It has been approximately 143 years since the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted as one of the Reconstructionist amendments after the Civil War. The 14th Amendment sought to ensure that all Americans enjoyed the freedoms guaranteed in our country’s founding document and on Friday, New York’s legislature took a step toward fulfilling the guarantee of equal rights for all citizens in the state. The state legislature passed a bill allowing same-sex couples in New York to marry, and although it is a momentous accomplishment, it was long overdue and unfortunately will not halt the hate and discrimination that homophobes inflict on the gay community, but it is a statement that gays in this country deserve the same rights as any other citizen.
There have been volumes written about why gays are discriminated against, and the sad truth is that it is solely from religious dogmata. Christian extremist groups have devised every possible fallacy to frighten ignorant people into believing that if gays are allowed to marry then heterosexual couples’ marriages will fall apart, or that young school children will be indoctrinated into the gay lifestyle, or that normal Americans will want to marry their pet chickens, but there is no veracity to any of those claims.
In California during the Proposition 8 debate to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, Utah Mormons poured millions of dollars into the state for television ads proclaiming that 2nd grade school children would be taught that they should “turn gay” and marry a same-sex person when they grow up and in their sermons, church leaders directed members to go out and warn their neighbors of the impending attack on heterosexual marriage. The Mormon church was not the only group that spread vicious lies about same-sex marriage; Catholics and evangelical Christians walked the precincts spreading lies and misinformation that the California Board of Education planned to begin inculcating pre-school children to embrace the gay lifestyle and politicized the pulpit with weekly diatribes about the dangers of not engaging the “homos” whose intention was to destroy traditional marriage.
Newspapers were mortified at the thought of losing readers and valuable advertisers if they printed the truth about same-sex marriage and were remiss to contradict the phony stories about the Department of Education teaching “gayness” to children and contributed to the public’s misinformation. The point is, there was no legal justification for denying same-sex couples the right to marry, so in lieu of legal challenges, churches of all denominations lied and were instrumental in forcing their extremist bible beliefs on the public.
The vote in New York’s Senate was close, but there were two refreshing moments that should give hope to Americans who value freedom and equality for all citizens. One Republican Senator, Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, gave an impassioned explanation for why he voted in favor of allowing gays to marry. The freshman Senator said, “I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage. Who can say, legally, that they don’t have the same rights that I have with my wife? ”Grisanti was joined by another Republican Senator, Stephen Saland, who said, “While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know my vote is a vote of conscience. I am doing the right thing in voting to support marriage equality.” Each of the Republicans will be ostracized by the Republican leadership, but they can rest easy in the knowledge that they weighed the legality of denying gays the right to marry and based their decision on the law and not the bible.
The two Republicans who broke with their bible-controlled party did not do anything heroic or irregular, and should be held up as examples for all legislators in states and in the United States Congress. There is absolutely no precedent for using the bible to make or pass legislation in this country, but it has become the norm for many issues and it is wrong and unconstitutional. In California, judges have ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional, and yet the proponents continue appealing the judges’ decisions to higher courts in hopes of finding a fundamentalist judge to rule in their favor. Each time the Christians claim that the judges are legislating from the bench even though each time the decisions are explained using the law and not the bible.
New Yorkers can be proud of the two Republicans for using the law as the basis for their decision to vote for same-sex marriage instead of the bible, but there will certainly be theocratic challenges seeking to deprive gays of equal protection under the law. It has become increasingly clear that religious bigots will not stop until the bible is the Constitution and the Ten Commandments become the law of the land, and as the Christian religion loses adherents, desperate bible-thumpers will be more aggressive in their march to change America into a theocratic state. However, if more conscientious Republicans and lawmakers in general base their votes on legal precedent, facts instead of lies, and the Constitution, there may be hope for America yet. But if the extremist Christians and evangelical legislators prevail in convincing ignorant Americans that the bible is the rule of law in this country, America will be a theocracy and no better than Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
Unfortunately, many states have enacted legislation that have as their basis the Ten Commandments and Mosaic Law, and in those states, citizens already suffer from Taliban rule and bear little resemblance to the America the Founding Fathers imagined. At least in New York, citizens are still Americans who enjoy the protection of the law and the Constitution, but the Christian equivalent of the Taliban are lurking in the halls of justice in Congress and state legislatures, and they are working tirelessly to transform America into a theocracy where the bible’s archaic laws enslave the entire population and non-compliant citizens are stoned to death. If any American thinks they are safe because they are not gay, they are sadly mistaken because Christian extremists conducted the Inquisition in the past and they are in the process of conducting a new Inquisition today; it has begun in state legislatures and Congress by Republicans who follow the bible and not the law.