My niece, Intrepid Cat, works in Washington, D.C. Her Facebook was filled with sorrow last week. Her emails were filled with rage. I asked her to share her thoughts, and this is what she sent. Let no one tell me that young people today are not interested in the issues.
Tuesday morning, on my way to work, I heard several hundred people shouting hatred in the name of religion. It made me sad, and it made me angry.
Later that morning the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about Proposition 8- California's law that defines “marriage” as a union of one man and one woman.
Wednesday the court heard arguments about DOMA, the Federal Government's statute that says much the same.
Neither the state of California nor the executive branch of the United States government have chosen to defend these laws. The laws have been challenged by individuals, and they are being defended by “other interested parties;” Prop 8 by a group of “concerned citizens” and DOMA by “BLAG,” a group created by resolutions in the House and Senate specificity to defend DOMA when the President refused to defend a law he believes to be unconstitutional.
On both Tuesday and Wednesday the Supreme Court spent the first half of oral arguments discussing the rights of the parties involved to argue the cases before the court. The arguments were interesting, and they raise important questions about the nature of laws, and the rights of non-executive branch entities to defend laws in court.
But those are not issues most of the country are interested in.
Most of the people stand somewhere between me and the people shouting on the Mall Tuesday morning. I do not know where on this issue any one of you stand. But I want to tell you what I believe, and some hints as to why. I hope that it will allow you to step back and think about what exactly you believe, and how you address the topic at hand.
I am firm in my belief that all people, regardless of their gender, their age, they color, their religion, or their sexuality, are equal. I drank the American history Kool-Aid – I hold this truth to be self evident – all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am even willing to accept that “men” was the accepted collective noun for humanity at the time that sentence was first crafted.
I am firm in my belief that, for some, “happiness” means a piece of paper from the state that says you are married to this person.
I am firm in my belief that separate is not equal. Singling out a group of people and saying “Here, you can have this as long as it isn't the same thing I have” is not acceptable.
I am firm in my belief that the Constitution of the United States of America is a document that protects and grants rights, not one that takes them away.
I am firm in my belief that one of those rights is the promise that church and state will remain separate. I don't care if your church wants or refuses to perform marriages for gay couples. I don't care if your church, or synagogue, or mosque, does not recognize those unions. I do want my government to recognize that there are people who are so joined, and to treat them exactly the same as any other couple, ignoring their gender. Religious groups can chose as they will, but I pray that they understand that their way is not the only way, and that the ways of others have exactly the same protections under the law. All religions are free, not just mine.
I am firm in my belief that homosexuality is not a choice. I never woke up one day and decided to find boys attractive. I don't know anyone who ever got to chose one way or another.
I am firm in my belief that religion should never be used as a defense for hatred or fear. My religion has always supported me, and my religious teachers have always taught me to use my religion to improve the world. Seeing others screaming hate and fear goes against every understanding of religion I have. Seeing the names people scream in the name of God makes me cringe, and cry. I have seen many people scared by their encounters with religion, and it saddens me.
I am firm in my belief that gay marriage is not the start of a slippery slope. Arguments that it will lead to incest and bestiality are unfounded, yet they came up before the Supreme Court.
I am firm in my belief that gay marriage will not destroy the sanctity or the institution of marriage. The institution of marriage is ever changing. Women are no longer property. Marriages are no longer arranged to further business or political goals. Divorce is no longer a cause for scandal (although it is often caused by scandal.) People are marrying later in life, and often not marrying at all. If your marriage is diminished by the joy of others, that is a failing of your marriage – not their joy.
I wish I had some uplifting and happy way to end this rant. I don't know if I will have any good way to end this at any time in the next few months. If you have the time and any interest, I highly recommend reading the Supreme Court transcripts for these cases. There are few places where people of such great intelligence and education put both on display so sharply.
And in closing, I offer you my favorite quote from the proceedings so far:
“CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Thank you, counsel.
That was more than a sentence. “