U.S. Midterm Elections 2010

Lesbian wedding.

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Brian Brown is a name you may, or may not, know depending on the depth of your interest and/or passion about marriage as a civil right. Putting aside the fact that the State’s only interest in marriage is from a contract and licensing point of view, and that marriage as a social or religious issue is purely fabricated to push whatever agenda is deemed necessary, Brown is the brainy brawn behind the National Organization of Marriage (NOM), which believes that marriage is a man/woman thing.

Brown’s group has been instrumental in interfering in states where same-sex marriage is/was/or is liable to become legal. NOM’s most recent victory was the appallingly disingenuous campaign waged during Iowa’s midterm retention vote for three State Supreme justices who happened to be presiding over the court when it unanimously ruled that Iowa’s own constitution forbids discrimination against gays when it came to obtaining marriage licenses. Brown’s group, instead of pointing out that the justices ruled according to existing law, lied to Iowans, telling them that the justices imposed their own personal agendas in place of the law to create a right where one didn’t exist.

It’s fine to campaign against politicians who are responsible for the creation of policy and law, but to attack non-partisan judges who simply clarify existing law is out of bounds. The retention vote – though most people don’t appear to understand this – is about the judge’s qualifications to read and enforce existing statute. Brown knows this. He is a Harvard grad after all and I am sure that makes him intelligent enough to know what the vote was actually about. It unfortunately also makes him smarter than most of the Iowans he needed to trick into helping him push his personal agenda of making sure that same-sex marriage is never legal in the United States. Ever.

Personal agenda?

Brown would not agree. He is quoted in a recent Newsweek article, quite artfully really, giving his reasons for taking up arms against the formation of couples and families with the following statement:

“Marriage is a public good. If you change the definition of marriage, you don’t just change it for the gay married couple down the street, you change it for everyone,” he says. If gay marriage is allowed, “then the state is essentially saying that my views on marriage, and the majority of Americans’ views on marriage, are equivalent to discrimination…It profoundly affects me if my children are taught in the schools that my views on marriage are bigoted. It profoundly affects me if the church that I’m part of is treated in the law as bigoted. And, ultimately, same-sex marriage is not true.”

And he is not wrong. Equality in marriage regardless of orientation would make him look like a bigot. It would call into question his Catholic faith. It would brand tens of millions of Americans as prejudiced.

Why is that wrong? He is a bigot. The Catholic Church is so riddled with hypocrisy that one more glaring affront to the call of Christ’s “love thy neighbor” hardly breaks its bigoted straw back.  And the American people, generally speaking, have always needed to be legally compelled to promote marginalized and discriminated against groups (like blacks and women for example) to equal footing.

They are all bigots, and apparently, not okay with owning it.

So not okay, that they are willing to campaign and protest and promote the idea of laws that are discriminatory.

All because people like Brian Brown can’t personally come to grips with that real fact that he is wrong, his religion is wrong and that the American people prefer inequality to equality, a peculiar flaw in a people so devoted to the idea of personal liberty and so very much about fairness (as it applies to them specifically – they don’t do abstract well at all).

Having taught public school at the middle school level for a couple of decades, I can assure Mr. Brown that his children will one day come to their own conclusions about his bigotry, regardless of the outcome of his efforts to save face at the expense of other people’s liberties. I was raised strict Catholic myself, and I am under no illusions about the stance of some of my countrymen or my former faith.

Waging war against same-sex marriage because it forces you to look at the truth is not a good reason to take up arms.  Society has weathered all sorts of enlightenment and coming to grips with the injustices that gays and lesbians have endured will not permanently scar anyone’s psyche.

America gave up slavery and then Jim Crow. It has, superficially at least, given up sexism.  Lady Liberty didn’t drop her torch and the Declaration of Independence didn’t burst into flames.

Change is life. Life doesn’t stand still and that’s a good thing.

Having to own your bigotry and admit that you are wrong is called “growth”. It’s actually quite good for your children to see. It’s a “teachable moment” that will catapult you in their esteem just as surely as their discovery of your clinging to outdated social injustice will damn you to irrelevance.

Brian Brown is not the only person to wake up one day and realize that the world was evolving when he would rather not, but he is someone with power enough to force the rest of us to cling to our bigoted past – and that’s not right. It shouldn’t be up to him or churches that many of us don’t belong to or hate groups that revel in the adrenaline surge of pointless and anger-filled discrimination.

Brown’s justification for his actions could have easily been spouted in the early 1960’s by segregationists or in the early 20th century by those who felt women should be denied the vote or by slave owners before the Civil War. It’s the refuge of the spiritually lazy to deny the right of society to grow up because it asks too much of them personally.

Brian Brown is a bigot and he’s fighting to keep his children from finding out.

Philadelphia - Old City: Independence Hall - T...

Image by wallyg via Flickr

Seems like a contradiction given the mythology of the Right that the United States was founded on Christian doctrine, but the Constitution is one of the most religion neutral documents in our history. The Founders’ religious beliefs ranged from very to not at all, but the majority were in agreement on the necessity of separating church (of any ilk) and state. Their handiwork was meant as a framework for a democracy and the idea that it would be used as some sort of stand in biblical text would have appalled them.

Newsweek published a rather good article on the complexity of the Tea Party and their relationship and mostly misunderstanding of the Constitution. Tea Partiers, it seems, are no different from other political folk in their ignorance and willingness to use this in promotion of their pet causes.

These causes are primarily money and power-driven. Tea Party leaders know how to use Americans’ greed in the form of “no taxes” against them as well as Republicans and Democrats. Americans are some of the least taxed people on the face of the earth. They are also – aside from health care for those under 65 or who aren’t disabled – some of the most privileged in terms of government sponsored/maintained amenities. Americans truly get something for next to nothing in ways that astound the rest of the world.

For the record, the Constitution was in fact intended to strengthen the federal government because an earlier stab of pulling together as a country – the Articles of Confederation – allowed the states too much wiggle room. The Articles was a weak document and the Founders purposely gave the Constitution muscle as a result.

The Constitution, for those who weren’t aware, is strident in its secularism. Not once does it mention God or Jesus. Not to invoke them or praise them or ask their blessing. It is a legal document that spells out the rights of the people and the duties of the state.

Literal adherence to the Constitution that Tea Partiers naively pound the drum for would upend most of the last hundred years or so of civil rights, worker’s rights, women’s rights and would give businesses the same kinds of overlord privileged status they had in the Gilded Age. I doubt many Tea Party enthusiasts even realize what they are in for if their wish was granted.

Though many look back at the Founders as sages guided by the Lord’s hand, Thomas Jefferson best summed up the reality in a letter to a friend in 1816,

he mocked “men [who] look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched”; “who ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment.” “Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs,” he concluded. “Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before.”

Good Ole slave-owning Tom was not blind to his, or his peers, shortcomings or human failings.

What I find most interesting in the Constitution worship is that those who champion its place as another book in the Christian Bible aren’t the least bit alarmed by the fact that it’s used to control and limit more than it is to uphold our freedoms.

When you go to the polls in a few weeks, think seriously about your freedom and who is most likely to vote in favor of maintaining that and who is most probably going to throw you, your family and your rights under the bus in the name of their idea of what your freedoms should be.

Just Saying.