August 4, 2010

Love Is Love Is Love.

I’ve always freely drawn comparisons between the fight for marriage equality and anti-miscegenation laws from the past.

Many others specifically cite Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision that made it legal for blacks and whites to marry for the first time, as the key decision that demonstrated the complete ignorance of and utter futility of criminalizing racial mixing.

Anti-miscegenation laws were morally indefensible, to be sure. But they were very different from the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans a group of citizens from marrying, not simply other types of people, but any other person. Period.

As The Atlantic senior editor, Ta-Nehisi Coates put it in an article on August 3rd, “the ban gays suffer under is unconditional and total and effectively offers one word for an entire sector of Americans–Die.”

There are distinctive differences between the struggle for gay rights and the Civil Rights struggles of the ‘50s and ‘60s. No one should ever compare the two in terms of the nature of their respective struggles. Nevertheless, we can make meaningful comparisons between how the two struggles unfolded.

Loving v. Virginia illustrates a very relevant fact about American Democracy and majority rule, and that fact is the majority is not always right.

When the high court decided on Loving v. Virginia, public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining the status quo and upholding anti-miscegenation laws in many states. Thankfully for the nation, a group of nine elders decided it was not in the country’s best interest to maintain that status quo if we were to remain a functioning democracy with a Constitution that was worth more than the parchment it was written on.

In this instance, reason won out over popular opinion. There are very few Americans today who would tell you otherwise if pressed on the issue. Our nation’s founders established our particular brand of democratic governance for this very reason: to enact and uphold intelligent laws as a means of protecting the vulnerable among us from the cruel offenses of the mobs and tyrants among us. This is what our nation was founded upon, and it runs in the blood of everyone who understands what it means to be subject to the will of those who would do harm or destroy.

Defense of Marriage Act supporters nationwide claim that the family is the building block of civilization, and that to monkey with the current definition would result in the unraveling of society.

Here’s what I think. Family is a form of defense. It’s a form of defense against homelessness, against poverty, against disease, against persecution, against loneliness, against lack of love and nurturance.

No matter what a family looks like, it can also be a form of protection against Neanderthals in our society who would deny you your rights, your happiness, your liberty, even your life.

To the “Defenders of Marriage” I pose these questions.

What does your family protect you from? From the likes of me? From gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and queer people? From gender non-conforming folks in general?

If family indeed defines our civilization, does yours guarantee or deny others their rights?

What does your family stand for?

Does it actively work to deny others their happiness, health, freedom… their lives?

Funny how you “Marriage Defenders” can read the Constitution and completely gloss over a citizen’s fundamental rights in the very first paragraph. The Constitution is as good as butt-wipe if you’re only going to use it selectively to support your notions of who’s worthy of a right and who isn’t.

I want to marry the person I love. This doesn’t harm you in any way.

I can beg if that’s what you’d like. I’m not above it. Of course, I would prefer to meet you on common ground as equal citizens of these United States who come to well-informed conclusions about what’s good for all of us through authentically adult dialogue deeply informed by open-mindedness. But I’ll do whatever’s necessary to protect myself and my family against tyranny. Even beg.

American Democracy frequently has nothing to do with majority rule. There are countless examples of this, but it’s not my duty to educate you. That’s your own responsibility. My duty as an American is to do whatever is within my power to ensure that we all have access to the same rights and privileges where life, liberty and happiness are at stake, not just certain groups. Even if they constitute a majority.

This is also your civic duty as a freedom loving American.

In its Loving v. Virginia decision, the high court wrote the following:

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. 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 discrimination. 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.

I’ll let you extrapolate. I suppose it’s all open to interpretation and scrutiny anyway. Isn’t everything in a democracy? What I can say that isn’t up for scrutiny is this.

With every fiber of my being I know this one thing: my love is not less than yours.

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