Originally published by our Legal Editor, Mike “gamecock” DeVine as Charlotte Law and Civil Rights Examiner for Examiner.com
After the most liberal state in the nation rejected same-sex marriage at the ballot box for the second time this decade, protests rallies were held across the nation, including here in Charlotte.
Some gay rights activists point to the defeat of same-sex marriage with the passage of Proposition 8 in California and similar bans approved in Arizona and Florida on this past Election Day as evidence of hate:
“We need a movement in this country,” said Joanie Beasley of Gastonia. “It is time we said no to all bigotry and hate. It is time we demanded our civil rights.”
Bigotry and hate?
Merely to favor maintaining the 5000 year old definition of the institution of marriage, is now considered “hate”?
There is no civil right to marry a person of the same sex ratified in any State’s constitution (including North Carolina’s) or the U.S. Constitution, although, judges in Massachusetts and Connecticut essential re-wrote their respective Constitutions to find such a previously “hidden” right.
Beasley, 53, sang along with the crowd Saturday, closing her eyes at the chorus of “We Shall Overcome.” She attended the rally with her partner Nancy Leedy, also 53.
As a veteran trial lawyer that has represented gays in discrimination claims, I think many gay activists make a huge mistake trying to marry their cause to the Civil Rights Movement for blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities.
Gay ain’t the new black
First of all, it was not necessary for judges to twist the meanings of words in constitutions to support their claims. Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. (pictured) could point to the 14th Amendment, ratified by supermajorities of Congress and the States, soon after the Civil War, as the basis of their equal rights.
Secondly, many activists in the present movement are essentially demanding that Americans approve of their “lifestyle”, which, translated, means their sexual preferences and behavior. This is a political loser.
Lastly, a distinct, but vocal minority of those hurling bigot and hate epithets at supporters of traditional marriage, resort to the sine qua non of hate: violence.
The real haters have physically harassed churchgoers (especially Mormons), destroyed property and engaged in various other obnoxious physical and non-physical acts that in no way remind one of those that made the tune of “We Shall Overcome” famous.
Clearly, these miscreants in no way represent the overwhelming majority of gays and lesbians, many of whom don’t even favor changing marriage laws. But the leaders of those who do, need to take a page out of MLK’s book and denounce the violence done in their name much as King denounced Black Panthers and the pre-conversion Malcolm X.
Individual, not group, rights is the way
I once counseled an openly gay legislator to seek legal changes based on the American concept of “individual” rather than group rights. This is a proven political winner.
Many states have enacted laws that address concerns of inheritance, hospital visitation, and other issues. Moreover, many Americans have no problem with civil unions, especially if they are available to individuals without regard to inquiries of sexual preference.
These successes are being achieved the old fashioned way, free speech to persuade followed by votes by We the People in states and localities.
One day Americans may favor changing the definition of marriage. That day has not yet come. But some gay rights activists want to force the issue on the states thru the courts and point to President-Elect Barack Obama’s campaign statements of his desire to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
That act, signed by President Bill Clinton, provides that no state could be required to respect same-sex marriages in other states. (There are Constitutional issues under the Full Faith and Credit Clause that the U.S. Supreme Court has never addressed, I would note).
I think this would be a huge political mistake given the overwhelming opposition to same-sex marriage and given the damage court imposed social views anathema to those of most Americans can have on the body politic, such as Roe v. Wade’s instant legalization of abortion that arrested evolution on the issue in the states.
The best path for gays to one day achieve their civil rights goals is to insist on a civil debate worthy of Martin Luther King and which engages all of the body politic, rather than having judges cram their agenda down America’s throat.
Mike DeVine’s Examiner.com and Charlotte Observer columns.
“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson