Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Congressional Republicans seek to block DC marriage

It's the height of hypocrisy. So often we hear conservatives decry what they call "judicial activism" when the courts uphold minority (e.g. gay) rights in the face of discrimination. Yet now thirty-nine Congressional Republicans, as reported by Joe Sudbay in AmericaBlog, have filed an amicus brief in DC Superior Court to try to put the brakes on the recently-enacted civil marriage equality law in the District of Columbia. In other words, some so-called conservatives believe the courts should be used to deny people rights but not to uphold minority rights. The latter would be "judicial activism" and that, in their view, would be bad. Either you believe in the courts as a place for appeal or you don't. But some highly-placed members of the Republican Party seem to think the courts are to be used only to deny people rights and impose a tyranny of the majority.

Incidentally, I say "so-called conservatives" because I'm reminded of a conversation I had while waiting at the security line to enter the New Jersey Statehouse last Thursday for the state senate vote on the civil marriage equality bill. As luck would have it, I arrived at the line alone and soon found myself standing immediately behind a large group of Hassidim, consistently present at the Statehouse as opponents to marriage equality over the past month or so. Behind me formed a line of people completely unassociated with the marriage equality issue and there, presumably, to visit legislators or testify in committee on unrelated matters. It was quite a study in contrasts: before me the Hassidim in their traditional clothing, behind me a group of grim-faced people in business suits. An evangelical clergyman walked by, saw me, and took the opportunity to chat up the Hassidim, raising his voice (perhaps for my benefit) as he told the Hassidim they were all in the fight together to do God's work. Alas, they didn't discuss whose definition of god they supported. Now that would have been fun to witness.

Soon, another gentleman joined the group as the line inched forward ever so slowly towards the security desk. That man, seeing me in my Garden State Equality t-shirt, told me "I'm just their friend. I don't necessarily agree with them." I really didn't care and didn't acknowledge him at all. I remained silent, not wanting to engage them, and just proceeded to text my friends in the Statehouse wondering where they were, half tempted to text "Help me!" The very businesslike couple standing behind me just rolled their eyes, smiled at me sympathetically, and told me they wished some people would just learn to mind their own business. I replied "Oh well, they can say what they want but we've been advised not to respond to any taunts or attempts to engage us." I just wanted to get my stupid security badge and get on with the day's business.

But the couple behind me wanted to make a point: "I'm a Republican and, for me, being a conservative means I don't want government ever telling people what they can or cannot do. You should be allowed to do what you want" said the man, the woman with him nodding in agreement. Of course, his statement struck me as overly simplistic since marriage does, inescapably, carry with it government-recognized protections. But he had made an interesting point with an important implication: For those who profess to dislike government intruding in private concerns to then say that government should favor some relationships (opposite-sex in this case) over others (same-sex) smacks of hypocrisy.

In other words, there are indeed conservatives out there who do recognize the hypocrisy inherent in opposing gay rights. Indeed, there are Republicans like Senator Baroni and former solicitor general Ted Olson (now challenging California's Prop 8 in Federal court) who understand this. That the Republican Party is still mostly represented by people like House Minority Leader Boehner and US Senator Inhofe and the other opponents to DC's marriage law demonstrates just how much the Republican Party is at odds with its own professed world view.

No comments: