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OPINION: Marriage and Equal Protection Under the Law

All Marylanders deserve marriage equality.

Two Baltimore County legislators—one a Republican and one a Democrat—found themselves at a crossroads last week with regard to whether Maryland should recognize the rights of same-sex couples to be eligible for civil marriages. For both men, Del. Wade Kach and Del. John Olszewski, Jr., the issue came down to recognizing that same-sex couples should "enjoy the same protections and responsibilities that our laws provide for others," as stated by Kach.

I generally consider myself to be a political moderate, who is principally concerned with achieving a consensus that is favorable to as many individuals as possible. However, I do not believe that it is ever appropriate for thoughtful people to be willing to diminish the rights of others through their actions or inactions in the name of politics. Thus, I am deeply proud of the stand taken by both Kach and Olszewski. 

Many readers who do not support this view will, I am sure, immediately seek to justify their perspective by pointing to the views espoused by their religious faith. Our founding fathers would not be supportive of the view that religion should be in a position to dictate the actions of our government. It was Thomas Jefferson who argued fervently in support of a "wall of separation between church and state." Moreover, President James Madison aptly indicated that "practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government is essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States." 

I believe that the Civil Marriage Protection Act upholds these principles, because it extends equal rights to same-sex couples, while also maintaining the rights of religious institutions. Olszewski correctly noted when he announced his support for this legislation that "it is not the role of the State to tell my church—or any other faith community—what its beliefs can and cannot be." In support of this view, and the convictions of Jefferson, the civil marriage bill includes strong protections for religious institutions. Specifically, the legislation states that no church would be required to participate in a marriage ceremony "that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs."

Contrary to what others may espouse, I do not see how my own marriage would be in any way diminished through the extension of civil marriages to same-sex couples. Individual marriages do not succeed or fail on the basis of the actions of others. They succeed or fail by virtue of how these married partners treat each other. Someone else's loving, caring relationship does not threaten my own, but rather serves as a model for the emulation of all couples.

Like Kach and Olszewski, I believe that the time has come for the recognition of marriage equality for same-sex couples. For those who disagree, I simply offer these words of caution from the Abraham Lincoln, The Great Emancipator: "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it."

Is same-sex marriage a matter of civil rights or morality? Tell us in the comments.

Buzz Beeler February 22, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Paul, remember you set the tone of the conversation with your first comment by using the word "lying" in reference to my remarks about Del. Olszewski, Jr. I look at what is stated and leave the personal issues out of it. Otherwise I cannot be objective as a writer. This quote also concerns me: "If the only thing anybody worries about is their fiscal concerns, this country/state is headed for a whole bunch of more trouble." We as a nation are already in deep trouble and you as a businessman should realize that. You make no mention of those issues. I believe that depending on what happens in Europe over the short term we are facing a global economic disaster. After reading the tone of the comments on this subject I choose not engage in that issue. Well over 300 comments and where are we, still at square one.
Paul Amirault February 22, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Buzz, last points on this subject as well. I promptly corrected my statement as it was not intended to,quote you as "lying", but I could see how you took it that way. I understand you try to take personal issues out of things, but I felt your tone changed, thus I took offense. The quote that concerns you is intended to follow "anybody" and "their" on an individual basis as that was the subject of the entire post. One individual's concerns that fiscal matters (and how they affect him) is his only concern worries me. Regarding International financial matters, the world has a mess on its hands. PS - you should go read the Huffington article on the phone calls Kach received prior to his vote, it is interesting.
Kenny Pahr February 22, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Many of the founding fathers wanted to end slavery but they needed the states to ratify the Constitution so they left it alone at that time. Slavery was an embedded part of all societies as were the limitations on women's rights at the time. They did create the amendment process which ultimately give women the right to vote and ended slavery. Unbelievable disrespect for our founding fathers on here.
Kenny Pahr February 22, 2012 at 04:36 AM
The issue of gay marriage is not an economic one; it is one of morality. Also, I don't know what country some of you think you are from but we are undeniably a predominately Christian nation. We respect all religions but we were founded on Judeo-Christian morality and most of our citizens consider themselves Christians. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." I'm sorry, but I don't see 'separation of church and state' in this 1st amendment.
Casey A February 22, 2012 at 06:49 AM
Kenny - I disagree. I do not think the United States is a Christian nation. If the founding fathers would have wanted the U.S. to be a Christian nation, they would have written God into the Constitution. God is not mentioned once in the Constitution. In addition, Article six of the Constitution says, "No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." If the founding fathers wanted the U.S. to be a Christian nation, wouldn't they have wanted Christian leaders? There is also the treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1797, which says, "The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."

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