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Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

In the wake of the Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8, I have been asked my thoughts on this matter. To recap, over the years so many social conservatives have looked to the federal government to uphold traditional marriage while social liberals ask the government to grant what they feel are basic civil rights to homosexuals.

Well, when it comes to the issue of marriage and the federal government my thoughts are quite simple.  The federal government has no constitutional authority to determine what marriage is or what it is not.  It is really that simple.  Regardless on which side of the social divide you happen to fall, granting the federal government this extra constitutional authority is not only improper, it is also dangerous.

For those of you who run to the federal government looking for a redress on this issue, my challenge to you is to clearly show where the Constitution authorizes the government this power.  Can you do so?  Or has the government in Washington become some sort of catch all, a governing body of unlimited power than can decide every facet of our lives?

What if the people of Massachusetts wish to permit gay marriage?  Is it their right to do so?  And should a heavy-handed federal government be able to squash this proposal?  Similarly, what if the people of Tennessee wish to outlaw gay marriage?  Are they allowed similarly to make that sort of decision?  Or should the federal government intervene to promote “the national will”?  Whether the definition of marriage ought to be left to the churches, the states, or the people themselves, one is hard-pressed to make the legal justification of federal involvement other than for the sake of national uniformity.

Now, that’s not to say that I do not have an opinion on the subject of marriage.  I do believe that healthy marriages are the fundamental building block of society and I supported the Marshall Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution in 2006 that defined marriage in this state as being between one man and one woman.  However, that decision came about through an amendment to our state constitution, the most fundamental ruling document in this state.  It wasn’t a mere law, but a power that required constitutional changes to allow the government to take a stand.  This same rule should apply to the federal government as well.  If it wishes to take a position on this issue either in favor or opposition to gay marriage, then pass a constitutional amendment allowing it the authority to do so.  Granted, it is not an easy process, but, much like the drug war, without this explicit power, any action that the federal government takes in this matter is a clear violation of the governing rules of our nation.

Regardless of how you fall in this issue, whether you seek to promote traditional values or to enhance the civil rights of our fellow citizens, I caution liberals, conservatives, and even some libertarians not to look to the federal government to solve this issue of marriage.  Keep in mind that whenever you surrender authority to this increasingly unrestrained body, you lose any moral grounds to complain in the future should they one day take a position that stands in stark contrast to your own.

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On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend a forum entitled “Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?” offered by the Cato Institute.  I hope that this event will spawn several posts, but let me first tackle the issue of gay people and conservatism.  Briefly going through the forum itself, the panel consisted of Nick Herbert (a member of the Conservative Party and the UK parliament) Andrew Sullivan (a well known author and blogger), and Maggie Gallagher (President of the National Organization for Marriage).  Each of the three answered the above question a bit differently.  Mr. Herbert, as a successful member of the Conservative Party, supported the fusion of gay and conservative politics and outlined ways in which the two are successfully merging in Great Britain.  By contrast, Mr. Sullivan thought that the current trends within the Republican Party create a very hostile environment for gays and thus the situation in the United States is not favorable for a union.  From what I could gather from Mrs. Gallagher, she seemed to approve of gays in the conservative movement so long as they did not push for gay marriage.  As a result of her stance, throughout the forum, both Mr. Sullivan and Mrs. Gallagher had several rather tense moments as each seemed to irritate the other.  Overall, I would say the forum was quite interesting.  In retrospect, I wish that I were a bit more lucid during the proceedings and discussion afterward.  One of the attendees asked me what my thoughts were on gay marriage and rather than giving a clear and concise answer, I tried to sidestep the issue as a result of my foggy head.  He understood my meaning, but for an involved activist like myself, it was embarrassing.  Therefore, let me share my thoughts on whether there is a place for gay people in conservatism.

When it comes to fiscal conservatism, there is no reason why a gay person and a non-gay person could not hold very similar positions.  Lower taxes, a balanced budget, reduced government spending, these are issues where attitudes toward homosexuality hold little bearing.  Presumably being gay or not being gay should not hold any sway on fiscal matters.  The real crux of the matter comes in social conservatism.  For starters, the simple fact of the matter is that many social conservatives view homosexual activity as immoral, and, as a result, many do not wish to associate with people who engage in such behavior.  They do not look for common ground.  Although not all social conservatives shun the gay community, there certainly is a tension that exists for many.  But certainly gay people can hold socially conservative views.  For example, gay and non-gays alike can be against abortion or euthanasia.  Prayer in schools and open religious displays might be a little cloudy.  Although I didn’t really think about it much beforehand, as a result of this forum, I believe that the real driving wedge is the issue of marriage.

Marriage from the gay perspective (as I understand it)

I would assume that the majority of gays view marriage as a civil issue.  If other folks in society are allowed to marry, why can’t they?  To deny them this ability relegates them to second-class citizens where they do not enjoy all of the rights and privileges of straight men and women.  It is a matter of freedom, tolerance, and acceptance.

Marriage from the social conservative perspective (as I understand it)

To many social conservatives, marriage is not merely a civil activity; it is the legal bonding of two people, a religious action.  God has ordained it since the beginning of time.  It existed before the birth of our nation and will continue long after we are a faint memory.  Therefore, governments have no right to interfere with an institution created by a higher power; they can merely serve as a guardian.  Marriage is, and can only be, between one man and one woman.  The issue is a matter of honoring God and his laws.

And there in lies the problem.  How can one side reconcile with the other over the marriage question?  Unfortunately, I don’t believe that they can.  This issue bears a striking similarity to the abortion issue.  Pro-choicers see the subject as promoting a woman’s control over her body and not bringing an unwanted child into the world.  Pro-lifers see the matter as the murder of an innocent life.  There is not and cannot be any reconciliation between the two groups as long as they both maintain their viewpoints.

So is there a place for gay people in conservative politics?  I believe that there is considerable shared ground between conservatives and many in the gay community and that both could profit from mutual cooperation.  For example, in the critical fight against abortion, one would be foolhardy to disregard any potential allies.  That having been said, many social conservatives will harbor the constant fear that cooperation will serve to legitimize homosexual activity and offend their religious beliefs.  In addition, the division over the marriage issue will make any arrangement unstable at best.  Will it work?  Will social conservatives and gay folks want to make it work?  I don’t know.  So to answer the question, without the aid of a magic 8 ball, all I can say is definitely maybe.  Sorry.

For another far more detailed take on this forum, I encourage you to read Rick Sincere’s article.

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