Gasp! Gay Marriage! Change our Form of Government! Now!
“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson.
Here we go again: Republicans and their cowardly counterparts in the 0ther conservative party bullying gays again. They keep trotting out this tired old argument that gays and lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and just to make sure, we need to amend the Constitution to forever ban gay marriage (you know, like that other great idea, forever banning alcohol).
Look, this issue is going to look a lot like the slavery and women’s suffrage issues that history has judged adamantly against in the first place and resoundingly for in the second place. And history’s judgment will be no less kind to those bigots of today than it has been to those of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I just hope that history doesn’t paint us all with the same broad brush-stroke. So I wish to declare here: I am not one of “them.” I say it this way because this is how the gay-haters think and talk –us versus them. But history similarly will ask: Were you one of them? One of the haters? The gay-bashers? And I want to let it be known: No, I am not. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as I would like to believe I would have stood with my black brothers and sisters when they were fighting for their freedom, and with my suffragette sisters when they were fighting for theirs.
But apart from the stupidity, hypocrisy and moral vacuousness of such a way of thinking, amending a constitution to enshrine it and to ensure such an end is simply dangerous to liberty. Everyone’s. Including the liberty of those who seek to do such a foolish thing.
A Constitution exists to describe and ensure a form of government. It governs the structure and function of the government. The North Carolina Constitution (the Constitution these brave protectors of our Judeo-Islamic-Christian morals are trying to amend) is no different. Like the United States Constitution, it establishes three distinct branches of government; and, perhaps more importantly, it acknowledges and protects certain rights. Rights that we the people enjoy in the face of a government that might try to take them away from us. Constitutions are designed to protect individuals from the government. The founders of our country recognized this (see Amendments 1 – 10 of the US Constitution), and the framers of all three of North Carolina’s Constitutions recognized this also (see Article I, section 20 of the North Carolina Constitution — a noble and marvelous declaration of our rights against governmental interference in our lives).
A constitution is something to be left alone. This is the true conservative position. Amending a constitution is altering the government. It’s radical. We don’t need to alter the government to restrict behavior that people — right or wrong — consider inappropriate. We use legislation for this purpose. A law; one that can be changed or repealed. The will of the people changes; the opinion of the people changes. What might have been considered criminal behavior then might be considered tolerable now. The people ought to be able to change that law easily as they see fit.
Amending the Constitution should be (and fortunately, is) difficult. When we talk about amending the Constitution, our debate should be especially vigorous. Those who advocate for the amendment to the manner in which we govern ourselves should be armed with an overwhelming arsenal of arguments for doing so; and those who oppose it, should resist the taunt to defend the status quo, to have the burden of proof shifted, to explain (theirs is the job to explain). But they must be prepared to fight.
Sadly, North Carolina has a law banning same-sex marriage. It’s already against the law. So who cares? An amendment to the Constitution, the document designed for the purpose of preserving our freedoms as we relinquish to our servants, the government, other functions is patently not necessary. And more significantly, such an inclusion in such an important document would only cheapen the people’s respect for that document. Once the chipping away begins…
One last thing:
“The purpose is not just to prevent Massachusetts people coming down. It’s also to put a big letter of shame on the behavior. We don’t want them here. We don’t want them marrying. If you’re going to do it in San Francisco, it’s your own business.” Bill James, Mecklenburg Co. NC, County Commissioner, quoted from The Raleigh News and Observer, March 1, 2011.