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Freedom Fettered by Fear

An essay donated by Jason Miller

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Jason Miller is a 39 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. When he is not spending time with his wife and three sons, researching, or writing, he is working as a loan counselor. He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at willpowerful@hotmail.com  or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.

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As I contemplated casting my ballot on [2005] April 5 on the Kansas Marriage Amendment, several thoughts flowed through my mind. To focus them, I decided to analyze the text of the proposed amendment again:

bullet(a) The marriage contract is to be considered in law as a civil contract. Marriage shall be constituted by one man and one woman only. All other marriages are declared to be contrary to the public policy of this state and are void.
bullet(b)  No relationship, other than a marriage, shall be recognized by the state as entitling the parties to the rights or incidents of marriage.

As I read the proposed amendment, my first question was, why? Why do we need to add this law to our state constitution? Kansas statutes already define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Toward what end are we taking this law to the level of constitutional authority?

One does not need to delve too deeply into the issue to realize that the majority of the supporters of the passage of this amendment are conservative Christians. Their contention is that our society needs to protect and strengthen the sanctity of marriage. According to their twisted logic, our state needs to include the existing law defining marriage in our constitution to protect the law from "misinterpretation by activist Kansas judges." Conservative Christians rationalize their position by stating that gays and homosexuals engage in "immoral" behavior that they could "choose" to change, and that allowing same-sex marriages would somehow weaken the foundations of the institution of marriage.

Obviously, there is a poorly hidden agenda of discrimination at work here. Preservation of the sanctity of marriage is a red herring for the true motives behind this group. Adopting this amendment would give Kansas the dubious distinction of becoming the 18th state to write discrimination into their constitution. Fear provides the true impetus behind the conservative Christian movement's powerful desire to suppress gay rights.

What do conservative Christians fear? They profess that they fear the further deterioration of the institution of marriage. How does a civil union (a legal contract recognized by the state) undermine the institution of marriage? It does not. If marriage is in a crisis, or at least on the decline, as statistics would indicate, reason would dictate that prohibiting approximately 5% of our population from engaging in marriage would limit its chances of survival, not enhance them. Besides, a civil union poses no threat to a Christian church marriage. It simply gives two people, regardless of their gender, a state-sanctioned legal contract imparting rights and responsibilities to coincide with a long-term relationship. If Christian churches want to preserve the religious institution of marriage, they have the First Amendment right to deny gay marriages from taking place within their sects. This is the beauty of separation of church and state. Gays could have their civil liberties, and conservative Christian churches could practice discrimination within the privacy of their organizations.

One can make a strong argument that homophobia is at the root of the conservative Christian movement's objection to homosexuality, and its push to oppress gays. Homophobia is a fear of homosexuals derived from a powerful need to deny the existence of any latent (or perhaps not so latent) homosexual tendencies in oneself. Gays and their private sexual behavior pose no rational threat to others. Like other segments of humanity, gays bring a great deal to contribute to our society, and do. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ, the prophet and savior of Christians, modeled a life of love and compassion toward others. Why can't conservative Christianity bring itself to apply the simple, yet powerful concept behind the Golden Rule where gays are concerned? Irrational fear fueled by homophobia enables this group to hold its schizophrenic world view: Love thy neighbor, unless thy neighbor is gay. Since gays pose no overt threat to the conservative Christian movement, the psychological threat posed by homophobia would, at least in large part, account for the conservative Christian movement's irrational hostility toward gays.

Sadly, most of the conservative Christian movement's arguments against gays are emotionally-driven and substantiated by questionable interpretation of the Bible, a book, which in the conservative Christian paradigm, is sacrosanct to all. In making such a narrow argument, they conveniently dismiss the glaring fact that we live in a secular nation comprised of many faiths, not just Christianity. The use of the Bible to ward off the "gay bogeyman" is a despicable perversion of a book, which while not embraced by all members of our society as the ultimate moral authority, does contain much wisdom and moral insight.

Many conservative Christians argue that homosexuality is simply a behavior and a choice, a view that is shared by few reputable mental health professionals, scientists, or critical thinking individuals. For fun, one could entertain their argument and suppose that homosexuality is merely a chosen behavior. If homosexual behavior is not harming others, which it is not, then why are we legislating against gays and their civil rights? A just and free society creates laws to punish those who harm others and enacts legislation to promote the common welfare. While America still has much work to do to become the beacon of liberty and freedom that President Bush proclaims us to be, the United States has made tremendous social progress from the patriarchal culture that perpetrated the slaughter and abuse of millions of Native-Americans and the enslavement of the black race. Continued suppression of gay rights perpetuates the ugly tendencies of our culture, undermining the work of many who are continuing to work so hard to eradicate them.

In "On Liberty", John Stuart Mill, a prescient proponent of women's rights and of individual liberty in general, wrote that "the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection". Neither gays, nor their behavior, pose a realistic threat to others in our society. In order to function as a society, individuals form government. Governments make laws that protect individual rights or limit individual behavior so that it does not infringe on the rights of others, or cause harm to others. Marriage amendments, like the one proposed in Kansas, do not extend or protect rights; they deny them. Individuals do not need protection from homosexuals or their behavior. Therefore, these marriage amendments subvert the true intent and purpose of having a government and making laws.

On [2005-APR-06]...I suspect I will awaken to find that the Kansas Marriage Amendment has passed. In Kansas, the conservative Christian movement thrives with a virtually unparalleled tenacity. Reason and rationality give way to faith and fear. Hatred substitutes for passion. Dogma trumps science. One day, the pendulum will swing the other way. Meanwhile, I pray to the Higher Power of my understanding that many more people of reason will join me in my efforts to stem the powerful tide of social regression.

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Webmaster's comments:

Jason Miller was correct. He did wake up to find that the Kansas Marriage Amendment had passed by a majority of about 70% -- a little less than the percentage of American adults who opposed interracial marriages back in 1967. That was when the U.S. Supreme Court declared miscegenation laws unconstitutional in 16 states.

This is a very strongly worded essay in favor of allowing all loving, committed couples to marry. We welcome submission of essays which take the opposite viewpoint.

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Copyright © 2005 & 2006 by Jason Miller
Originally posted: 2005-MAY-06
Latest update: 2006-MAR-13
Author: Jason Miller

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