Let's start at the White House, where President Bush took time away from such important issues as the war in Iraq, out-of-control federal spending, skyrocketing fuel prices, the looming bird-flu pandemic, and immigration reform to discuss the importance of protecting the institution of marriage. Bush told us, "Marriage is the most fundamental institution of civilization, and it should not be redefined by activist judges." Bush "call[ed] on the Congress to pass this amendment, send it to the states for ratification, so we can take this issue out of the hands of overreaching judges and put it back where it belongs: in the hands of the American people."Marriage, he says "is critical to the health of society." He warns that "changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure."
If we don't enact this amendment, Bush is afraid the Defense of Marriage Act will be ruled unconstitutional and states which don't recognize gay marriages will be forced to recognize them.
Of course, up to now in our country, that is the way it has always worked without any call for a constitutional amendment demanding the protection of marriage as an institution. It's called the Full Faith and Credit clause, which provides that "full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof." For example, a state which did not recognize marriages between a black man and a white woman, as was once the case in many states, nonetheless had to recognize such a marriage lawfully entered into in another state. And when heterosexuals decided they had had enough of having to sue their spouse for a divorce and began getting state legislatures to adopt no-fault divorces, even states which did not allow no-fault divorces had to recognize those granted in other states.
But let's not kid ourselves. This federal amendment has nothing to do with protecting the institution of marriage, which heterosexuals have managed to screw up well enough without any help from gays and lesbians. It's about using a wedge issue to divide people along fault lines in an effort to divert attention away from the real issues facing our country.
Down in Evansville we learn today from the AP's Mike Smith that a Republican state representative candidate, Andrew Smith, is using gay bashing against his Democratic opponent, Rep. Phil Hoy, as a way of raising money for his fledgling campaign. Smith tells us about candidate Smith's fundraising letter:
Smith's fundraising letter cites Hoy's vote last year against a bill to add a same-sex marriage ban to the state constitution and his performance of commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples in his capacity as a retired United Church of Christ pastor.
Smith said the letter mailed to about 200 GOP voters who describe themselves as opposed to same-sex marriage brings up legitimate public policy issues for voters in House District 77. "Phil gets upset whenever his extremist views are talked about," he said.
The fundraising letter prominently features in enlarged letters a United Church of Christ statement and includes this quote: "(Homosexuality) is a good gift of our Creator, as is its responsible, loving expression."
Smith acknowledges that he changed the word "sexuality" to "homosexuality" but he said it is clear that the statement on the "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues" link on the church's Web site refers to homosexuality.
Candidate Smith just can't resist the opportunity to change a statement from Hoy's United Church of Christ on "sexuality" to read "homosexuality." The word "homosexuality" has so much more zing to it you see--sort of the same way referring to an African-American as a "nigger" helps work up the prejudicial sentiment designed with its use. Its use was to prove that Hoy signed a statement saying he believed "homosexuality" is a normal, loving expression for gays and lesbians.
Hoy, for his part, denies signing any such statement, but he's not afraid to stand his ground on principle. "I believe people are born with their sexual orientation. Perhaps there's some gene we haven't discovered. The way gays and lesbians are beat up on, verbally and physically, would you choose that?" Hoy told the AP's Smith. Hoy also told Smith that he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to enter into civil unions, and that he admits as a retired pastor he has performed commitment ceremonies between same-sex couples. "The (ceremonies) I perform aren't marriages; they're a blessing on two people's love for each other," Hoy tells Smith. Wouldn't it be nice if all legislators could think so honestly and sincerely as Rep. Hoy?
Confirming AI's suspicion that candidate Smith isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, Taking Down Words, in a post about the same AP story called out Smith as a troll on its site and called on him to come out and talk about the real issues. The publicity-starved Smith took the bait and had the audacity to claim that the issue he raised in his fundraising letter was not about politics, but rather Hoy's theological views. Smith explains in a lengthy comment posted at TDW:
So in the same breadth Smith claims the issue is not one he is "particularly excited about" and says he has "a number of gay and lesbian friends", he lumps the discussion of same-sex marriages in with polygamy. C'mon Mr. Smith, you're not running for the position of state theologian, you're running for state representative. Who cares what Hoy's theological views are, and why would you raise the issue in the context of a political campaign if it wasn't for political purposes? And then you complain that talk of the issue too often deteriorates in one side being called a bigot. Give me a break.
My issue with Phil is primarily theological, not political. He's an ordained minister, and when he marries people, he is performing a sacrament. Now, Phil may believe--as I'm sure he does--that gay people have every right to enter into the binding social contract that society calls "marriage." But as a Christian minister, he has a deeper obligation to respect the 2000 year old moral and intellectual tradition of the church.
This is not an issue I am particularly excited about. I have a number of gay and lesbian friends (or at least, I did before the publicity surrounding David Hennig's letter). I have spent a great deal of time wrestling with my position on the issue. Laugh if you will, but I have prayed for guidance on how to talk about it respectfully and faithfully as a candidate and a public official.
In the end, I think it comes down to how one views marriage. Do you see it as a human rights issue? If so, you will always come down on the side of expanding "marriage rights" to include homosexuals, polygamists, etc.
If, on the other hand, you see the family as the basic building block of society--and marriage as the sacramental cement that hold families together--you will take a more restrictive view. As for me, I fall into the latter camp.
I don't intend to make this one of the major issues in my campaign--I
never have. If asked, I'll give my position on it, but that's about as far as I
want to go.
Republicans are in for a big surprise if they think bashing gays is their ticket to remaining in power this year. Voters aren't about to be fooled by such cynical ploys by politicians to avoid public accountability for their true record in public office. The sooner Republicans figure this out, the sooner we can begin moving the country forward again.