Young: Politics vs. human rights
February 22, 2014
I've never been one to dwell on anniversaries. But what the heck.
Last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act came in the sesquicentennial year of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln wanted the latter a year earlier. He made a preliminary declaration in 1862. He said it would take effect officially in 1863 if the Confederate army kept fighting. It kept fighting.
This is the case today in another protracted battle.
The opposition that wants to oppress gays and lesbians will go down fighting. But it is going down.
This time no army will be needed. The U.S. Constitution will see to it.
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A pivotal point in the Civil War came in Virginia when Richmond, the Confederate capital, fell to Union forces.
Today? Another turning point in Virginia: A federal judge there has blocked the state's ban on gay and lesbian unions. Judge Arenda Wright Allen cited the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Weldon in pronouncing marriage a fundamental right.
Speaking of the onetime Confederacy: Though the ruling could be overturned in appeal, Allen's decision applies to gay marriage bans in other states in her district: North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia. Glory be.
Once the tide turned 150 years ago, the end was a formality, with Union victory after victory. Today? Virginia is only the latest to fall. Before that, court rulings struck down gay marriage bans in Oklahoma, and Utah, and in New Mexico, and in New Jersey.
We hear the claims of righteousness behind raw and rank discrimination, the "our way of life" claim, the "stand up for traditional marriage" claim. It is politics, nothing more. Sorry to report, folks, but it's about to be a rout, for the Constitution clearly, decisively, is in the other corner.
The people of Virginia voted "overwhelmingly to affirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman," says the president of the National Organization for Marriage. "That decision should be respected by judges."
But, of course, "the people" of various jurisdictions have authorized any number of disgraceful forms of oppression, from the aforementioned slavery, to school segregation, to exclusive lunch counters, to the Kansas House's sending to the Senate the other day a bill to allow businesses to refuse to serve gays and lesbians.
Just as was the case during Jim Crow, the politics of oppression remain strong. That's why U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was at the microphone hawking a bill that would effectively declare states like his as Constitution-free zones on matters like this. King's X, as it were.
Cruz came on the national scene like Joe McCarthy. Now he is doing a very serviceable George Wallace. Speak for the people, senator.
It is a fascinating pairing when Cruz and his tea party kin find soul mates in Russian autocrats and Sudanese henchmen on the issue of gay rights.
When U.S. athletes, with the blessing of the president, strode confidently in Sochi in support of human rights — gay rights, it was a proud red, white and blue day for America.
When the students of the University of Missouri stood and roared for newly, proudly, outed defensive lineman Michael Sam, it was a proud day for the university. It also is a gesture that should shame a state — Missouri — in which discrimination against gay couples is institutionalized. Be advised, Mizzou: The ACLU is coming after you. It announced as much last week.
What the courts are saying: Marriage isn't a province of the church. Marriage isn't the province of politicians. Marriage is a basic legal relationship carrying a host of ramifications, from spousal benefits, to probate, to tax equity.
The courts say that if, as the Declaration of Independence says, all of us are equal, then those who are gay, lesbian and transgendered are included.
The literal definition of "us" is what Lincoln was prosecuting, too, though the opposition kept fighting.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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