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The Case for a Federal Marriage Amendment

August 5, 2004
By sui generis

I am a red blooded American and a patriot. I was born into an intelligent, stable, loving, and conservative family. I am a highly moral person; I speak four languages, have a Master's degree, and pay my fair share of taxes.

On the Bruce Wayne side, I am superbly fit, can handle nearly any weapon you put in my hands and can take care of myself in nearly any conceivable physical situation, although I skip the cape and funky headgear part and drive a rather ordinary car.

I have a higher than usual net worth, a life-committed relationship, and am actively engaged in business, government, politics, and my community. I have traveled the world (yes, and the seven seas), I give money and time to local and national charities, and I understand intrinsically what it means to be an American in a nation of individuals, and what purpose government and law serve in a democracy.

I have strong family values and instincts that include raising a family in financial security, with love, laughter, fairness, wisdom and generosity of spirit, and providing the best possible future for my children and the people who share my life.

And yet here in America there are some people who think that I am immoral because the person I love is not of the opposite sex, that I don't deserve to have happiness or the protection of a legally committed relationship, that I shouldn't be allowed to have children, that I am a threat to society and to social institutions, and that by extension I should not have the same inalienable civil rights that other Americans have: the right to dispose of my real estate and possessions as I see fit, the right to assign my personal estate, insurance policies, and hard-earned benefits to benefit my life partner and children unless they are treated by the law as legal strangers and penalized accordingly.

Those so-called "family values" consist of denying my family and children the most basic legal and financial security accorded to civil marriage. These same people think that non-discrimination based on sexual orientation is a "gay right," and that those "rights" are "special interest" rights instead of the rights of all Americans, whether by birth or by choice.

As a result of that kind of thinking, qualified language translators today aren't allowed to work for the government and extraordinary soldiers are dismissed from the armed services and federal security agencies. People like me aren't allowed to defend our country in war or in peace, aren't allowed by federal law to obtain federal secret and top secret clearances required to work for the government, even in the private sector, and by extension we can be denied employment, housing, mortgages, insurance and health benefits, and we are denied the right to honor our families, our partners, and our children with the legal, financial, and health protections they deserve as we seek to practice our family values in earnest.

In a country where the federal government and any state can legally refuse to recognize the legal commitment and covenants of civil marriage made in another state, such as the right to parent children, my children can be taken away from me forever at a traffic stop, and as of last month, I do not have recourse in federal or most state courts to try to get them back. Virginia is one such state, and many other states have similar legislation or are in the process of enacting similar legislation. My fellow Americans can take my children away from me just because. I can be denied a joint mortgage in most states for no other reason than an accusation of my sexual orientation (and so can anyone), and have no recourse in any court, anywhere, against the major mortgage lenders.

Civil marriage for Americans needs to be protected in the Constitution of the United States of America for all Americans, but especially to protect the individual and mutual rights of my life partner and children to be a family with me. In a democracy, laws exist first and foremost to protect the rights of individuals. In the opening words of the Declaration of Independence under which our nation was founded, we proudly state that: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".

I want my right to marry under the legal definition of civil marriage recognized in all the states of America, and I want all of the attendant rights and benefits that protect my family and assets legally and financially to be guaranteed at the federal level, and in all the states of the United States of America. I am a red blooded American just like you are, no more and no less.

America, I am not waiting for you to "allow" me to marry only if we "call it something else" and only in certain states. You will not tell me that I am not American enough to be married to the person I will be with for the rest of my life, or that my children are to be raised as second class citizens, or that I somehow deserve less than any other American merely because the person I love is not of the opposite sex.

I am a child of this nation and I claim these rights with as much certitude and force as you claim yours, and if you try to deny me I will fight for those civil rights, because to do anything less for my family would not be American.

There are many Americans from all walks of life who agree with me, and who understand that the very idea of America is at stake when we start to decide that some Americans are "less equal" than others. This is indeed a moral argument when that lack of equality means my children and life partner are treated as legal strangers, and when they are denied the same basic rights and legal protections accorded to the children and life partners of "proven" heterosexuals.

A law to deny civil marriage to my family does not protect the "rights" of any individual, and should not be a law in our democracy, and especially not deferred to the state level, a level which has a long and dark track record of consistently failing the tests of civil rights.

As real Americans, we need to turn Federal Marriage Amendment legislation and its ilk around and use it to amend the constitution to protect the rights of all Americans, in all states. This is a civil rights issue, and a profoundly moral issue, and a family values issue, and we need to reclaim those terms from ignorant people who say that the struggle for equal rights is not the same as the struggle of African Americans fighting for the legalization of interracial marriage (among many other parallel civil rights issues).

We need to reject the premise of intrinsic "immorality" associated with same-sex orientation, as easily as we reject that one is moral merely because they are heterosexual. We need to reject the accusation of being against the "laws of nature" for no other reason than that we don't procreate with a member of the opposite sex, when clearly plenty of heterosexual couples choose not to procreate; and we need to reject the erroneous and mutable "laws of nature" argument altogether on its face.

I personally believe that the ideal family should have both a mother and a father, but I am also equally certain that it is not the only criteria for a good family, as millions of unwanted and uncared for American children and children around the world can tell you personally.

Actually, the ideal family would also have nannies, cooks, chauffeurs, maids, tutors, mentors, playmates, perfect role models, and the complete and undivided attention of both parents throughout the first two decades of their children's lives. However, it is reality that nearly every family in the world can be categorized as "less than ideal" in one regard or another, yet many of those families are nevertheless marvelous, loving and secure homes for the children who live in them.

My family values are that children should have a home and loving parents, and not grow up in foster care or an orphanage, that children should have a future, and that our children should have the same legal protections and opportunities that the children of any other American has, as should the person who has committed his or her life to raising those children with us should have too.

There is an argument that we should allow states to make that decision as a "foot in the door" approach, but I believe that is a profound mistake that will effectively "herd" same-sex families to liberal states and create even more entrenched partisan, social and cultural divisiveness among Americans living in conservative states.

It splits and wastes our community resources (on both sides) in inconsistent local legal battles and it creates hiding places for the morally absurd one-issue anti-gay legislators who fifty years ago were anti-Jew and forty years ago were anti-"Negro" and thirty years ago were anti-hippie, and twenty years ago were anti-gay and anti-immigrant and still are all of those things today, and who make entire political careers of being xenophobic hate-mongering zealots rather than true American leaders on true moral issues.

I am a red blooded American, and a patriot; no more and no less than any other person fortunate enough to be born American and to cherish the American dream, to dream the dream of a future big enough for all of us, and certainly big enough for our loved ones and families. And as an American it is in my blood and heritage that these inalienable rights are mine too, no more and no less than yours.

I claim them for myself, for my family and loved ones, for the futures of my children and their children, and for every other American who believes in a real America, in civil rights, in commitment and family values and equality for all Americans, because that is what it means to be American.

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