I woke yesterday morning to find via my number one newsource, Facebook, that the voters of North Carolina have chosen to amend their constitution with their first ever amendment. This amendment, known as Amendment I, specifically bans gay marriage and civil unions. And so the voters have spoken. The New York Times then told me, “Gay Marriage Issue Looming, Obama sits for an Interview.” In no time flat, President Obama made that interview and wrote a new political chapter on the issue by stating that he supports marriage equality. One day, one small moment.
Biden and Obama are the bookends on this tomb of gay marriage literature. The fat pulp non-fiction in the middle is the North Carolina vote. Gay marriage was already illegal in North Carolina. This amendment went further to make it unconstitutional for gays to marry or have a civil union. I am not sure if heterosexual people can civil union. Nor can I explore that subject further because I can’t waste more time digging into the extent to which this amendment limits rights. I’m sure the power of the people will rout it out for all the citizens of North Carolina, gay and straight.
I am far more interested in the sequence of events that led to this new position. First Vice President Joe Biden recently gave an interview response saying that he supports gay marriage. Then came The Times’ prioritizing of their own article (and the topic therein) that the President will now be making some sort of position statement, and finally came the climactic moment of the statement President Obama actually made.
What interests me is the culminating power of gay marriage as a political touch point, a subject that has been bubbling along in the psyches not only of the voters of North Carolina, but in the minds of Mr. Biden, Mr. Obama, all the other presidential candidates, and states across the union. I am buffaloed at how the power to grant or limit rights, and the manipulation of social issues can polarize and activate voters.
I am not a history major. At best, I have a shaky knowledge of the goings-on of those who came before me. My memory of facts can be questioned, and often is, usually by me. I do, however, have an excellent memory for the feelings and the gist of the world. So it was no surprise when I double checked that the Bill of Rights does indeed grant rights, as I was pretty sure it did. The Constitution created, as one website put it, “the machinery for establishing an effective federal government.” The amendments came along to grant the power back to the individual. Thomas Jefferson wrote in a December 1787 letter to Madison that “a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth.” The power of all those amendments, together known as the Bill of Rights then, was to grant power to the people in the face of a powerful and potentially oppressive government.
At the end of our founders' debate over Federalism, what we see is an essential document protecting the individual and the backbone of the nation. The power behind the Constitution, its Bill of Rights, and each and every Amendment thereafter is meant to protect the people from tyrannical government.
So after the announcement of Obama’s scheduled interview, but before the interview itself, I was distressed that the granting and protecting of rights should become such a trigger point for the people of our country. I was distressed when allowing people to move freely through difficult and sometimes painful lives becomes a point of contention. When our answer to a citizen's “May I?” becomes “no” more than “yes,” I am tired and worn out. Yet when corporations are treated as people, we shy away from enacting limiting rules and laws against them. I believe that people should be granted as many rights as any corporate entity and then some, and that those rights should be protected, as much as can be done so reasonably.
Why has such a subject become the topic de jour for our political elect? Why is the gay marriage rising to the top of the ballot box for amendments and laws? What magic power does it have over us? Reuters recently released poll results suggesting that nearly half of American’s support gay marriage (I think it was 47% to 42%), so where is the steam for this engine?
Gay marriage is the trojan horse. It is invading our political world. It is the red herring of real topics. I believe that President Obama stepped up and called the red herring what it is. By proclaiming crisply where he stood on the issue, I believe he made it a non-issue. Oh, for sure there will be kicking and squalling, but it will no longer be the point of debate; it simply is. Gay marriage simply will happen, like it or not, because freedom is an intrinsic American right and once a civil rights war is begun, it does not end until the rights are made right. Yes, the journeys are long and bathed in blood, but they only move forward. Yes, we still fight for equality of race every day and of gender every day. We fight the discrimination of ageism and the oprression of creed and religion. With these struggles little by little we grow our arms wide enough to embrace the true face of America.
So in this election year, let's recognize America for what it actually is, and stop playing games about what it is not.
I, for one, wish that I could open my Facebook and find my ridiculous friends talking more about how we will feed the people, or really revive the economy, or save polar bears, or lower gas prices, or get free electric cars for everyone or stop childhood obesity or help our society love and include the elderly or end multiple sclerosis or anything that really matters. I wish the topic of gay marriage could vanish from the papers, because it was a given, that in America all people are equal, men and women, little children and old people, whatever their shape or creed or color.
That is my wish for you, Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney, Mr. and Ms. Voters of America. I wish that you could quit worrying about how to limit our rights and instead could worry about finding our freedoms, freedoms that dwell within each and every one of us, freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom from oppression.
Best of luck to you on your pursuit of life, liberty and happiness in whatever form that may take.