Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A conservative case for marriage equality

From Ted Olson, counsel for the plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, writing in Newsweek
:Marriage is a civil bond in this country as well as, in some (but hardly all) cases, a religious sacrament. It is a relationship recognized by governments as providing a privileged and respected status, entitled to the state's support and benefits. The California Supreme Court described marriage as a "union unreservedly approved and favored by the community." Where the state has accorded official sanction to a relationship and provided special benefits to those who enter into that relationship, our courts have insisted that withholding that status requires powerful justifications and may not be arbitrarily denied.
The simple fact is that there is no good reason why we should deny marriage to same-sex partners. On the other hand, there are many reasons why we should formally recognize these relationships and embrace the rights of gays and lesbians to marry and become full and equal members of our society.....

When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others. And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued. We demean their relationships and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.
Americans who believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in the 14th Amendment, and in the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and equal dignity before the law cannot sit by while this wrong continues. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American one, and it is time that we, as Americans, embraced it.
It's not just Olson who has seen the light, so to speak. Fox News commentator Margaret Hoover writes,
Mr. Olson thinks constitutionally guaranteed rights ought to transcend left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republican divides (he even recruited legal opponent David Boies as co-counsel). I agree with him. And as a proud Republican representing a younger generation of conservatives that cherish individual freedom, I am honored to join the American Equal Right’s Foundation’s Advisory Board.

I encourage everyone, but especially Republicans, to consider Mr. Olson’s arguments on the merits, both in his opening statement and throughout the trial’s ensuing three weeks. The plaintiff’s counsel seeks to convince Judge Vaughn R. Walker that the Supreme Court has already decided in Loving v. Virginia, Turner v. Safely, and in Lawrence v. Texas among others, that the right to marry is a fundamental right currently denied to an entire class of American citizens. This is unconstitutional.

We Republicans have often found ourselves on the wrong side of civil rights struggles since the 1960s, but there was a reason that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s father is said to have supported Republicans.

Republicans were historically the party ever-expanding freedom to disenfranchised minorities, from newly liberated slaves to giving women the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony was a Republican. By supporting the AFER trial we have an opportunity to establish our historic credibility on civil rights issues once again. But we should support marriage equality because it is the right thing to do.....

If you are uncomfortable with gay marriage, I encourage you to pay attention to this trial, the plaintiffs, the defense and the spectrum of experts, historians, psychologists, economists, political scientists, who will testify as to the effects and detriment of Proposition 8. In the words of NAACP chairman Julian Bond, “The humanity of all Americans is diminished when any group is denied rights granted to others.”

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