The Constitution Matters

The following is an op-ed submitted to local papers by the Loudoun Equality Action Project, the precursor to Equality Loudoun.

Loudoun Equality Action Project members were present August 25 to observe the adoption by the LCRC of the “Resolution in Support of Constitutional Democracy and Traditional Marriage”. Despite being thoroughly vetted through the organization’s issues committee in order to reframe this action as a “defense of Constitutional Democracy”, it’s true intent, that of edging our nation closer to becoming a theocratic state, is not that hard to discern.

We have a history in which interpretations of religious text have been used to justify such things as the ownership of human beings by other human beings, and the claim that it is “unnatural” for persons of different races to intermarry. Laws with a cruel impact on people’s lives have been regularly upheld by these sorts of arguments, and in hindsight we now understand that they were wrong . We also understand that citing the text of a specific religion as the basis of civil law constitutes the establishment of religion and explicitly violates our Constitutional principles. The proponents of such scripture-based public policy like to claim, as did Ms.Grigsby, that the foundation of law is Judeo-Christian tradition and the Ten Commandments. But do we really need a reference to a specific religious text to justify laws against murder or theft? Aren’t these simply markers of a society that values the inherent worth and dignity of human beings?

The issue for the supporters of this resolution is really not that the Supreme Court has independently taken upon itself the right to decide “the proper nature or appropriate direction of society”, it is that the direction that society has objectively taken is one with which they vehemently disagree. Societies do change over time; were this not the case lawful slavery would still be a part of ours. At the time of the Bowers ruling it was not as well understood or accepted by the mainstream that sexual diversity is a fact of human life. Justice White, who wrote the majority decision in that case, even stated that he did not personally know any homosexual people. The 1987 Court, as a group of human beings embedded in their culture, did not readily see that the question before them was one of the singling out of a category of persons for unequal treatment. This error has now been decisively corrected. There are certain fundamental principles which cannot be excised from the Constitution by the disingenuous assertion that a “right to sexual expression” was not recorded by our Forefathers, and the principle of equal protection under the law is one of them.

The only basis for maintaining “laws which embody traditional norms of sexual behavior”?and for the amendment itself, is the belief of anti-gay activists that their religious text condemns any variance from their model of human sexuality. To confer special status on this belief is to allow theocratic rule, regardless of any deceptive statements about democracy.

As part of their new strategy, the supporters of the resolution handed out stickers that read “The Constitution Matters”. They got that part right. The Constitution most certainly does matter. The idea of changing our Constitution to reflect a specific religious belief, a belief not shared by all citizens in our pluralistic society, is so profoundly unamerican that it takes one’s breath away.

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