Thursday, February 26, 2004

Captured Lightning

The inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty identifies her as "Mother of Exiles." Along similar lines, Jesus of Nazareth was well known to have included the excluded. He brought the love of God to people declared unclean and social outcasts. George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, who claims identification as both an American citizen and Christian believer, betrayed both his nationality and faith on Tuesday, February 24, 2004.

President Bush, in his official biography is noted as the former governor of Texas who "earned a reputation as a compassionate conservative who shaped public policy based on the principles of limited government, personal responsibility, strong families, and local control. " On February 24, Mr. Bush decimated his own record as being compassionate and an advocate of limited government and local control. Conservatives have traditionally favored reducing the power and influence of the federal government. Mr. Bush ran on a campaign continuing that traditional stance. However, Mr. Bush obviously has no qualms about also abandoning his political heritage and philosophy.

This past Tuesday, Mr. Bush became the first president to publicly call for the restriction of civil liberties against one particular group of citizens. Mr. Bush held a special press conference to specifically denounce homosexual Americans and proclaim them a second rate citizens and not worth basic human liberties. The President attempts to hide his bigotry and intolerance by pretending his actions do not impact the dignity, worth, and citizenship of American citizens:

"Our government should respect every person and protect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities. We should also conduct this difficult debate in a matter worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger. "

The President slaps every gay American in the face and then calls for a debate without "bitterness or anger." Mr. Bush, you will not get that debate. I, and plenty of other gay Americans have every right to be outraged and indignant at this declaration of war on our persons. We will not be silent and passive on this issue; we are, to use a famous movie line, "mad as hell and not going to take it any more."

Mr. Bush, you seek to keep us captive to your ideals of what is right and wrong. You seek to keep us captive to the moral imperatives of the religious right. You seek to keep us captives in our own nation. Mr. Bush, you will find that, like Lady Liberty's torch, you have captured lightning. And this lightning will strike a thousand times over.

The call to defend marriage is not a new one. This same call was used as recently as 1967, when interracial marriage was illegal. Interracial marriage could cause you to be arrested in some states. Public opinion showed opposition to permitting interracial marriage. Allowing blacks and whites to marry would lead to the break-down of the institution of marriage. A Virginia judge declared that God intended to separate the races and upheld a ban on interracial marriage.

The first time the ban on marriage was struck down in any state was in the same state where such laws are being challenged today, California. The California Supreme Court decided that such a ban made us "human beings...bereft of worth and dignity." Years later the United States Supreme Court decided that marriage is a "vital personal right" and that it belongs to all Americans. Today, we have a president that would strip us of that right.

I wonder if the President and his supporters would just as quickly smear the judges on the 1967 Supreme Court with the term "activist judges." These judges, and especially the Californian judges, went against popular opinion. They went agains what many felt was the will of God. Were they "activists"? And if they were, was it such a bad thing? Were judges who allowed black children to attend the same school as white children "activist judges"? Mr. Bush, in his limited intelligence, likes to hang on phrases he thinks sound profound. As typical, the phrase is utterly meaningless. Judges on a daily basis interpret law and redefine how those laws are applied in court cases. The Massachusetts Supreme Court did nothing different than they do on any other day, except deliver a decision that is unpopular with the President and religious right.

The President stated, like many of the religious Right, that the amendment is necessary to protect the institution and definition of marriage. Like his supporters, Mr. Bush has failed to identify how exactly gay marriage undermines this institution. When Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked to clarify exactly how the President sees gay marriage as being undermined, he offered no further information. Indeed, I've yet to hear an explanation, satisfactory or otherwise, on how same-sex marriage damages marriage.

What exactly is the President trying to protect? Mr. Bush calls marriage "the most fundamental institution of civilization." He also is trying to "prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever." I'm curious to which meaning and which particular institution the President is defending? Is he trying to defend the polygamous marriages of the Old Testament or the business-contractual arranged marriages of the New? If Mr. Bush finds a religious reason to combat same-sex marriage, shouldn't he take the advice of the Apostle Paul and work diligently to prevent marriage all together? In these same verses, Saint Paul advocates no remarriage after divorce and complete subjugation of the wife to the husband. Would Mr. Bush like to re-enact American laws that denied married women property and voting rights?

Perhaps the President seeks to protect the institution that brings us "The Bachelor", "Married By America", "The Littlest Groom", "I Married a Millionaire"? Perhaps he wants to protect the Michael Jackson / Lisa Marie Presley or Britney Spears /Jason Alexander institution? Or perhaps the President is slightly too late to keep the meaning of marriage from changing. Perhaps the President fears change, but as Henry David Thoreau once said, " dealing with truth we are immortal, and need fear no change nor accident."

Perhaps the President really has no strong conviction on the issue, but sees it as an opportune diversion from more pressing issues such as the intelligence debacle on the weapons of mass destruction, the continued occupation of Iraq, the continued loss of American lives in Iraq, the failure to institute a stable government in Iraq, the slumped economy, or the net loss of jobs the President will experience over his tenure. Perhaps the President's only conviction is a complete lack of conscious about toying with people's lives for his own political gain.

The notoriously even-keeled Senator Rick Santorum (a name I think would look fine upon a mental institution: the Santorum Sanitarium), recently revealed the truth about marriage: "Marriage is not about affirming somebody's love for somebody else. It's about uniting together to be open to children, to further civilization in our society." Sorry to step on anybody's fairy tale romance there. I suppose the Senator would favor a ban on marriage between infertile heterosexuals, or just those who, unaware of marriage's true purpose, chose not to have children.

I don't entirely disagree with the Senator, however. I don't need a government to recognize my love for my husband. I don't need a court to declare my commitment to another man. What I need is the ability to go through life with the man I love with the same rights and responsibilities that any other married couple would have. I need the government to ensure that when he is sick, I will get to see him in the hospital. I need our employers to give us the same benefits they give to married couples. I need to protection to make sure the house we both invested in goes to the other one upon the death of the other. I need basic life assurances that any other loving, and even non-loving, (and I must add non-procreative) couple receives from the government.

At one point I was content with the idea of civil unions giving us those benefits. Yet even this issue was fought by conservatives and the Religious Right. Their unwillingness to compromise has shown me that anything other than full marriage bestowed upon me by the federal government is at best a "separate but equal" arrangement. An arrangement that our highest court has already decided is unconstitutional. Anything less than my right to marry another man in any state I choose and travel to any other state and have that marriage recognized makes me a second-class citizen. Anything less denies me of rights the Supreme Court has already stated I should have.

Recently, the President laughingly proclaimed that "No president had done more for human rights" than he had. Perhaps he is correct. Perhaps he has finally put such pressure on the gay community that we are no longer willing to be captive to our second class citizen status. Perhaps he will have given us unprecedented human rights, even if we have to snatch them out of his hands.

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