Republican leaders in NC are hoping to advance a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage at a special legislative session on September 12. I do take to heart the words that Jefferson penned into our Declaration of American Independence, something about that unalienable right to pursue happiness. How such a misguided and, if I may, hateful attempt at limiting marriage on a civil level is fulfilling that unalienable right escapes me. Further the US Constitution has a long history of expanding rights, not restricting them; after all its first 10 Amendments are called the Bill of Rights, not Restrictions.
One would have thought that this issue would have been laid to rest following California’s Prop 8 trial, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, as recounted by Margaret Hoover, a conservative Fox News contributor, in her article, “My Fellow Conservatives, Think Carefully About Your Opposition to Gay Marriage” (ref). One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, Ted Olson, was a constitutional conservative who helped found the Federalist Society, was G.W. Bush’s Solicitor General, and successfully argued Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court. The judge, Vaughn Walker, was a Reagan/Bush nominee whose first nomination stalled in the Senate due to perceived insensitivity to gays (ref). So the trial was not stacked in ‘liberal’ California. The plaintiffs brought seventeen expert witnesses to the stand in the fields of psychology, political science, economics, socio medical sciences and history. Oddly, the lone two witnesses for the defense actually wound up providing evidence supporting the plaintiff’s case. Olson and his Democratic legal partner, David Boies, successfully argued that Prop 8 violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, and is unconstitutional. The judge ruled: “That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant, as fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
Yet, despite the overwhelming scientific/medical/social/legal information debunking the fears about, and objections to, same sex marriage (and how such a ban is actually harmful), Prop 8 is once again returning to court (ref). And the NC legislature is attempting to place such a restriction into the state’s constitution. The usual suspects are at work again in NC: the damaging falsehoods about the LGBT community disseminated by hate groups; the actions of the Religious Right; and the manipulation of ignorance and hatred by politicians for political gain.
NC House Majority Leader, Paul Stam (R), appeared this past week on American Family Association (AFA) radio with AFA’s president Tim Wildmon and the Family Research Council’s (FRC) president Tony Perkins. The broadcast exchange is provided at this link (ref). Both AFA and FRC have been categorized as ‘hate groups’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) (ref). To be clear, this categorization is based on “propagation of known falsehoods – claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities – and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups”.
A sampling of some claims issued by these organizations follow.
Perkins, on TV, defended FRC’s false accusation associating gay men with pedophilia (ref), i.e. that gays are sexually predatory with children. The American Psychological Association, amongst others has concluded that “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are” (ref). Additionally, in response to the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign, Perkins has asserted that children are being recruited into that ‘lifestyle’, additionally referring to LGBT identities as “perversion”, “immoral”, and “disgusting”. His claim that children can be “recruited” into homosexuality is disturbing because it is the same rhetoric that was used to support the Briggs initiative in 1978 to suggest that gays are predatory (ref) (ref).
AFA’s Bryan Fischer claimed that “homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews”. Further, he described Hitler as “an active homosexual” who sought out gays “because he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough” (ref) (ref). (So, the raping of women by Nazis in ghettos and concentration camps as documented by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (ref) was carried out by those ‘vicious and brutal and savage’ gays)?
The dangerous aspect of such language is that homosexuals are far more likely than any other minority group in the United States to be victimized by violent hate crime (ref). Analysis of FBI data showed that homosexuals are 2.4, 2.6, 4.4, 13.8 and 41.5 times as likely as Jews, blacks, Muslims, Latinos and whites, respectively, to be the target of hate crimes. Hate language, the dehumanization of individuals by the type of language issued by these organizations, is the ‘permission factor’ that reinforces bigotry and contributes to hate crimes.
It is this writer’s opinion that the House Majority Leader, by agreeing to appear with the leaders of these organizations as advocates for a ban on same sex marriage, has lent credence to these organizations and their poisonous language simply through the stature of his position. I issued a communication of complaint to multiple members of the NC General Assembly on this matter.
The Religious Right
Right wing radio host Janet Parshall interviewed Ron Baity of Return America, the group behind the amendment campaign, on her show ‘In the Market’ (ref). Regarding same sex marriage, Parshall stated that Satan had marriage in his ‘crosshairs’, and Baity agreed.
The perception of the Religious Right that America was founded as a Christian nation and is thus subject to law based on Christian scripture and beliefs, shows a poor understanding of the history of Christianity in this country. A wonderful read on this topic is David Holmes’ (Walter G. Mason Professor of Religious Studies, College of William and Mary) ‘The Faiths of the Founding Fathers” (ref), the source that is primary to this section. I believe a brief recounting of that history is important to the matter at hand.
The Evangelical movement, that eventually produced today’s Religious Right, had its beginnings in Georgia in the late 1730’s through two Anglican dons who were brothers, John and Charles Wesley. The two formed the Methodist movement after a conversion experience. A protege of theirs, George Whitefield, became one of the most dramatic and effective evangelists in the history of Christianity. His audiences had to confront the terrorizing realization that they deserve damnation and could be saved from Hell only through the grace and forgiveness of God. Until Methodism separated from Anglicanism in 1784, it remained in America as a small ultra-evangelical wing of the Church of England. However, along with the Baptists, it represented the future of American Protestantism.
Religious influences on our first five presidents, and several of the founding fathers, were quite different from the developing evangelical movement. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe were Virginians, born and baptized in the Anglican Church known as the Church of England or the Church of Virginia. After the Revolution, the word England was removed and in its place the term Episcopal (we have bishops) was used. John Adams came from New England. Although respectful of Christianity, they all developed Diest beliefs; they tended to deny the divinity of Jesus and a few even seemed to to have been agnostic about the very existence of God. I provided a brief overview of Diesm and our founding fathers in a prior article (ref).
Christianity was hardly cohesive in colonial times. Nine of the thirteen colonies adopted their own church, and Christians on occasion would persecute, jail, and seize the property of other Christians. Madison, the primary author of the US Constitution, witnessed dissenters to the Church of Virginia being persecuted and jailed in his neighboring Culpepper County. It was the mix of Diest beliefs and the persecution inherent with an intermingling of church and state that formed the basis for our constitutional separation of church and state and religious freedom in America.
The language on this matter is quite clear. The establishment clause, the very first sentence in the First Amendment states that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion’ (ref). There is the ‘no religious test’ clause of Article 6 that states ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States’ (ref). The words “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion” were part of a treaty written during the presidency of Washington, signed during the administration of John Adams, read aloud in Congress without a single dissenting vote, and published in the lay press without evidence of public dissent (ref). “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law”, penned by Jefferson in a letter Dr. Thomas Cooper in 1814 (ref). “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free and civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes”, also penned by Jefferson in 1813 (ref).
The proposed amendment banning same sex marriage is a civil matter, not a church matter. Members of the Religious Right are free to marry and restrict marriage as they please within their own church. But in a civil setting any biblical interpretations regarding same-sex relationships, of which there are very few, statements like ‘Satan has marriage in his crosshairs’, that gays are sinners, etc., are required to be sidelined during discussion of civil law. That is, of course, unless those individuals wish to change the constitution upon which our country was founded.
Manipulation by Politicians
Politicians as well have manipulated ignorance and hatred for political gain. House Majority Leader Stam has likened gay marriage to incest and polygamy (ref). His words: “you cannot construct an argument for same sex marriage that would not also justify philosophically the legalization of polygamy and adult incest”. The analogy is ill-founded. Same sex marriage involves the decision of two consenting adults to enter into a formal and recognized union. Polygamy involves the marriage of one individual to multiple individuals, and incest is sexual intercourse between close relatives. All are quite separate concerns; the claim is one of mixing apples and oranges.
In the same interview, when asked how the ban would differ from miscegenation laws, Representative Stam responded that “People can’t change their race. People can’t choose their race”, implying that sexual preference is a choice. This false belief has led to attempts to ‘cure’ homosexuals and opens some very dark pages in history. As documented in an exhibit by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (ref), the Nazi state, through active persecution, attempted to terrorize German homosexuals into sexual and social conformity with the ‘disciplined masculinity’ of Germany. The atrocities committed against this population were horrific. Is this pertinent today? Consider Marcus Bachmann describing homosexuals as ‘barbarians’ that ‘need to be educated’ (ref) with his ‘pray away the gay’ counseling. Both the American Psychological Association (ref) and American Psychiatric Association (ref) – amongst others – have ruled that efforts to change sexual orientation have no scientific credibility and can cause psychological harm to patients.
Mankind has shown a remarkable propensity throughout history to attack its diversity. Yet, where science is leading us is that we are a diverse human race and our diversity expresses itself in many ways. The Human Genome Project trumped 18th century race biology by demonstrating that there are no definable human sub-species; we are not different races of human beings, we are simply one diverse human race (ref). Although we are a singular human race, mankind exhibits a diversity of religious belief. Yet, regarding both race and religion mankind attacks these elements of diversity through hate crimes, extremism, discriminatory social policy, and uncountable lost lives in military conflicts.
There is little doubt that sexual preference is also a part of human diversity. One doesn’t make a choice, a conscious decision, as to whom they are attracted. Experts in the areas of psychology, political science, economics, socio medical sciences and history during the prop 8 trial in California exposed the objections and fears about same sex marriage as being unfounded; in fact showing that banning same sex marriage is not only discriminatory to a minority group, but damaging to that group and its children as well. Yet mankind is once again attacking an element of its diversity by issuing falsehoods, restricting rights, and fostering an environment that contributes to hate crimes and, yes, loss of life.
When the religious objections are removed, as is required in civil matters, what is left regarding the objections to same sex marriage is simply hatred born of ignorance and political manipulation.