Liberty and Justice For All

I had the tv on in the background last night and I heard a CNN commentator ask a conservative commentator something like, “Come on. In the end, what is the problem with allowing everyone to marry who they want to marry?” And the guy began his answer with how we’d need to redefine marriage. I couldn’t listen beyond that.

When we were fighting to abolish slavery there were people who felt that in order to free blacks we had to redefine what it meant to be human. Blacks were less than human many thought, (or like children) and therefore it was okay to enslave them. But of course we didn’t need to redefine humanity. If anything needed to change it was the outlook of anyone who didn’t believe that blacks were as human as anyone else and should be equal under the law.

It’s the same here. The definition of marriage doesn’t need to change. Only the outlook of those that feel we all aren’t equal under the law and the right to marry who you want and all the rights that go along with marriage doesn’t apply to everyone.

I took these shots after the Eric Whitacre/Morten Laurisdsen concert at Carnegie Hall last March. It was raining and the singers were making a mad dash for the subway or hotel and restaurant or wherever else they were heading.

After Whitacre Carnegie Hall Concert

After Whitacre Carnegie Hall Concert

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

6 thoughts on “Liberty and Justice For All

  1. Hi Stacy,
    I understand your enthusiasm, as you favor the idea of homosexuals and lesbians being able to officially and legally marry in all 50 states.

    However, I believe you tuned out of the CNN program prematurely. There is a reason that marriage would have to be redefined in order for it to acquire legal status.

    Legally, this is a matter decided by individual states. Even the president acknowledged this in his speech.

    So far, between 30 and 40 states have incorporated a definition of marriage to be between a man and a woman.

    The state of matrimony is derived from the word for mother, so part of the legal definition of marriage requires a woman.

    This would mean that it is possible that two lesbians could get married and still fit within the definition. However, that would not be fair, because it would exclude male homosexuals because they cannot enter a state of matrimony. They would have to enter a state of patrimony, and right now, there is no recognition in the US of patrimony.

    This would all seem to be a tiresome splitting of hairs, except for one reality.

    Gays who wish to marry legally are not approaching the church or some family group or even public opinion. They are insisting that government provide them with the legal ability to marry.

    Government means law. Everything that government is has to do with the definitions codified in law after various consensus building and legislative process.

    Government does not have the flexibility to waive something on a mere caprice. A rather tiresome legal process along with voting and elections has to go on to arrive at a new definition for which people are held accountable.

    This is a very frustrating process whether you are on the left or the right. But it is the only process we have.

    Personally, if it were up to me, I would simply hold elections in all 50 states and ask the population to vote up or down on some new word that could include matrimony and patrimony. Then I would have a subsequent election for voting up or down on whether marriage for gays should be the law.

  2. I’m sorry Greg, but that’s just a bunch of pseudolegalistic piffle. The right to wedlock (non gender specific term for you) should exist equally for all. Period.

  3. Hi Dan,
    you know, I think you may be essentially correct. When I read back over my post today, I see that some of my own irrelevant musings got tangled up and distracted from the main point.

    As even the president stated, this is a matter to be decided in various states. For example, I understand that gays can legally marry in Vermont. Furthermore, I understand there are several other states that gays can be married in.

    However, simply because you can get married in Vermont does not mean you can get married in Oklahoma.

    The president’s statement had relevance largely from the point of view of symbolism. All the legal battles are held in the states. And roughly two-thirds of the states have already have language in their laws that marriage is between and man and a woman.

    I suppose we can conjecture that some more of the left-leaning states will decide that marriage among gays is OK.

    After they have accomplished this, there is still a large number of states that will not be persuaded by pronouncements from a president they already plan to vote against. North Carolina is an example of this.

    (Should I try to work on my coherence? 🙂 )

  4. Dan and Greg,

    The first federal issue, legally, as it relates to “marriage” is a matter of taxation based on household identity. This issue then becomes a state vs. federal issue. The federal government gives “special” privledges, i.e. tax deductions to “married” people (equals a definition of household) as defined by the states. As of now, lacking a federal policy, same sex couples don’t get the same federal household tax benefits, no matter what the state law is.

    I understand the state policy conundrum, and wish Obama addressed it as a civil rights issue, but IMHO the issue must be resolved federally (and hopefully constitutionally–there’s no language in the constitution regarding any definition of marriage per se, as many other important contemporary issues and definitions).

    States do not now get nor have ever had the right to decide what federal tax benefits (or punishments) individuals, married couples or corporations are entitled to. There’s a big inconsistency here. To some, like me, it’s simply de facto segregation.
    I could go on an cite other civil rights analogies, but prefer to spare everyone.

  5. I also see it as segregation and I too wish Obama had addressed it as a civil rights issue. I hope he eventually will.

    I saw a lecture where the speaker said there were 1,200 rights that go along with marriage. You can argue the number, but I’m sure it’s up there, and same-sex couple are denied these rights.

  6. Christina,
    if you’re still out there, thank you for explaining the legalities to us.

    Stacy and Christina,
    I think that the president was correct. Biden made one of his usual gaffes and got “over his skies.” At that juncture I think the president was put in an uncomfortable position and he had to decide how he was going to publicly react.

    I am glad that he chose to use the language that involves state decisions being the important factor.

    I think he understood that this is a problem that will have to be worked out politically. And I also believe that he would like to have a chance of being re-elected.

    So far, 7 states have endorsed marriage for gays. However, 38 states have defined marriage to be between a man and an woman. That leaves 5 more states to weigh in, and even in the unlikely event that all 5 went for the gay marriage endorsement, that would leave 38 to 12.

    Although it may be legally possible to force a huge majority of states to do something that they disagree with, it would be an insane thing to do politically. You would have trouble getting a city council member elected if he were a Democrat after such pressure.

    The level of volitility in the face of such a majority could be something that the United States simply does not want to experience. It would be seen by most of the 38 states as the heavy hand of totalitarianism.

    And although even the New York Times has been tepid in its approval of the president’s statement, I believe he understood the consequences of trying to push this as a civil rights issue. I support the president in his understanding that this will require a political solution.

    Stacy, I know that in New York City the idea of gays marrying probably seems as inevitable as the change of seasons. However, New York has a very unique sensibility. (I remember when Norman Mailer wanted New York to become a city-state, and I remember that when William F. Buckely said that if he won the mayor’s election, he would immediately demand a recount.)

    Please try to understand that the sensibility with many states in flyover country is very different from what seems natural in New York City. In fact, we have a lot of diversity in the United States, and somehow we have to learn to respect that.

    Incidentally, from my point of view I see very strong arguments on both sides of this issue, and personally I lean slightly against gay marriage, but I could live with it easily should it become the reality. Personally, I just wish we would stop trying to force others to conform to our views through the hammer of law and work out compromises we can all live with.

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