DON’T GET “AMERICA”
Veterans For Equal Rights
reaction of many opponents this week to the Supreme
Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act
makes is increasingly clear that many Americans haven’t
a clue as to what our American democracy is all about.
“It’s against my faith,” they say. Or “It’s against the
Bible.” And since they see same-sex marriage as
something taboo to their various religious dogma, that
justifies denying legal rights to same-sex American
couples. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
There is no
doubt that religious or biblical justification for
oppression is little more than an attempt to hide behind
the “sacred” by individuals trying to convince
themselves and others that what they know is wrong is OK
as long as they can find a scripture passage to support
it. In 1995 the Southern Baptist Convention finally
apologized to African-Americans for using religion to
condone and perpetuate both slavery and segregation,
noting that “to wrap our prejudice in the Scripture is a
sinful thing to do.” The apology came 133 years
following the abolition of slavery due to the defeat of
southern states in the American Civil War.
One wonders at all the future
apologies the SBC will accumulate over the next century
and a half.
To be fair,
the “law of the land” has itself changed significantly
since the founding of the United States over 200 years
ago. For many of us, the most fundamental definition of
America, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, was not adopted until July 9, 1868, as one of
the Reconstruction Amendments to the constitution
following the Civil War.
Fourteenth Amendment marked a significant shift in the
role of the constitution, by applying substantially more
restrictions against the states than had existed before
the War. It was not until the adoption of the Fourteenth
Amendment that there was a fundamental understanding
that federal law trumped state law in guaranteeing that
every American citizen was entitled to the same basic
rights as every other citizen. The idea that “Equal
Justice Under the Law”, which is engraved on the
pediment of the Supreme
Court Building in our nation’s capitol, was a basic
right guaranteed to every American, was established to
ensure that former slaves would share the same rights as
white (male) Americans.
this was a huge shift in the understanding of American
freedom since some of the most prominent founders of the
nation, including George Washington and Thomas
Jefferson, owned slaves and never perceived that the
people they considered to be their property would ever
share the same rights and freedoms as they provided for
themselves and held sacred to their understanding of
“liberty.” The understanding of who is an equal citizen
and who is not, has been a changing concept.
specifically written to protect the rights of
African-American men, the
Fourteenth Amendment has been used in our “evolving”
democracy to include one minority group after another,
the most significant being women. Women did not receive
the fundamental right to vote until the passage of the
Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. It is incredible to
consider that it has not yet been 100 years since women
were seen as fundamentally equal to men, at least in
their right to participate in the core democratic
practice of electing government officials.
On June 26th,
the Supreme Court correctly interpreted the equal
protection clause to grant the same federal benefits to
legally married same-sex couples as all other legally
married couples. Why the Supreme Court
does not use its authority
to overturn the ban against same-sex marriage in some
states as they did the ban against mixed-race marriage
is difficult to understand. Why the Court can claim
jurisdiction in one case and not the other is completely
unclear. Perhaps the Court is waiting for the nation to
“evolve” further before they can make such a ruling.
Barack Obama, speaking from the African nation of
Senegal where homosexuality is a crime, stated that the
Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA is a “victory
for American democracy.” “I believe at the root of who
we are as a people as Americans is
the basic precept that we are all equal under the
law. We believe in basic fairness”, he said. The
president is right on the money. America is about
fairness. The Fourteenth Amendment is about fairness. As
a veteran who took an oath to defend the Constitution of
the United States, my promise was to protect fairness.
My grandmother was no constitutional scholar, but she
understood fairness as every grandmother does. What you
give to one grandchild you give to all. If you don’t
give to all, you don’t give at all.
The one and only law of the land
is the United States Constitution. Nothing else. No
Bible. No Torah. No Koran. Just one document of freedom,
sometimes evolving, sometimes expanding, but always true
in its basic principles of equal justice for all.
That’s what American democracy is all about. Fairness.
Equality. Justice. And those who don’t understand that,
or choose not to accept it, haven’t a clue as to what
America is all about.
© 2013 Gay Military Signal, AVER