From today’s paper: “Civil unions bill clears big hurdle“:
The Delaware Senate on Thursday approved the state’s first civil unions bill, voting by a 2-to-1 ratio to grant the same legal rights and protections to same-sex couples that married couples have. …
In the end, the bill — S.B. 30 — emerged from a chamber that has often been a cemetery for gay-rights bills passed first by the House of Representatives.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. David P. Sokola, D-Newark, with about two dozen co-sponsors, has been assigned to the House Administration Committee, where Chairman and House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, says it will be on the agenda for a hearing Wednesday. If the committee releases the bill, Schwartzkopf said he plans to bring it before the House for a vote next Thursday.
“The last five words of the pledge [of allegiance] are ‘liberty and justice for all,’ ” Sokola said. “By taking this step, we give those words real meaning to more people here in Delaware.”
Gov. Jack Markell has pledged to sign the bill.
The bill was drafted by Equality Delaware, a recently formed state chapter of the Human Rights Campaign that seems to have quite a bit of momentum on their side.
The civil unions bill now heads to Delaware’s state House of Representatives, where chances of passage seem promising. The House has a history of passing legislation protecting the legal rights of GLBT Delawareans, only to see those bills die in the Senate, squashed by committee chairmen (usually Democrats from conservative Sussex County) without ever seeing a vote. Senate passage has always been the biggest hurdle for such legislation, so this bill appears well on its way to becoming law.
One of those downstate Democats, Sen. Robert Venables, tried to stop the Senate bill with two hostile amendments, both of which failed:
“I’m not against homosexuality,” Venables said. “I don’t understand it, but I’m certainly not a bigot. I’m not a hater.”
But, he said, the bill discriminated against other relationships.
I would direct Venables to that lovely response from BioWare about complaints that Dragon Age 2 somehow “discriminated against” straightwhitemale gamers:
Privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don’t see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what’s everyone’s fuss all about? That’s the way it should be, and everyone else should be used to not getting what they want.
That’s one main source of opposition to efforts like this one — a privileged majority upset that others can’t get used to not getting what they want. That is unlovely and unfair, but unsurprising.
The other main source of opposition is what might be called the religious objection. This is similarly unfair and unlovely, while also being deeply, deeply confused about the nature of law and government:
Sam Wilson of Georgetown, vice president of Sussex County Council, approached Sokola after the vote and handed him a paper with a chapter of the Bible printed on it. The chapter, the first in the Book of Romans, often is used to argue that God condemns homosexuality.
Wilson asked Sokola how he planned to get to heaven and asked if he had any straight friends, apparently unaware that Sokola is married.
“He thinks I’m going to go to hell,” Sokola said. “But I don’t think he’s the one who decides.”
Sokola said he has had calls from voters who say they will never vote for him again, “but better legislators than me have lost for supporting the civil rights of others.”
Sam Wilson of Georgetown can’t seem to separate his sneering personal bigotry from his purported religious beliefs, but let’s try to do that for him.
Mr. Wilson apparently believes that the Bible condemns homosexuality as a sin and that homosexuals are going to Hell. That’s not an unusual belief — many others believe this as well. But those many others are not, like Mr. Wilson, elected officials and they are not suggesting, as Mr. Wilson is, that the biblical books of Romans and Leviticus constitute legal authority in the United States of America.
That’s an astonishingly unconstitutional claim, but it’s one that’s heard again and again in the debates over civil union laws or marriage equality.
Wilson and others like him don’t even bother to make a nonsectarian legal argument. They don’t see any constitutional or legal or political reason to suggest one. They seem to believe they live in a sectarian country governed by the religious dictates of their sect and that any member of any other religious sect “should be used to not getting what they want.”
Wilson’s argument is based on the claim of hegemonic privilege for the majority sect. That is not an argument for “religious freedom.” It is the opposite of an argument for religious freedom. Wilson’s argument is that there is no such thing as religious liberty, no right to religious liberty — only a competition for dominance between sects to be settled by whichever has the greatest political muscle.
Delaware state Sen. Bruce Ennis said he voted against the civil unions bill because “he heard many concerns in his district that the bill ‘pitted religious liberty against sexual liberty’ and he voted the way he believed his constituents wanted him to vote.”
But this claim of a concern for religious liberty is a lie. “Liberty for me but not for thee” is not the position of an advocate of liberty. “Liberty for me but not for thee” says liberty is not a right, but only a prize won by the powerful and denied to the powerless.