Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Fundamental Civil Right of Marriage

I have an article in the latest edition of the Church Street Freedom Press. If you haven't seen the "L Issue", check it out! The article is pasted below.

Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’
fundamental to our very existence and survival.
Loving v. Virginia, 1967

American history is rife with instances of discrimination against gays and lesbians. In 1656, the New Haven Colony mandated the death penalty for lesbians. In the 19th and 20th century, punishment included castration, clitoridectomies, shock treatment, and lobotomies.

From the late 1940s to the late 1960s, thousands of LGBT persons were purged from the federal civil service. The Eisenhower Administration issued an executive order which banned the hiring of gays and lesbians in federal employment. The persecution of persons perceived as homosexual spread like wildfire throughout state governments and communities. Investigations and closed door interrogations led to widespread fear and intimidation.

George Bush hasn’t issued an executive order banning same-sex marriage, but he has called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. State legislators have joined in this most recent assault on the rights of LGBT citizens by filing copycat legislation aimed at following one of American’s oldest and most shameful traditions, the enshrinement of discrimination into law.

Studies find that when lawmakers act to deny rights to gays and lesbians, the result is stress, anxiety, depression and alienation in the LGBT community.

After Bill Clinton signed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, he stressed that the law should not be used as “an excuse for discrimination, violence or intimidation against any person." Yet the very purpose of the law, which declared marriage to be for heterosexuals only, was to discriminate. Moreover, all of history demonstrates that when lawmakers target one group of citizens for differential treatment, they promote division in the nation and an increase in prejudice. An increase in prejudice has a nasty habit of leading to an increase in intimidation and violence.

Tennessee is one of numerous states with legislators who have followed Bush’s lead by calling for a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit the “basic civil right” of marriage, on the basis of sexual orientation. Republican Sentator Jeff Miller, one of the amendment sponsors, defends his assault on the rights of LGBT citizens by protesting that he’s “not scared or phobic” of gays and lesbians. Miller protests: “They could come to Tennessee and claim rights. That's what I'm afraid of.''

According to Democratic House Speaker Naifeh, the proposed constitutional amendment is “bad public policy.” Naifeh plans to support bad public policy because, in his view, it’s popular. “It has overwhelming public support. I'm not going to stand in the way and get run over by that train," the democrat explains.

To add fuel to their fire, Tennessee legislators have introduced bills that would deny “homosexuals” the right to adopt children or serve as foster parents. These bills serve the purpose of focusing yet more public attention upon the LGBT community as suspect. Clearly, the message is: Gay and lesbian citizens are not only unfit for marriage, they are also unfit to associate with children.

Our Democratic Governor has done nothing to dampen the Bush Administration’s war on gays and lesbians. In one breath, the Governor notes that the amendment is unnecessary since same-sex marriage is already illegal, in the next he vows “I won’t actively urge (its) defeat.” Bredesen adds that same-sex marriage is “a vastly different issue from tolerance for gays.” The Governor is correct. Civil rights, or the lack thereof, is “a vastly different issue.”

Presumably, the Governor feels that gay and lesbian citizens should be grateful for the small favor of tolerance.

If legislators pass their amendment by a two-thirds majority, the same-sex marriage ban will be on the ballot in 2006. Despite their spin to the contrary, lawmakers will not merely be granting the majority population the right to determine if a minority group deserves civil rights, they will, in fact, be asking the public to follow their prejudicial lead.

The only hope of stopping this shameful effort to write sexual prejudice into the constitution is for the LGBT community and their progressive allies to demonstrate to legislators that the measure has overhwhelming public oppositon. That means packed committee rooms, packed legislative chambers and large demonstrations in the streets.

Six thousand progressives showed up in downtown Nashville to greet Michael Moore. How many will show up to demand that legislators abandon their plan to subject some of us to the indignity of having our civil rights on the ballot?