Reporters always listen for that really great quote, one that not only summarizes the whole story in a few breaths, but connects the reader emotionally to the issue at hand. The words grab you by the collar and, like a thuggish brute, demand to be preserved.
Last Thursday night, New Albany City Councilperson John Gonder supplied such a gem while debating a decree that admonished House Joint Resolution 6, legislation that, if passed by the General Assembly and then on a ballot initiative, would amend the state constitution to ban both civil unions and marriage for gay Hoosiers.
“We’ll all be dead and gone and all that remains is what we did or tried to do,” he said in response to another member’s question. “And I’d rather be on the side of trying to help somebody than trying to curtail their rights.”
As the debate on legalizing gay marriage and civil unions rages on, Gonder’s sentiment — the council approved its resolution on a 7-1-1 vote, by the way — strikes at the heart of the argument. What makes the quote so powerful is because, really, when we get down to the nitty gritty of the legislation, it all boils down to a certain sect of voters wanting to take away someone else’s rights. Period.
Oh yes, marriage is a right, one bestowed by the state and one which carries with it certain legal protections and thousands of benefits. Now we could go back and forth all day about whether the government should be in the marriage business to begin with, but really the discussion would be all for naught. Reality dictates our policies, not what ifs. And currently our state continues to confer the title of marriage on some while excluding others due to only their sexual orientation.
That’s not only discriminatory, it’s unconstitutional.
Look at the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Wait. There’s more. Just wanting to spice things up a bit, a 2013 Supreme Court ruling which negated the Defense of Marriage Act relied on the Fifth Amendment which states, “No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In 1967’s Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court used the same constitutional guarantee to stop bans on interracial marriage. The freedom to marry rests in the individual, not the state, the court said. It’s not hard to see how homosexual couples should fall under the same protections.
In laymen’s terms, both constitutional amendments basically say that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, especially when the ganders are two consenting adults. Are homosexuals still allowed to own guns and get a speedy trial by their peers? Yep. Their sexual orientation doesn’t negate those rights. Neither should it stop them from having an equal opportunity to marry another consenting adult.
“Wait,” the opposition will cry out. “How dare you say that! Our rights are being trampled. Our voices aren’t being heard.”
Let’s call this the “Don’t be intolerant of my intolerance” argument. It’s always a favorite. Guess what, folks? Granting gays the right to marriage does not interfere with your rights. You can still damn those you deem sinful to hell and talk about the moral ineptitudes of society. That’s your right. Churches need not marry the happy couples in their sanctuaries. That’s their right. And we can all peacefully protest any laws to our heart’s content. That’s everybody’s right.
Think about how you’d feel when or if government tries to restrict those freedoms on you.
What’s not your right is dictating a moral agenda by limiting someone else’s choice that has no effect on you in the least. HJR6 represents this type of Hoosier hypocrisy at its finest.
This isn’t about the morality of homosexuality. It’s about not allowing a vocal minority to restrict constitutionally protected rights. History will be awaiting an answer.
— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org