Chris Douglas

Speaking of Fundamental Constitutional Rights.....

Filed By Chris Douglas | December 07, 2006 10:29 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: equal protection clause, First Republicans

The following letter from a staunch Republican to the Indianapolis Star recently came to my attention:

Indianapolis Star October 1, 2006

We live in an era when narrowing our constitutional rights is popular with certain special interest groups. It is a shame some politicians, like Rep. Matt Pierce, don't trust law-abiding citizens with their rights ("Pack a picnic-- or a gun," Sept 22). I applaud Department of Natural Resources Director Kyle Hupfer for actually returning a constitutional right. I am pleased the Daniels administration is seeking ways to broaden our rights. Yes, this regulation is a small acknowledgment to the Bill of Rights, but when it comes to our freedom, Hoosiers should take every little bit from our government.

Paul Mullin

If the preservation of the Bill of Rights is a Republican tenet, it's time for fair minded Republicans to speak up in defense of another cornerstone constitutional right, this one under attack from the right wing: The equal protection of the laws. The Indiana Constitution reads:

Section 23. The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.

Because the Constitution's call is so clear, a small special interest group ("a narrow constituency with a strong agenda" as Senator Lugar describes them) is pushing for an amendment to the Constitution which would void the Constitutional right of glbt citizens to the equal protections of the laws. In Indiana, that amendment seeks explicitly to deny any legal of incident of marriage from being extended to glbt citizens.

Libertarian-minded moderate Republicans and Constitutional conservative Republicans alike should understand that this attempt to abrogate the Constitutional right to equal protection is a fundamental threat to the American way of life, as terrifying to glbt citizens as it should be to all. People like Mr. Mullins, who claim a higher call to defend the freedoms of the Constitution, cannot remain silent in the face of this attack on a core Constitutional right. I hope you will be as vocal.

This Message cross-posted from First Republicans Forum.

(From our Principles:FIRST REPUBLICANS BELIEVE the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights is the bedrock of American freedom. The individual rights and freedoms established in federal and state constitutions must be protected from amendment and defended from encroachment.
FIRST REPUBLICANS BELIEVE in equal rights, equal protection, equal justice, equal opportunity and equal responsibilities for all people, regardless of race, religion, creed, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or national origin.)

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The proposed amendment does not explicitly seek to deny GLBT rights. It would deny rights to all unmarried Hoosiers. That includes GLBT folk, who are presumably the target, but it paints with a very broad brush indeed. Depending on the humor of the Indiana Supreme Court, it could invalidate laws providing severe penalties for domestic violence as they now apply to unmarried persons (one half of the cases brought in Indiana); it could prevent unmarried Hoosiers from adopting and who knows what else. No one can say for sure, but what is certain is that a great many Hoosiers, by no means all of them GLBT, will find themselves in court trying to protect rights they thought they had. At the same time our tax dollars will be wasted prosecuting and defending such actions.

Unfortunately, it seems that Section 23, in the opinion of the Indiana Supreme Court, is merely words without meaning. They have taken the position that their deference to the legislative branch should be absolute. I recommend to them, Justice Marshall's disquisition on constitutions in Marburry v. Madsion. The real question at stake is whether we have a constitutional form of government, or, as the Indiana Supreme Court would seem to hold, we do not.

All Hoosiers, whatever their feelings about marriage, should be alarmed that the special interest group does not care what it does to the constitution, does not care about unintended consequences, cares only that they be allowed to discriminate on the basis of theological reasoning that loses support daily. Before the last election, a friend and I questioned Representative Cindy Noe about the effect of the proposed amendment on unmarried Hoosier women who were battered by their male partner. Her reply was that they could get married (to the man who had beaten the ***** out of them). That should help Hoosiers to understand what the special interest group really thinks of marriage. In their court pleadings, the only argument in favor of denying gays and lesbians marriage (in Indiana, New York, Washington) has been that it is a bribe to irresponsible straight parents to stay together for the sake of the children. Gays and lesbians do not deserve marriage, so they say, not because they are unworthy, as bad parents, or for any other reason, but precisely because gays and lesbians can be counted on to be responsible parents without the bribe necessary in the case of straights.