Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Anyone Who Is For Amendment 2 Should Read This

Idealism, Not Fear, Should Be Inspiration for Changes in Missouri's Constitution

The Kansas City Star

Missourians will vote in August on whether to amend the state's constitution to forever deny gay and lesbian couples the fundamental right and legal benefits of marriage. I am asking each of you who lives in Missouri to vote against this measure.

Much of the pro-amendment talk revolves around the necessity of marriage as an institution to promote stability within society. If marriage stabilizes society, as it no doubt does, then why deny that stability to thousands of same-sex couples? Obviously, society would be even more stable if all people were allowed to benefit from the marriage contract.

After all, marriage is a contract, a social institution, first and foremost. Supporters argue that without the amendment, churches will be forced to marry same-sex couples. This is nonsense.

Thanks to the First Amendment, churches and pastors are free to set any rules they like on those they will marry. Some pastors require that prospective spouses undergo a specified number of premarital counseling sessions before they are wed. Some churches share their buildings only for weddings involving members of their congregations. Some churches recognize marriages only between two members of the same faith.

Although many wedding ceremonies are performed in church buildings, the marriage itself is a social contract, licensed by the state. For this reason, the officiant often declares, “By the power vested in me …” Who does this vesting? It's not God, Allah, Yahweh or Buddha. The power is bestowed by the state. That's why religious and civil ceremonies are both considered valid, because the state grants its recognition.

Other arguments put forth by supporters of an amendment also fail to hold water.

They contend that the primary benefit/goal/purpose of marriage is procreation. So what? Just because a relationship does not involve child-bearing, those involved still are receiving other benefits, including companionship, mutual support, financial stability, friendship and, most especially, love.

If procreating couples have the only valid marriages, let's eliminate marriage for those who can't have children for health reasons. For those who decide not to have children. For widows and widowers who are well past their time for procreating.

Certainly, not all marriages or families today look like the traditional “Father Knows Best”/“Leave It to Beaver” model of yesteryear, nor did they then, even in the halcyon days they portrayed. But our families are no less valid. Building a marriage, a family, is accomplished by sharing of lives — the meals, the trips, the illnesses, the triumphs, the tragedies, the laundry, the good times and bad, the love.

Amendment proponents say marriage needs protecting. Yes, it does. It needs protection from those who don't take it seriously. From a 50 percent failure rate. From “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” From much-publicized marriages and divorces of celebrities (from the serial monogamy of Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney to the 55-hour “marriage” of Britney Spears). Yes, marriage needs protection, but not from me and my partner of more than 18 years.

Amendment proponents say that judicial fiat has brought the issue of same-sex marriage to the fore, and that such matters should be left to the state legislatures. Surely no one needs to be reminded that it was the judiciary, not the states, that paved the way for progress on civil rights matters such as dismantling the doctrine of “separate but equal.”

Amendment supporters contend that allowing same-sex marriages is the first step down a slippery slope. They say that incest, bigamy, bestiality and other horrors lie just down the slope. This argument needs no reply, for it is simply a smokescreen for their real fear, that granting recognition to same-sex marriages is a step down the slippery slope toward social legitimacy for homosexuals. That frightens them, for whatever reason.

Constitutions of states and nations should have the loftiest of ideals. From the beginning, amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been toward the expansion of individual rights, not their restriction. Think about the abolition of slavery and the poll tax, granting nationwide suffrage to women, lowering the voting age to 18.

And this is how it should be. Constitutions should support the people's highest aspirations, not pander to their lowest fears.

Paul Backer is a copy editor on The Star's Universal Desk. He lives in Kansas City.


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