Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Despite all my posings, I'm at heart an optimist. Which means that despite the fact that the wingnuts of California recently got a "Marriage Protection Amendment" onto the ballot, I feel like yesterday's pictures of overjoyed couples celebrating their love have got to penetrate even the most homophobic hearts. I mean, how can you not look at this picture and go "awwwww", I ask you?

It's my fervent hope that California and Massachusetts are the future- a future where two adults who love each other can get married if they want to, regardless of age, sex, or race.

Funny enough, I was flipping through my copy of the Intellectual Devotional- American History yesterday afternoon (it's excellent bathroom reading, highly recommended), and happened upon the page about a letter written by George Washington to the head of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI, who had written him in 1790 to congratulate him on his selection as president. The two men exchanged excitement about the great American experiment, and a belief that this new nation represented a new highwater mark in religious freedom- a country where other religions were not just tolerated, but embraced as being part of its fabric.

There is one passage in the letter that struck me like a ton of bricks- although it is referring directly to religious freedom, it seems to me to be more sweeping than that- it's a statement of what liberty in the new United States meant, and what it should mean to all of us now as well, whether we're talking about religious freedom or equal rights:
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens. (emphasis added)
This is a founding father speaking- he saw no reason to deny any one law abiding citizen the rights accorded to another citizen (putting aside the narrow definition of citizenship at that time). It blows my mind when wingnuts and Repugs invoke the founders, and their religion, and try to extrapolate their "intentions" to suit their purposes, when the concept of "natural rights" Washington invokes here is written right into the frickin' Declaration of Independence- "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", anyone? The founders intended all American citizens to have the exact same rights.

So in the end, the judges that have seen discrimination in the treatment of marriage in California and Massachusetts are not "legistlating from the bench", as some would have you believe- they're channeling the true intentions of the founders of this country. And I for one thank them. We are, as a society, finally moving away from just "tolerating" differences in sexual orientation, and towards embracing the rights of all of our citizens. George would approve, I like to think.

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