Give Me Liberty…
Many LGBT activists—including People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and Equality Virginia—are committed to overturning the ban on legal recognition of same-gender marriages now in Virginia’s constitution.
Usually, our cause is cast as one about sexuality, but actually it is about a much bigger concern, individual liberty. Indeed, we are agitating in the style, and living the stirring words, of our Virginia forbearer, Patrick Henry.
All the way across the country, lawyers have been arguing in federal court about a state constitution—California—which was amended through Proposition 8 by voters to prohibit same-gender marriage in that state. Closing arguments have been heard, and we await the judge’s decision. Whichever way U.S. Circuit Judge Walker rules in that case, there will be an appeal, so this is not close to over yet.
But, I recently read the closing argument by Theodore Olsen, one of two lead counsels for those seeking to overturn Proposition 8. He is a leading conservative lawyer whose most famous case is Bush v. Gore in 2000 (he represented Bush). His co-counsel in this case, David Boies, a leading liberal, represented Gore.
I can do no better than quote Mr. Olsen at length, as he lays out what the U.S. Supreme Court has said about marriage. “The Supreme Court has said that: Marriage is the most important relation in life. Now that’s being withheld from the plaintiffs [lesbian and gay Californians]. It is the foundation of society. It is essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness. It’s a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights and older than our political parties. One of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause. A right of intimacy to the degree of being sacred. And a liberty right equally available to a person in a homosexual relationship as to heterosexual persons. That’s the Lawrence vs. Texas case.”
He continues, “Marriage, the Supreme Court has said again and again, is a component of liberty, privacy, association, spirituality and autonomy. It is a right possessed by persons of different races, by persons in prison, and by individuals who are delinquent in paying child support. It is the right of individuals, not an indulgence dispensed by the State of California, or any state, to favored classes of citizens which could easily be withdrawn if the state were to change its mind about procreation. In other words, it is a right belonging to Californians, to persons. It is not a right belonging to the State of California.”
That is the key: marriage is a right belonging to individuals, not the state.
The struggle for marriage equality is about personal liberty—and for many of us it is about religious liberty. In our commonwealth, as in California, liberty is denied.
There is great irony in this, as those who proposed and supported the Marshall-Newman amendment are ordinarily opposed to what they often call the tyranny of government. But here they impose it.
Let us take heart that Messrs. Olsen and Boies and their colleagues will prevail, ultimately. But let us not leave it all to them.
Let us continue to organize to reclaim our liberty—honoring our Virginia forbearer and all those who have struggled and died to keep the flame of liberty burning.
Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline is President of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, an interfaith organization of gay and straight clergy and lay people working for equality for LGBT Virginians. Read more of his thoughts on faith and spirituality on his personal blog.
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