In my recent post, “Bookworm has advice on how to talk to liberals,” I wrote, “social conservatives, who believe I do not deserve equality as a U.S. citizen because I am a lesbian,” which prompted an objection by a gentle reader named Mary Beth. I wrote a reply that was detailed enough to deserve its own post, and her comment and my reply are below. Then I discovered from Legal Insurrection that two of the most distinguished constitutional lawyers in America filed a federal lawsuit on Friday asserting that California’s Prop. 8 is a violation of the U.S. Constitution with the intention of pursuing the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The lawyers handling the case are former Bush administration solicitor general Theodore Olson, a conservative, and David Boies, a liberal. Olson and Boies opposed one another before the U.S. Supreme Court when they argued Bush v. Gore in 2000 to determine the outcome of the presidential election. They are working with the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which advocates equality for homosexuals.
Byron York writes in the Washington Examiner:
“I personally think it is time that we as a nation get past distinguishing people on the basis of sexual orientation, and that a grave injustice is being done to people by making these distinctions,” Olson told me Tuesday night. “I thought their cause was just.”
I asked Olson about the objections of conservatives who will argue that he is asking a court to overturn the legitimately-expressed will of the people of California. “It is our position in this case that Proposition 8, as upheld by the California Supreme Court, denies federal constitutional rights under the equal protection and due process clauses of the constitution,” Olson said. “The constitution protects individuals’ basic rights that cannot be taken away by a vote. If the people of California had voted to ban interracial marriage, it would have been the responsibility of the courts to say that they cannot do that under the constitution. We believe that denying individuals in this category the right to lasting, loving relationships through marriage is a denial to them, on an impermissible basis, of the rights that the rest of us enjoy … I also personally believe that it is wrong for us to continue to deny rights to individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
Greg Hengler posted this video of the Wednesday (5/27) press conference to announce the lawsuit at Townhall.com — it is about 27 minutes and worth watching:
Now here is Mary Beth’s comment:
Submitted on 2009/05/27 at 3:06am
Hello! I am a new reader of your blog…actually I noticed a link via redstate and decided to pop on by.
I very much appreciate a lot of what you have to say. I did notice something that really popped out at me though that I wanted to address since I believe given the open dialog and intellectual honesty you’re doing a great job of projecting with your well thought out blog posts, you’ll be open to reading and considering. I don’t presume that my humble comment will change your mind about this but perhaps what I write will allow you to see this issue from a different perspective and provide you with, at the very least, a respectfully submitted dissent as food for thought.
The phrase that jumped out at me was this : “social conservatives, who believe I do not deserve equality as a U.S. citizen because I am a lesbian”
As a social conservative, may I say that nothing could be further from the truth and in fact, this is not the perspective most(?) conservatives have on this issue.
Let me explain please.
I imagine you’re referring to the marriage issue, correct? Well, marriage has always been defined as a very specific relationship between a man and a woman. But what does this mean in context and why do we say that this is not for two women or two men?
Consider this example.
You’re selling pies. Apple pies to be precise. You know, with the crumblies baked on top and cinnamon throughout?
I come up to you and say, “Hey there! I want a pie please. But instead of apple, I want you to use blueberries and instead of cinnamon and crumblies, I want a crust overlay on top. But I want you to still call it an apple pie.”
You’d probably look at me funny, right? Not because what I’m asking for is bad…but because what I’m asking for, by definition, is not apple pie because an apple pie has, at the very least apples in it. (I adore the crumblies although I concede they’re not considered a necessity.)
Likewise, marriage by definition includes one man and one woman. This does not devalue other relationships, but rather merely acknowledges that the marriage relationship has a very specific construct culturally and historically. It is not an issue of equality any more than not calling a blueberry pie an apple pie is an equality issue. It’s simply not what it is by definition.
I have several gay friends…some pro prop8 and some against…and I want nothing but the best for all of them. They each live happy and full lives…some with partners and some not…and I’d never deny any of them equality under the law. I respectfully submit though that that is not what’s going on in this instance.
Take care and I look forward to continue reading your blog.
Are you on Twitter? You can follow me (if you’d like) at @marybethhouse and of course, I’d love to follow you.
Have a great day!
Here is my reply:
Thank you for your kind praise and thoughtful comment. It helps me to learn how others see things.
Actually, social conservatives are busy on every aspect of denying equality to lesbians and gays — not just marriage equality, but also in employment, housing (both renting and buying as a couple), enjoying public accommodations (such as stores and restaurants) and by blocking positive representations of us in television and film (I’m not saying there’s a legal right to that, but it definitely shows that we are second-class citizens when we can be so easily be rendered not just invisible or less-than but actually non-existent).
Social conservatives in Virginia have been particularly successful and reveal that their activities to oppose marriage equality are in every way a nationwide movement by a coalition of religions to deny equality to homosexuals and use the apparatus of government to enforce their religious beliefs on everyone.
Here are some articles that will explain — please do read them because Mr. Rauch explains why the right to make contracts was considered by the Founders to be a fundamental element of personhood:
The Washington Post, Jonathan Rauch, “Virginia’s New Jim Crow,” June 13, 2004: “In the Marriage Affirmation Act, Virginia appears to abridge gay individuals’ right to enter into private contracts with each other. On its face, the law could interfere with wills, medical directives, powers of attorney, child custody and property arrangements, even perhaps joint bank accounts. If a gay Californian was hit by a bus in Arlington, her medical power of attorney might be worthless there. ‘Sorry,’ the hospital might have to say to her frantic partner, ‘your contract means nothing here. Now leave before we call security.’”
From the blog, Obsidian Wings, “Rauch on Virginia’s Marriage Affirmation Act,” June 14, 2004: “But even if the law is not interpreted to deny Virginia’s gay couples the right to contracts such as power of attorney and medical directive (and clearly the only ones who will benefit as that’s sorted out are lawyers), it is quite successfully designating gays as second-class citizens.”
The Washington Blade, Feb. 11, 2005, “Virginia poised to become ‘most anti-gay state,’” “The anti-gay bills this year have taken on a particularly nasty tone, especially after last year’s Assembly passed the Marriage Affirmation Act, a measure that not only bans gay unions, but outlaws legal agreements between residents of the same sex that resemble marriage rights.”
(Jonathan Rauch is author of the book, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America.)
Recently two lesbians who had durable medical powers-of-attorney AND produced them were denied access to their dying life partners. For more on that, see this piece by ABC News and this story by the New York Times. So these legal contracts, which do not have to be recognized throughout the U.S., are no substitute for the rights that come with marriage.
BTW, I always had to have multiple copies of my durable medical power-of-attorney for my life partner when she was hospitalized (she had multiple sclerosis and was paralyzed). I learned to carry several copies for the claims that the one I’d gotten put in her record in the ER had somehow been “lost” when she was admitted. When my mother was dying, my father only had to say he was her husband to be allowed to take over her care. No one asked for a marriage license.
The history of marriage shows that it is in a constant state of being re-defined. You really ought to do some more research (try here and here). The traditional marriage of the Old Testament was polygamy — a man had as many wives as he could afford. Solomon not only 700 wives but ALSO 300 concubines. Also traditionally, and within my own lifetime, women have been considered legally the property of their husbands. In many places around the world, women still are property. The idea of equality for women is really still brand new and is having quite the dramatic effect on changing the concept of marriage in the U.S. and around the world.
The fight for marriage equality is indeed a fight for equality. We are only fighting for the right to have the spouse of our choice and to have the legal rights and responsibilities that heterosexuals have with their own chosen spouse. Religions certainly should not be restricted from banning same-sex couples from marrying within a particular religion. Instead of fighting to take the word “marriage” away from us, they should be branding the marriages they perform: Catholic marriage, Mormon marriage, Black Liberation Theology marriage, Evangelical marriage, and so on. We’ll be happy with having just plain “marriage” and being married by judges, justices-of-the-peace, ministers of the Metropolitan Community Church, and Internet-certified ministers — as long as they have the legal authority, we won’t be fussy.
I’ll be happy to follow you on Twitter, where you may also follow me as @aconservativelez.
Thank you for your comment!
I should add that it amazes me that social conservatives who oppose marriage equality for lesbians and gays do not realize that they may have homosexual children — those who do are opposing equality for their own children (see my posts here and here). BTW, Lynn Cheney supports marriage equality for her lesbian daughter and GOD BLESS MARIE OSMOND for supporting her lesbian daughter AND marriage equality for her lesbian daughter!
Lynn Cheney is here on CBS News, Sept. 15, 2008, saying “freedom in this country ought to mean freedom for everyone.”
Update: I was just perusing Hot Air and found that Ed Morrissey predicted an appeal in federal courts.