Monday, September 11, 2006

Defending Freedom

On this fifth anniversary of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, I am given pause to think about how different our world has become since that tragic day.

Americans have become so much less tolerant. Perhaps this is because of their shock, outrage and fear over the attacks. We are seeing, in record numbers, "average Americans" rising up vocally with strong opinions against minority groups. Many want to blame our national insecurity on the Muslims. A large number blame the economy on the Hispanics. And of course, the current moral tenor of the country can be squarely blamed on the gays.

The right wing political machinery of this country has actively driven a wedge in American society. Once a country that claimed strength in diversity, we are now seeing difference as something to shun again. In a great step backward, our national political leadership has chosen to use platitudes and scare tactics to convince a largely ignorant and uncaring populace that "different" is "wrong."

The Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have defined marriage nationwide as strictly one male married to one female, has been defeated in both houses of Congress. And although a section of the Tennessee Code Annotated specifically says that marriage is so defined in this state, that isn't enough for the conservative political leadership of our own state. Our General Assembly has seen fit to send to voters this fall a constitutional amendment that would forever write this definition into the most sacred and binding of our state's governmental documents.

"So what?" asks a largely disinterested populace. It doesn't change anything. Oh, but yes it does.

Here is the text of the Amendment that voters will decide on November 7th:

The historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state. Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman, is contrary to the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee. If another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry and if such marriage is prohibited in this state by the provisions of this section, then the marriage shall be void and unenforceable in this state.

The language of the Amendment makes me shudder. Words like "historical" and "solemnizing" were used to uphold practices in the past such as slavery and refusing women the right to vote. Times change. And our laws must be allowed to change with them. A law in the Tennessee Code can be reversed relatively easily. The Constitution is much more permanent and harder to overturn. And that is precisely the idea behind this hateful amendment.

I encourage you not only to Vote No on Proposition 1 this fall, but also to get involved in the movement to defeat it. That means wearing a button, and actively talking about it to your friends. That means sending bulletins on MySpace that point folks to the Vote No On 1 web site. It means making donations, canvassing and talking to all the straight people who don't see this as an issue. Assure them that it is. Tell them why.

It is often bandied about that our brave men and women in the Armed Forces fight to "defend our freedom." If we allow those freedoms to be taken away from us one by one, they have fought and died in vain. That is a much greater tragedy than that of 9/11.

It's your world. Get involved.

Peace. See you all at the Lip.



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