If I wanted to pass a law explicitly for the purpose of denying civil rights to one specific minority group, would that be constitutional?
No. No it would not. Thus though the Defense of Marriage Act is still the law of the land, it’s an illegal law. Two federal judges have now said so, as Andrew Rosenthal reports, “Blatantly Unconstitutional Law Ruled Unconstitutional“:
[Bush appointee U.S. District Judge Jeffrey] White is the second federal judge to find that Section 3 of DOMA — the bit that defines marriage as between one man and one woman — violates the equal protection clause. He said that it does not satisfy heightened scrutiny (meaning DOMA does not further an important government interest) and might even fail rational basis review (a lower standard, meaning the law does not further a legitimate interest).
The equal protection clause guarantees equal protection under the law. It is, in other words, about basic fairness, about simple justice.
I’ve been encouraged recently to begin to see more people from my own evangelical tradition recognizing that this equality under the law is the core of the current dispute over marriage equality. Those who realize this can in turn realize that their own religious views or beliefs regarding homosexuality are irrelevant to the matter of equal protection under the law.
Many are even speaking up to suggest that defending others’ equality under the law is an expression of the Golden Rule, which is to say it’s a good, loving, Christian thing to do.
Here, for example, is Tiffany Lucas on “Why, as a Christian, I’m Not Joining the Fight Against Gay Marriage“:
Washington State has legalized same sex marriage and there is no doubt that Christians are often fired up about this issue. We are rallying, we are petitioning; flat out, we are against this. “This should not happen. This is an abomination. God would not approve. They are sinning. It says right in the Bible that what they are doing is wrong. Have they not read Leviticus? What about Romans? It is our job to fix them, not give them the right to marry. It is the end times and they are surely all going to hell.”
Except, I don’t believe that, and I am a Christian. In fact, I support gay marriage.
I want them to have the right to get married. I want them to have the right to love who they choose. And, really, I can’t help but wonder if God does too.
And here’s Jared Byas on “Evangelicals for Gay Marriage“:
If the Church wants to keep marriage between a man and a woman because of their religious convictions, so be it. Remember, this isn’t about the “sinfulness of homosexuality.” I understand that stance within the Church. But I will not support using the government’s power to coerce powerless non-Christians into behaving like Christians.
And here’s my favorite of the bunch, Elizabeth Esther says, “I voted yes on Prop 8. Today, I’m thankful Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional“:
The great thing about hindsight is that it gives you a chance to fully re-examine the ways your actions affected other people. For many Californians, loving our gay neighbors as ourselves isn’t an abstract idea. It’s real. It’s here. It’s right next door.
There’s nothing like the immediacy of an idea to drive its meaning home. Which is to say, when I vote to deny someone else the same rights I enjoy, there’s nothing quite like seeing that person every day to realize what exactly it is I’ve done.
Quite honestly, I was unable to reconcile my voting yes on Prop 8 with Jesus’ command to love my neighbor as myself. Ultimately, I had to ask myself this question: is it spiritually consistent for me to vote on a measure that would deprive my neighbors of rights I wouldn’t dare be deprived of myself?
For me, that answer is no, it’s morally inconsistent to deny others the same basic rights and freedoms I enjoy as an American citizen.
That’s only three examples, so I can’t say if this is a trend. But whether or not it proves to be a trend, I think it’s at least a mustard seed.