blogspot.com and rainfish2000.blogspot.com.