The Truth, Mainly - 05/29/2000

Amendment banning same-sex marriage is a civil rights travesty
by Leon Satterfield

I see by the papers that a watchdog committee of earnest citizens is petitioning us to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

It's an admirably brief amendment. Here's the whole thing:

"Only marriage between a man and woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship, shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska."

The earnest citizens call themselves the "Defense of the Family Committee," and you may be wondering how refusing to recognize certain families constitutes a defense of others. Let me show you:

Husband to wife: "Honey, I'm home. But look at this headline: ŽSame-Sex Unions Legalized! National Guard Activated!í We don't want anyone to think that our marital status is anything like that, so we're going to have to dissolve the family unit."

Wife to husband: "Yes, we've had such a secure and happy family before same-sex unions ruined everything. I'll take the dog. You take the kids."

Still don't get it? Never mind. Just do what you're told.

And I say when the petition people knock at your door, sign the petition. When the amendment gets on the November ballot, vote for it.

But only under one or more of the following conditions:

1. You believe same-sex unions are bad because they won't produce offspring in accordance with the Biblical mandate that we "be fruitful and multiply." And you would therefore vote to deny state recognition of heterosexual unions that do not produce offspring.

2. You believe that same-sex unions violate God's instructions in Leviticus that "Thou shalt not lie down with mankind as with womankind." And you would therefore vote to outlaw unions between heterosexuals who violate other Levitical prohibitions forbidding, say, sowing "thy field with mingled seed," or letting "thy cattle gender with a diverse kind."

3. You believe that same-sex unions should be outlawed because they involve activities you find esthetically disgusting. And you would therefore ban heterosexual unions involving activities you find esthetically disgusting.

4. You believe that same-sex unions should not be permitted because some gays are promiscuous. And you would therefore not permit heterosexual unions because some straights are promiscuous.

But all that, you might say, implies an equivalence between same-sex unions and opposite-sex unions, an equation that offends your taste and/or your religious principles.

I know what you mean. I'm offended in the same way by people who like to watch "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?" I'm tempted to say they should be allowed to form domestic partnerships only if they promise not to be fruitful and multiply.

Still, after I stop yelling at the TV and take a little nap, I have to admit that we probably shouldn't amend the state constitution to remedy their defect.

But that's how the Defense of the Family Committee proposes to deal with defects they're informed of by their esthetic and religious principles. They want the whole state to sanction their views.

And that's when it becomes a problem of civil rights. Excuse me while I climb onto my soapbox.

The cornerstone of our civil rights is the statement in our founding document that under law "all men are created equal. . . with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Back in 1967, as Andrew Sullivan tells us in the May 8 issue of New Republic, the U. S. Supreme Court found, in Loving v. Virginia, that "the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."

Sullivan then asks a rhetorical question: "Would any heterosexual in America believe he had a right to pursue happiness if he could not marry the person he loved? What would be more objectionable to most peopleůto be denied a vote in next November's presidential election, or to no longer have÷legal attachment to their wife or husband?"

On the same day the story about the Defense of the Family petition was published, LJS ran the obituary of Sir John Gielgud. It called him a "legend," "a consummate actor" who, along with Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson, "defined the British theater."

Near the end, almost as an afterthought, the obit said this of Gielgud: "A self-proclaimed homosexual in an era that not only rejected homosexuality as Žunnatural' but persecuted it legally, he helped to dispel the aura of stigma and myth. . . ."

Well, maybe in some precincts.

 

Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.


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