A New Civil Rights Movement - What it Means to be Free

I sit here today, two days after President Obama stated "I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” I'm not going to sit here and tell you that he always shared that opinion publicly, or that he has always held that opinion, but it has been said, and that's a huge step here. Of course, it would have been nice to hear ten or fifteen years ago, but let's deal with the present. The "church", and some fundamentalists, believe that is an attack on "traditional marriage". Yes, there are a lot of air quotes in that sentence. You see, I've been in a "traditional marriage" that failed epically. Rush Limbaugh, who called this an attack on traditional marriage in his radio show has been in four "traditional marriages". We're all aware that Britney Spears has been in several of them as well, including one that lasted a whopping 55 hours!

Traditional marriage is a term I'm struggling with here. Some groups practiced polygamy for years. Traditional marriage for them was one man and as many woman as he could "provide with food, clothing, and sexual activity". Those quotations are because those words, or close approximates of them, appear in the Torah; Exodus 20:19-23:33. Other groups have practiced group marriage in the past, as was their tradition. The Toda people who live on the Nilgiri Plateau of southern India practiced Adelphic polyandry, where brothers shared the same wife or wives. It was practiced by some Himalayan tribes as well. With the Kurnai people of Australia it was expected that unmarried brothers would be allowed access to the wife of the married brother.

The point I'm trying to make here is simple. "Traditional Marriage" means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For me, marriage is a social contract. For the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament. Of course, that wasn't true until the Council of Trent, first convened in 13 DEC 1545. In an effort to fight the rising tide of Protestant heresy, the Council laid out the seven sacraments of modern day Catholicism. Before that, while marriage was certainly holy in their eyes, it was never spelled out. In the 24th session of the Council of Trent the Catholic Church reaffirmed the excellence of celibacy, condemned concubinage, and stated that a "valid marriage was dependent upon its being performed by a priest before at least two witnesses." They also stated that in cases of divorce the innocent party couldn't remarry as long as the other party lived, even if the other party had committed adultery. Explains why Henry VIII found it more expedient to cut their heads off... So that's out of the way. "Traditional Marriage" is a myth brought about by the rise of a ruling class that believes that their way is the only way. Traditional marriage means many things to many people, so for my friends who live an "alternate lifestyle" (I hate that term, hence the air quotes) I find that this isn't an issue of religion, or tradition, it's a question of freedom. You see, a free people should not be deprived of their civil rights based on the beliefs of another free person. Is marriage a civil right? It seems the Supreme Court of the United States has believed so since at least 1967, but let's go a little farther back than that. 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 any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Does that look familiar to you? It should, it's the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified by the member states in 1868. In Loving v. Virginia (1967), the Supreme Court first applies this law to marriage, where the court struck down a Virginia law that banned interracial marriage. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the majority opinion. "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State." These words are no less important today, on the topic of gay marriage, than they were in 1967. This is a civil rights issue, and loss of important civil rights for a group of people who have committed no crime, been subject to no due process. I don't understand how any politician opposing gay marriage is any different than Governor George Wallace, standing at the schoolhouse door after Brown v Board of Education meant an end to discriminatory education practice. Anyone who votes against gay marriage, a subject that doesn't even deserve a "vote" in my mind, is Governor Wallace, a small-minded bigot. Why doesn't gay marriage deserve a vote? Because there should be no issue here. Two people in love should be allowed to declare that love before their friends and family, before God if that is what is in their hearts and if their church allows it. Those two people should be subject to the protections that their legal rights offer as US citizens.

Finally, one more thing here. Maybe it fits with the previous paragraph. I don't feel like this is a legislative issue at all. I'm going to have to go the ballot box this year and vote for a President. At no time is voter turnout higher than on that four year mark where we choose a president. So, let's add a line item to the national ballot. The Defense Against Small-Minded Bigots Act Voting yes for this would repeal DOMA, a waste of legislative time and paper. Then you have little voting boxes. Yes - I am opposed to the oppression of free people without due process. No - I openly admit to being a small-minded bigot. By labeling the boxes thus, we could maybe convince people not to be small-minded bigots with no ideas, and maybe let all people live in happiness. The more this issue stays hung up in the legislators of various states and federal government the more I believe we should put it on the ballot, and let the people decide. Regardless though, this is an idea long past its time. Let me leave you with this quote, from Mildred Loving of Loving v Virginia. Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights. I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about. Mrs. Loving made that statement on 12 JUN 2007, forty years after the courts had granted her the right to marry. She had lost husband Richard to a drunk driver 32 years earlier. She died less than a year later, on 2 MAY 2008, but she died having lived the life she wanted, marrying the person she wanted, and wanted that for everyone else. I fail to understand how so many people are so late in coming to that desire, happiness for all, freedom for all.


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