Over the last couple of days, Social media has been all abuzz with red equal signs being put in people’s FB Profile pictures. It’s a call to show a form of solidarity with the idea that same-sex marriage should be made legal throughout the country. I suspect that some folks put it up there because they truly believe in this. Others, I think, are falling in with a sort of mob-mentality and some may actually be bullied into because if you don’t you might be considered a bigot.

I wasn’t going to write anything on Facebook or in my blog until I started seeing some very hateful things written by folks on both sides of the issue. I started seeing very hateful things written about people who are homosexual and I started seeing very hateful things written about those who believe marriage should involve one man and one woman.

I find charges of unfounded bigotry based on a difference of opinion to be reprehensible. No two people will have the same point of view on everything and just because we don’t hold the same opinion it doesn’t mean that we have to hate one another. At the same time, I find unfounded hatred (like that expressed by the folks from the Westboro Church) to be equally reprehensible.

It’s times like these that I have to remember what my Grandpa used to tell me all the time. “Opinions are like assholes … everyone has one and everyone has to pucker up from time to time.”

To that end, I’ll remind my conservative (which I am) and liberal friends that the First Amendment cuts both ways and we all need to be respectful of one another. Hopefully as you read the rest of this blog, we all will keep that in mind. I’ll also remind you that while I’ve played one on TV in the past, I’m not an attorney and these remarks do not reflect the views of the Republican Party of Kalamazoo County (I guess I need to start writing that in these blogs before I get in trouble somewhere).

My personal opinion on the issue of same-sex marriages has been for years that “I don’t care. Love whoever you want and be happy. God Bless ya! But don’t force marriage on anyone or ask that it be forced to be performed by anyone.”

But I never bought the argument that marriage is a civil right. To me, a civil right is something that must be protected because of a situation not of ones choosing that others use to prevent “the pursuit of happiness.” It is not a right that requires some form of action to determine.

Let me explain and I’ll start by sharing a picture of me and my wife, Niki.

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Dave (on left) and Niki (on right) Worthams

Let’s assume one morning that there’s a Peeping Tom looking in the windows at my house. When he looks in and sees me sleeping the first thing he’ll realize is that I’m a black man. I know, shocking right? He’ll also see that Niki is a white woman. He won’t have any idea that we’re both heterosexual until I roll over and give Niki a kiss (or vice versa)

Now, I didn’t choose to be a black man. I didn’t have a choice. God made me as I am. Niki didn’t choose to be a white woman. She didn’t have a choice. God made her as she is. Because we didn’t have a choice, we should have our civil rights protected because we didn’t have a choice. Our ability to get a job, to get married, to own a home, etc should not be prohibited because of things we can’t control (i.e gender, race, color, age, height, weight, familial status).

I did not include sexual orientation or marital status because those are things that require an action to determine. Even assuming that one is born homosexual, in order to show that one is homosexual or heterosexual, it will involve an action. It involves a choice and choices are not protected by the Constitution (unless explicitly included in the Constitution as religion is). Choices can be protected by statute, but it is not a natural right granted to us by the Almighty.

Because of this difference in rights, the proper role for the state is not to be involved as much as possible! The Sacrament/Rite of Marriage is left for the Church to deal with and an equivalent civil union is left for the state to deal with and both should be treated as equal under the law. Both should be left to the determination of two consenting adults who would like to execute a social contract binding their lives together.

I was content with this point of view, until I read the language in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the unanimous Supreme Court (SCOTUS) opinion in Loving v. Virginia (1967).

Loving is the case that determined that statutes prohibiting interracial marriages and intimate relations between members of different races are unconstitutional. I knew what the impact of the case was before today, but didn’t read the opinion. In the case, Mildred Jeter (a black woman) and Richard Loving (a white man) both residents of Virginia, were married in the District of Columbia. When they went back to their home in Virginia they were arrested for violating a Virginia statute that banned interracial marriages. They were sentenced to one year in jail. Because they lost their “liberty” it created a situation that was ripe for the SCOTUS to review the law for constitutionality under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause.

Towards the end of the unanimous decision, written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court discusses a “civil right of marriage”

Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. State of Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541, 62 S.Ct. 1110, 1113, 86 L.Ed. 1655 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 8 S.Ct. 723, 31 L.Ed. 654 (1888). To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State

Not only is marriage a civil right, but according to the Court it is fundamental to our very existence! There’s been no other case to say that there is no fundamental right to marry … so it’s still precedent even though the case background in Loving is not similar to the current cases before the SCOTUS.

DOMA was enacted in 1996 and the main provisions of the Act are:

Section 2. Powers reserved to the states
No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same-sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

Section 3. Definition of marriage
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

States, despite the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution, don’t have to recognize civil unions that have the same effect as a marriage between one man and one woman. In addition, for the Federal government only a legal union between one man and one woman shall be recognized.

In 1997, after the enactment of DOMA, the Government Accountability Office identified 1,049 various federal provisions in which marital status is a factor, ranging from taxes, tax rates, benefits, insurance coverage, farm aid, educational aid, copyright ownership, et al. Without having a “marriage” under the federal law, similar legal unions will not receive the same treatment in accordance with DOMA. There is a different treatment of what is the same type of “contract.” How is this not a violation of the equal treatment that we are guaranteed under the 14th Amendment?

I guess I’ve come to the point where I don’t get it anymore and believe that DOMA needs to be thrown out on its head. I don’t think the Court should overrule California’s Proposition 8 because that’s truly a States rights issue that needs more ripening. But as enacted, DOMA needs to go!

In the end, I believe, when it comes to judging our fellow-man on moral issues, those issues are best left between our brothers and sisters and our God. We were created by Him … but that does not make us Him. We must learn to be compassionate for everyone.

This probably explains why there are folks (and I’ve been guilty of this in the past) who take one verse of the Bible to bash other people who think differently or act in a way we don’t agree with.

Since I’m in middle of the current issues before the SCOTUS, I think that rather than just putting up an equal sign to express what I’m feeling, I’m going to create my own and will use two verses of the Bible that I try to use to govern the way I live my life and how I feel today:

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Let’s all agree that the time has come for us to be good to one another, eh?

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