President Obama Supports Freedom of Marriage While North Carolina (and 29 other States) Support Religious Persecution.
This past week has been a week of peaks and valleys in the world of civil rights and has ended with an incredible victory with President Obama coming out publicly in favor of Marriage Equality.
I received an email informing me of the death of Brandy Martell, another transgender woman in Oakland, California. I met Brandy on a few occasions in San Francisco and was deeply saddened and angered by her senseless death. Brandy was in the prime of her life at 37 when she was shot to death a block away from City Hall while sitting in her car at a traffic light. One or two men walking down the street approached her car and engaged her in conversation. Then suddenly one of the men pulled a gun and shot her three times at point blank range. This story was covered only briefly by the local media and failed to make it into the national news. I am a bit confused, because in Seattle, a man donned a super hero costume and began spraying pepper spray into the faces of people whom he assumed were criminals. Suddenly he was all over the national news. What’s wrong with this picture?
In North Carolina the Religious Right have won another victory in their determination to keep discrimination alive by passing into law a ban on same-sex marriage. As I have written many times before, this sort of discrimination will never fully come to an end until a Federal Civil Rights Act is signed into law. Every gay, lesbian, and transgender citizen in this country can and will have their rights stripped away over and over again through one legal battle after another in different States. At the present time 30 States have passed legislation banning same-sex marriage, but this is being challenged in a lawsuit which has now reached the Supreme Court of The United States and awaits a decision. Until we ensure that no individual State can pass legislation which discriminates against any of its citizens, no one will ever be guaranteed their true constitutional rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are not trying to change the minds of the Religious Right. We are only trying to protect the rights of every American citizen. It is only through federal legislation and/or a constitutional amendment that we can guarantee equal rights for all United States citizens, no matter which state they live in.
For those of you who don’t fully understand the difficulties we face I would like to share a specific example of our frustrations. Let’s say we are married in Massachusetts where it’s perfectly legal and we are afforded all the legal privileges and protections of marriage. Then suddenly we are offered an incredible job opportunity in a State where same-sex marriage has been banned. If we accept the job and move with our spouse to, for example, North Carolina, our marriages are no longer legal or accepted, and we can and will be denied our hard earned legal rights, including the right to visit our spouse in the hospital, joint medical insurance under family plans, the ability to file joint State tax returns, and rights of survivorship and inheritance. When faced with this decision for a better income for our family we would probably be forced to turn it down because of discriminatory laws. This ban on marriage has far reaching effects including our economic empowerment and the right to pursue a better life. What would we choose to do if we worked for a Corporation in Massachusetts and we were suddenly transferred to a North Carolina Division, knowing that if we accepted the promotion or transfer we would be jeopardizing all the freedoms we have come to know and cherish in Massachusetts?
I believe that we are seeing repeated religious persecution through the denial of equal rights. What we currently have in place is the right wing conservative religions controlling the lawmakers through political action committees, lobbyists, and donations to political campaigns to suppress the religious beliefs and freedoms and rights of other religions that disagree with their fundamentalist beliefs. This, in and of itself, is unconstitutional and cannot be tolerated in a free society. It is time for the people to stand up for their God given rights.
Personally, we are members of the Unitarian Universalist Church and the foundations of our beliefs are based on these 7 principles:
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Our mission statement is as follows: “We Unite, to be a community of worship where all are accepted; to nurture our individual spiritual journeys; to reach out to the world in charity, peace, and social justice; to recognize our interdependency with the earth; to be a reasoning and caring community; and to pass on the expanding heritage of our religious tradition.”
From these concepts and principles it is clearly visible that we belong to a religious organization whose only doctrine is to love, respect, and support all of humanity. Do our religious values not deserve the same equal protection under the law? Are we not entitled to the same equality afforded to the Religious Right? It is clear that to use a pulpit to denigrate a specific group of citizens and to use television ads with the Bible clearly displayed and the promoting of such an amendment through the concept of their definition of the scripture is a violation of our right to religious freedom. These television ads were recently aired in North Carolina to promote religious persecution by the banning of same-sex marriage.
We believe that God has created all people and that God loves all people equally. The members of The Religious Right appear to be saying that God has only created their own members equally and God only loves them equally. The members of The Religious Right thus appear to have a narrow view of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which are guaranteed to all American citizens by Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of The United States. If the members of The Religious Right can remove the blinders from their eyes and see that everyone is created equal and that God loves everyone equally, then they should be able to see that it is all right for other people to have different beliefs, as long as their beliefs and actions do not harm anyone else or infringe upon anyone else’s rights. Let us hope that the members of the Religious Right can see the light and at least allow freedom for other people to have their own beliefs.
The concept of freedom is simple and easy to understand. One of the best books ever written on freedom is entitled On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill. It’s not a long book, and it’s well worth reading. In a free society, people are free to have their own beliefs as long as they do not try to force those beliefs on other people, and as long as their actions do not harm anyone else or infringe on anybody else’s freedoms. Because The United States of America is a free country, it follows logically that a person who is an adult citizen should have the freedom to marry another consenting adult of his or her own choice, without interference from other people or religious groups, and without interference by any type of government.
People are free to believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, but they should never be allowed to force that belief onto other people by the passage of laws or constitutional amendments. If one religious group attempts to force other people to behave in certain ways or believe certain doctrines, they are, perhaps without realizing it, guilty of religious persecution. The very reason this country was founded was because people were escaping from religious persecution. And the reason why so many people have died for the cause of freedom is that freedom is an unalienable right and all people are born free.
However, in a free country, people are not free to force other people to perform slave labor, they are not free to force other people to work for sub-standard wages, and they are not free to abuse or harm any other people. If anybody does these things, they are guilty of a crime and must face the legal consequences. This is because we have all agreed to live under the Rule of Law.
Most people agree that the church should not control the government. Likewise most people believe that the government should not control the church. They are separate, and they are best kept separate. Nevertheless, free people have the right to be Born Again Christians if they want to, just as they have the right to be Mormons or Atheists or Pagans if they want to. People are free to believe in a religion or not believe in any religion, as long as they don’t harm anyone else or force anybody else to conform to their beliefs.
The Right Wing Religious Groups may say “We are right because the Bible says so.” What about people who do not believe in the Bible? They have that right, and that right must be protected in a free society.
If one group seizes power and forces everyone to believe in a certain way which is against their will and their own beliefs, then we will all have lost our freedom. This is what George Orwell warned us about in his powerful book 1984. Members of the Religious Right want to control the behavior of every single person in the United States by defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. Marriage is a private union between two consenting adults. For one group or one State government to define marriage as something else is unconstitutional, because it denies freedom to people who do not believe the same way. One way to guarantee freedom is at the ballot box at every election and another is to petition your United States Representatives and Senators for a Civil Rights Act to be drafted and passed in the House and Senate and finally sent to the President to be signed into law. A free society can only exist if its citizens are willing to stand up for their rights as free people and to participate in their governmental process. When dictators arise they must be removed, as they were in the Arab Spring of 2011. Let us hope that freedom will prevail in The United States of America without any violence. Let us keep our beloved country on the true course of freedom for all citizens by voting in our elections and by passing an Amendment to the Constitution of The United States which will guarantee Equal Rights for all citizens, regardless of the State in which they happen to live, or a State which they might visit.
In September 1996 President Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) reinforcing individual State laws banning same-sex marriage. Yet, DOMA is itself a discriminatory law that has been proven to discriminate against a class of citizens residing within the United States of America. Historically, in many southern States inter-racial marriage was also banned by law. That was eventually proven to be a discriminatory law and was repealed. DOMA is a discriminatory law which has given individual States the power to legally discriminate against a portion of their citizens because of the pressure of the religious right and their religious beliefs that homosexuality is a sin. The Religious Right also believe that Transgenders have transgressed against God by changing their genders to conform more appropriately with their gender identities. The Religious Right is thus keeping a form of slavery alive by keeping us in a position of lower class citizens not worthy of the same equal protection under the law.
DOMA must be repealed, just as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed. Both laws have supported and promoted discrimination against an integral segment of society. As long as we have such laws, the killing of transgenders will continue, and is reminiscent of the hanging and killing of black people during the pre-civil rights movement. This is an urgent matter that requires the Congress to write a new Civil Rights Act and introduce it in the House of Representatives and then pass it so that it can be forwarded to the Senate for approval, and ultimately placed on the President’s desk for his final signature. A perfect name for this new legislation is the Freedom of Marriage Act—FOMA.
During our recent visit to Washington, DC these were the very conversations we had in the offices of Congressman William Keating, Senator Scott Brown, and Senator Dianne Feinstein. We will continue our visits to Washington, and we are asking others to join with us as we petition for a true, full, and complete Human Rights Act which would eventually lead to an Amendment to the United States Constitution that would guarantee Equal Rights for all citizens of The United States of America.
Freedom is not free, but freedom is always worth the sacrifice it takes to keep freedom alive.