Next week, Florida Republicans will decide which candidate will oppose President Obama in November. For voters both gay and straight, marriage equality will be a defining issue of this, the “Teens” decade of the 21st Century. There are men and women of goodwill, faith-espousing and secular, who will passionately disagree over this divisive topic, and they will express their divisions in the age-old ritual of democracy by voting their consciences, among other things.
As of this writing, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Illinois, Washington State, and Washington, D.C. have created legal unions for same-sex couples that offer varying rights and responsibilities of marriage. New Jersey has also created legal unions–not quite marriages, but offering all the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. Gov. Chris Christie said this week that he will veto marriage equality legislation, but one miracle at a time.
At present, Maryland recognizes same-sex marriages originating in other states and jurisdictions, while not allowing such marriages to be held within its own borders. The novel laws of New Mexico do not specifically allow nor prohibit same-sex marriages or other types of same-sex unions–perhaps a subconscious legislative nod to the region’s history of Native American three-spirited-persons.
Florida, of course, enjoys the tax base of one of the largest and most prosperous permanent LGBT communities in the world. Our governor, who describes himself as “an across-the-board conservative” (“I am pro-life and support traditional marriage,” sayeth Rick Scott) enjoys the benefits of that tax base, while denying its source the full benefits of citizenship (“We need to protect our values as well as our tax dollars.”).
Legally, marriage is no more a “right” than being issued a driver’s license. But even Ron Paul acknowledges that “everybody is an individual person, and everybody has the same rights as anyone else. The government has no business in your private life, you know, so if one person is allowed to do something so should everyone else.”
Demographics are destiny. I think it is reasonable to assume that the trajectory of marriage equality will follow that of gays serving openly in the armed services. When Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” he was making a case based upon the fundamental sense of fairness that exists in all people, regardless of where you fall on the issue.
If the phrase “all men are created equal” is to be taken in the spirit that our fellow citizens among the Strict Constructionist set would have us believe, then should not all the rights and privileges of citizenship accrue to “all men (women included)?” If libertarians, constructionists, and conservations, “traditional values” supporters all, can agree on the original intent of the Constitution, what is keeping a wave of Scotts, Pauls, Rubios, and Romneys from speaking in favor of a principle as American as fairness? Otherwise, government should get out of the marriage business entirely, and leave it to the churches and Vegas Elvis chapels.
Cliff Dunn is the Editor of Florida Agenda. He can be reached at [email protected]