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Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014

Defacing Our Constitution with Anti-LGBT Bigotry

Karl Rove
Karl Rove Pushed Gay Marriage Bans
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Drunken sailors, lovesick teenagers and right-wing politicians probably shouldn’t be allowed to get tattoos or pass constitutional amendments.

What seems like a slick idea at the time can be really embarrassing later when you sober up, get a new girlfriend or have to live with ugly, bigoted ideas scrawled across your constitution in permanent marker.

This was even a problem for our founding fathers. No one ever knew for sure what kind of lurid tattoos were hidden under all those ruffles and high collars.

But right there in Article One of the United States Constitution is the disgusting compromise between north and south basing membership in the House of Representatives on population, counting the number of free persons (that’s white folks) as one each and counting others (that’s black slaves) as three-fifths of a person.

There are still folks around who oppose voting rights and immigration who cling to that outmoded idea of excluding people of color from being considered full human beings.

It’s never a good idea to write anything into your constitution that will make you look bad later. Eventually, most truly decent people realize that the overriding constitutional principle of equal treatment under the law really should apply to everyone.

It sure happened in record time with the issue of marriage equality. In just a few short years, what once was considered a radical idea—marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples—is now legal in 17 states and in our nation’s capital.

And there are now lawsuits in at least 20 more states, including Wisconsin, seeking marriage equality in those states as well. 

Four same-sex Wisconsin couples, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its state affiliate, filed a federal lawsuit challenging not only the state’s constitutional ban, but also a particularly vicious state “marriage evasion” law criminalizing couples in Wisconsin who get legally married in another state.  

Even though the federal government now recognizes such marriages for tax purposes and federal benefits, Wisconsin doesn’t and resident couples who marry elsewhere could be convicted and incarcerated for nine months and fined up to $10,000.

 

Karl Rove Pushed Gay Marriage Bans

It may seem daunting to try to overturn a ban written into the state constitution, but there’s really little question that those seeking equal marriage rights will prevail. The only question is how quickly.

It’s not like they’re taking on Thomas Jefferson and our founders. Those rich, white guys did other ugly things, initially denying equality to people of color, women and anyone else who wasn’t a rich, white guy.

But Wisconsin’s mean-spirited constitutional ban on gay marriage is nowhere near that historic. It dates back only to 2006 and President George W. Bush’s petty political operative Karl Rove. We all know Karl Rove and he’s no Thomas Jefferson.

Rove’s nasty brainstorm was to push anti-gay state votes around the country in 2004 and 2006 to increase the homophobic hate vote to help re-elect Bush and more Republicans to Congress.

Wisconsin legislative Republicans saw 2006 as perfect timing. That was also when Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle was running for re-election. But Doyle won re-election despite the anti-gay vote and then passed a law allowing domestic partnerships with some rights for gay couples.

And, of course, the dramatic shift in public opinion toward gay marriage since 2006 in Wisconsin and across the country has been stunning.

The constitutional ban promoted by Republicans passed in Wisconsin in 2006 with nearly 60% of the vote. But the most recent Marquette University state poll shows almost a complete reversal with 53% supporting marriage equality.

Nationally, Gallup says its polls show support for gay marriage rights increasing from only 40% in 2009 to more than 50% today.

And the final death knell for opposition to gay marriage: In a recent Washington Post/ABC-News poll, 81% of those under age 30 supported marriage equality.

Right-wing Republicans, of course, claim this is evidence of a left-wing madness that is taking over the country that can only be stopped by electing more Republicans.

They are absolutely wrong.

Marriage is the ultimate conservative institution. As I’ve said before, true conservatives shouldn’t oppose gay marriage. They should insist upon it.

Growing up in Indiana, I was surrounded by strong political conservatives. And not a single one of them ever expressed support for people going around having sex willy-nilly without being married.

Society, in fact, has a legitimate interest in promoting marriage between loving couples, gay or straight. Settling down to a conservative, married life leads to social stability, home ownership, community involvement, economic security and strong family values in which to raise children.

In this highly diverse country, a constitution should be a ringing, inspirational document assuring those beautiful ideals of equal rights and equal protections for everyone upon which our democracy was founded.

The last thing we should want is hateful graffiti smeared across our constitution denying equal rights to anyone someone doesn’t like.

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