Life, Liberty,…

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Above is Section One of the 14th Amendment (source).  Pretty cool stuff.  I think so because it protects the rights of ALL American citizens, and does not make any exclusions based off of any character trait, lifestyle choice, skin color, religion practiced or not practiced.  Nope, not a single exclusion.  As citizens of this country, we all have the same rights.

Which brings me to the decision that new Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring made regarding his state’s ban on gay marriage and the fact that it is a violation of the Constitution (article).  I applaud his decision to fight the ban and bring the Commonwealth into the 21st century and into compliance with the United States Constitution.

As some commenters in the article linked to above have pointed out, marriage is a civil right, and thus not subject to being voted on by any electorate, and also is subject to adherence to the Constitution.  Since we are not a theocracy, arguments pointing to a religious definition of marriage really do not stand up too well; Iran is a theocracy, so they can go ahead and define marriage how they want, but here in America, that is not the case.  Pretty simple if you ask me.

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Starting To Get It

I have to admit, when I first saw that Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman had changed his stance on gay marriage, I figured he was a candidate for what has become my “Hypocritical Much?” series.  Portman had previously come out (no pun intended) against gay marriage, only to change his stance after his son revealed to him that he was gay.

But, I always like to dive a little deeper into stories like this, just so I can be sure to be fair and present most accurate information that I can.  So, I went ahead and read the article, which you can read as well by clicking here.

Generally speaking, when you hear or read about people coming out (again, no pun intended) against gay marriage, the argument tends to center on how gay marriage erodes at the foundation of marriage and family, or how it goes against someone’s interpretation of the Bible.  And, oddly enough, Rob Portman provided a great quote on exactly those two reasons that people cite as why they are against gay marriage.

Portman said that he “considered his Christian faith” and then continued with this:

“…in a way, this strengthens the institution of marriage.”

“The overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly from the Golden Rule, and that fact that I believe we are all created by our maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue.”

I think he hit the nail squarely on the head when he said that the “overriding message of love and compassion” he takes from the Bible were strong influences in him changing his position.  He even had the nerve to say he believed that gay marriage “strengthens the institution of marriage.”  Well done, Mr. Portman!

Personally, I am all for gay marriage.  I don’t believe that it is any religion’s right to dictate who can or cannot get married, especially considering that before I got married, I had to apply to the state for a marriage license, not to a church.  I performed a wedding last fall, and I am performing a wedding next month, and I am not a member of the clergy, yet each of these marriages will be legal in the eyes of the State of Florida.  How can marriage be religiously defined when someone (me) who is not a member of the clergy can legally perform a ceremony?  If one chooses to adhere to the view that marriage should be defined by what religion says, then I believe that they must also hold the view that only clergy can perform a ceremony.  Yet there is not a single state among our 50 in which it is required for wedding ceremonies to be performed by a member of the clergy.  As for gay marriage, since there is no religious requirement to enter into what is basically a legal contract between two consenting adults.  I do not see how the argument can be made that gay marriage weakens the “institution of marriage” at all; I have friends who are gay and have been married in states that are not close-minded and allowed them to do so, and their marriage is in no way undermining or weakening my marriage.  In fact, their marriage has no bearing whatsoever on my marriage.

When people use the “weakening of marriage” argument, is it possible that they are really saying that their particular marriage maybe isn’t as strong as it should be?  Why would the marital status of anybody be of concern to anybody else?  Like I wrote above, gay marriage does nothing to erode at my marriage, nor does it undermine what Amber and I teach our daughter.  Gay marriage does not erode at the foundation of my family.  Other friends of mine who are gay (not the same couple I mentioned above) will have, once they are married, a combined family with four children.  And having seen the love they have for those four kids, I can safely say that the sexual orientation of the parents makes no negative impact in the way they are raising those kids.

It is time for our country to get out of the Dark Ages, and realize that our First Amendment and the whole “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion” extends to our laws regarding marriage.  By restricting the rights of gay people to get married, Congress, by default, is yielding to religious doctrine, which is just short of fully endorsing or establishing a national religion, which would be in clear violation of the First Amendment.  (We can save the whole “we were founded on Christian principles” myth/argument for another time.)

Kudos to Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio for finally starting to get it.  All it took was the discrimination he was supporting to hit close to home to open his eyes.  Sometimes the path to doing the right thing is long and circuitous, but once his eyes were opened, he saw the light.

Not All Votes Are Created Equal

The title for this entry does not quite mean what you may have inferred. Of course your vote and my vote are created equal in that they each count for one vote. What I am getting at is that neither your vote or my vote is cast directly for the President during any election cycle. We cast our votes for electors to the Electoral College, who in turn, cast their vote for President. First to 270 wins.

Now, why is that important? Take, for example, the impact of Hurricane Sandy on vote tallies. It is estimated that President Obama could lose up to 340,000 votes because of the storm. That is a fairly significant number of votes, but will most likely have little impact on the outcome of the election. The reason for that is that, in the four states most impacted by the storm, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, President Obama’s chances of winning are 99.8%-100%, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Of course, there is the possibility that, at least in some part due to the potential to lose 340,000 votes, President Obama could lose the popular vote and still win re-election. Just such a thing has happened four times in the past, most recently in 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote by 540,000 votes but lost Florida by 537 votes (ironic that Gore needed 538 votes to have carried Florida, and that 538 is the total number of votes in the Electoral College) and George W. Bush won the 27 electoral votes for the state and became President.

Now, I am in no way encouraging anybody in any state to not vote, nor am I implying that our votes do not really matter. Our votes do matter and everyone who can vote should vote. What I am advising is to keep an eye on more than just the poll you see on the Today show or Good Morning America because they are, of course, going to report on what gives them the most viewers.

I believe that voters should also be educated. It is easy to listen to an attack ad, or to be influenced by your friends on Facebook, but be better than that. Just because your friend on Facebook posts 20 or more anti-Obama links every day does not mean that you should blindly follow their suggestion to vote against him. You should vote for the candidate who you feel best represents your values and beliefs, whether or not your biggest concern is abortion rights, gay marriage, women’s rights, the economy, jobs, or something else.