This essay was written in 2004, but the local presses wouldn’t publish it. Moreover, the writer asked me to withhold her city and state. She said bigots where she lives like to take their viewpoint out on your pets. Progress has real costs. The backlash is ugly, as we see repeatedly in a candidate like Rick Santorum. We are given voices to speak. We are given stories to tell. Speak truth to power. Speak it as long as you live. Meet my guest for today’s Marriage Project:
Here’s looking at you
by Marguerite Quantaine
Publicly, Thomas Jefferson believed in the principles of freedom. But privately, he grappled over whether the worst white man was still better than the best black man.
Ultimately, Jefferson’s failure to champion equality left his own illegitimate child enslaved, opening the wound which has since defined – not the competency of his mind – but the capacity of his heart.
We are once again at a crossroads governing the use of fine print to qualify freedom and equality.
But this time, the Jeffersonian paradox challenges whether we, as a nation, believe the worst heterosexual is still better than the best homosexual.
Because all the worst heterosexuals in America can marry.
But even the best homosexuals cannot.
As the high court strips away all righteous rhetoric and political posturing, it’s possible they’ll recognize a raw reality, i.e., even when heterosexuals commit the most heinous crimes (murder, rape, child molestation, spousal abuse), their known deviant behaviors are ignored by American marriage laws.
However, even when homosexuals are model citizens, their one identified aberrant activity is prepossessed.
The court must then question whether this speaks to the heart of who we are, regardless of whom we perceive ourselves to be.
On the one hand, we insist the purpose of marriage is a belief in the sanctity of family.
On the other, we ignore the fact that millions of felons sitting in high security prisons nationwide are predominately heterosexual, having marginal moral character at best. Yet each has a right to marry.
In some sit suspects held for complicity in the 9/11 attacks. And even they have the legal right to marry in every state in this nation.
But Lily Tomlin doesn’t.
Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, David Berkowitz, and the Menendez brothers can.
But Ellen DeGeneres can’t.
The loathsome, imprisoned Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, could.
But the honorable, sitting U.S. Congressman, Barney Frank, cannot.
If the court entertains the position that “sin” is the foundation on which law is defined, will it validate the proponent “hate the sin, not the sinner” premise?
Can it then ignore evidence verifying it isn’t “sin” being shunned, profiled, attacked, ridiculed, or denied equal rights? Only American citizens are.
Will the court ask why there are no marches planned, political wars being waged, or state constitutional amendments being drafted against the seven deadly sins? Or, why it’s only a singular, Bible referenced, declared abomination being targeted?
And, if this is an inflamed edict, could it set precedence for other inflamed edicts as just cause to alter constitutional law?
The court might recognize the ten commandments governing the worship of other Gods, building graven images, working on the Sabbath, cursing, dishonoring parents, murder, adultery, stealing, coveting, and bearing false witness as written in stone. But being gay is not.
Politicians and pundits insist same-sex marriage is un-American, implying we can’t remain an “America The Beautiful” if we allow marriage to be maligned. Because, like that best loved song, the institution of marriage has been declared our national heritage and pride.
But only the Supreme Court can decide which American-born citizens qualify as entitled to inalienable rights, and which (regardless of birthright or exemplary character) do not.
Before then, the justices may be compelled to reflect on citizens like Katherine Lee Bates. A woman who spent 25 years in love with another woman, and her entire life as one of America’s finest homosexuals. Who felt, authored, and gifted our nation with those cherished words, “And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”
Perhaps it’s even possible our Supreme Court will decide it’s time we stopped cherishing a broken institution that denies equality to our totality, and in so ruling, bind us by law to cherish each other, instead.