The nation’s understandable preoccupation with the unfolding economic crisis has overshadowed a significant victory in the battle for same-sex marriage: the Connecticut Supreme Court, on October 10, ruled that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry.
The Nutmeg State thus joins Massachusetts and California as states that grant same-sex couples marriage rights equal to those enjoyed by other couples.
While Connecticut marriage licenses may be legally recognized only within that state due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the ruling nevertheless expands the intellectual contours of the national debate over same-sex marriage.
The state’s high court did more than issue a ringing and eloquent endorsement of the right of all people to be married if they so choose. It did so while striking down an existing state civil-union law that, in effect, had granted gays and lesbians the rights and privileges of heterosexual marriage so long as those unions were not defined as marriages.
This sort of separate-but-equal thinking, the court said, violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law. In the past, separate-but-equal thinking has been used to deny interracial couples the right to marry, African-American citizens the right to vote and access to education, and women the ability to pursue careers and livelihoods of their choosing.
Three states — Vermont, New Hampshire, and New Jersey — embrace civil unions. At least four others — including Maine, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii — and the District of Columbia sanction domestic partnerships or some sort of legal union that affords various rights and responsibilities of marriage.
While such unions and partnerships are welcome steps along the road to full marriage rights, they are not equivalent to marriage. In the near view, the decision by the Connecticut court is certainly bold. But in time in will be seen as merely common sense.
The Connecticut decision also squarely addresses the issue of why appointed judges rather than elected legislatures are responsible for such decisions.
Again, the court’s thinking is rooted in past civil-rights battles. Gays and lesbians, like blacks and women, are the victims of clear and present discrimination, the Connecticut Supreme Court argued. Since domestic partnerships and civil unions are not full marriages and are therefore unconstitutional, and because there is little doubt that same-sex advocates would have little chance of achieving full equality through the legislative process, it falls to the court to act.
Only right-wing wackos would deny the need for the courts to extend equal protection under the law to African-Americans and women. People of good will should applaud the decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court. It takes that state to a place where the rest of the nation should be.
Republican Party reptiles
The scale-encrusted underbelly of the Republican Party is ably demonstrating that hate and intolerance are vibrant forces within the GOP.
The negative has always been an animator in politics, which Henry Adams once described as little more than “the systematic organization of hatreds.”
In recent years, the Republicans have proven to be frighteningly adept at harnessing the dark side of the American polity, cultivating Old Testament concepts of womanhood, racial stereotypes of blacks, and nativist fears of immigrants.
The basest elements of the Republican base can not seem to shake the bizarre idea, the perverse characterization, that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is an Islamist terrorist. It is a core belief, as closely held as the notions that the Earth is flat, that God created the Earth in seven days, and that Darwin is, well, a monkey’s uncle.
Some nut jobs, such as radio talk-show windbag Michael Graham, even go so far as to suggest — by means of a discredited computer-altered image of Obama speaking in front of a Che Guevara poster that he uploaded to his Web site — that Obama is a communist. Never mind that a student of the Koran, which he is also accused of being, would by definition be excluded from the Marxist ranks. Deceit is elastic and has a very low common denominator. To the ignorant, much is profound and even more is scary.
Nothing is more frightening to the lower rungs of Republicanism than an independent mind. Christopher Buckley, the son of the late conservative guru William F. Buckley and a former speechwriter for Republican president George H. W. Bush, is a case in point.
Buckley, until several days ago, was a columnist for the magazine his father founded, the National Review. Was, that is, until Buckley wrote an essay for media bigwig Tina Brown’s new Web site The Daily Beast explaining why, for the first time in his life, he was voting for a Democrat, rather than Republican presidential candidate.
Buckley’s beef with John McCain is symptomatic of the problems that some of his fellow Republicans have with their party’s candidate.
Simply put, the case is as follows: McCain is erratic, of questionable competence, and has run a divisive campaign that undercuts his ability to lead this nation in its current moment of crisis.