Marriage is a Fundamental Right in a Free Society

Today, I am hosting a guest writer for whom I have great respect.

He is a retired Navy Captain, a Vietnam vet, a student of American history, an engineer who spent thirty years building warships, and a fiscal conservative who believes in limited government and a strong military. Based on this, you might entertain certain preconceived notions about his other beliefs. You would likely be wrong. He is a man of great integrity who has always taught me that education, tolerance and compassion are the keys to maintaining our American way of life. See for yourself. Here’s an enlightening essay from my dad:

 Social philosopher F. A. Hayek said “A free society is a pluralistic society without a common hierarchy of particular ends.” It should matter not to each of us whether our neighbor is a Buddhist, Islamic, Christian, atheist, agnostic, or free-thinker. It should matter not if a couple is of the same sex. What matters is that s/he not infringe on the free choice of others. In order to achieve that free society we have established laws to protect our fundamental rights as established in our Constitution and the 14th Amendment.

Unfortunately some States, North Carolina being the most recent, have passed laws banning same sex marriage. That may be due to ignorance, bigotry, a lack of education, a religious belief or some combination of them. It matters not. What matters is that they have elected to impose something as a rule of law that is counter to our fundamental right of free association.

Tolerance is a virtue. It is also a necessity in a free society. Our freedom means that we must tolerate what others believe whether we agree with them or not. We need not agree on every aspect of our lives in order to live peacefully with one another; however we should accept the actions of others so long as they are peaceful.

Compare this to socialism or fascism. Those systems require a single hierarchy of ends; the collective decides which ends will be pursued and which not. One’s particular ends must be subordinated to the priorities of the State or collective. The result is not the peaceful disagreement and tolerance of good order, but rather fighting over the reins of power in order to achieve one’s ends at the expense of others. Instead of a society where everyone wins, we have a society where the State wins and many of us loose.

Our society should be one where we may pursue anything that is peaceful; it should be limited only by our ambition and our respect for the rights of others. States that pass laws banning same sex marriages are infringing on a fundamental human right. They are continuing us on a trend where our social environment is becoming less free and more controlled by the State.

When “Well-behaved” Just Won’t Do

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Cover of "Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make ...
Ulrich used her famous line as the title
 for her latest book.

You’ve probably seen it on a bumper sticker or a coffee mug, but do you know who said it? Do you know why? She’s Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, an historian, Harvard professor, and Pulitzer Prize winning author who once used the phrase in a paper she wrote as a graduate student.  As an historian who has spent a lifetime writing about the role of women in American history, I think she nailed it in one simple sentence.

I’ve noticed that the older I’ve gotten, the more well-behaved I’ve become. You’d think that would be a good thing, right? Most of us do, especially once we have children and become models for behavior. But there’s a difference between courtesy and complacence.

For years now, my partner and I have told ourselves that just living honestly and openly is the best way to advocate for our family (and other “nontraditional” families). We don’t “advertise” ourselves as a lesbian couple, but we don’t hide anything either. We hope that as people get to know us, even like us, they’ll find that we’re pretty much just like everyone else. We pay our taxes, love our children, honor our parents, help out our neighbors and our friends when we can. We’re nice people. And we don’t make waves. What’s to hate?

It’s just a yard sign, but
it’s a beginning.

On May 8, the voters of North Carolina will consider a proposed amendment to the state constitution to ensure “that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” There’s already a law against gay marriage in North Carolina, but it seems some of our state legislators (of the Republican persuasion) felt that it wasn’t illegal enough. They want an actual amendment.

For years now, I’ve told myself, So what? What do I care if the state or the federal government tells me I can’t marry B? We love each other. We’re raising a family together and plan to spend the rest of our lives together. What do we care if we can’t legally marry? (Actually there are some very good reasons involving health insurance and my non-existent legal rights as her partner. But this essay isn’t about that.)

It’s about our kids. By telling us that we can’t marry, the state of NC is telling our sons that their family is not legitimate. And we just can’t have that.

State Senator Daniel Soucek, the Republican who sponsored the bill for Amendment One, warns us that the amendment is necessary to defend the existing law against “activist judges” who may not agree with the “majority” of the voters and overturn the law. So voters should have the last say. All the voters. I’m sure that was his intention when he and his fellow sponsors of the bill arranged to place it on the ballot on the same day as the Republican primary.

Recently, Soucek had this to say to the Huffington Post, “It’s not just the term ‘marriage.’ It’s all of the societal communal building blocks that make up traditional marriage. We think that’s the healthiest way to raise children.” And there it is. This isn’t just about marriage. It’s about our children.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard or read similar words from people with the power to do a lot of damage. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of being referred to as perverted, immoral, mentally ill, evil, unnatural, or maybe worst of all, unfit as a parent. I’m tired of trying to “nice” the bigots and the haters into their right minds. I’m tired of being well-behaved.

So I’m setting up my soap box on this blog for the next three weeks until the vote on May 8. Expect to see a lot about basic human rights, about ordinary people who happen to be gay, about family values and why the Republican version of that phrase is an oxymoron. It won’t be “nice.” It won’t be “well-behaved.” But it will be true.

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