Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One Year Later: Lies Defeat Individual Liberties Coast to Coast

A year ago, in California, those Americans who believe that they have the right to intrude into the personal lives and family choices of their neighbors amended the state constitution to deprive individual Americans of their personal freedoms. They did so based, primarily, on a lie: they claimed that banning gay marriage was necessary to prevent ministers from being legally forced to perform religious marriages for gay couples against the tenets of their faith. This was untrue and the people making the argument knew it. Thanks to their efforts and their lies, California became the first state in American history to amend their constitution to deprive American citizens of their natural rights.

That ugly record has still not been broken, but this morning the results were made official on a Maine ballot measure to repeal a state law explicitly protecting the rights of individuals to marry whom they choose.

As in California, the bigots won.

As in California, they won basing their entire campaign on a lie.

In Maine the issue was not religious freedom, but something even scarier to those with even the smallest touch of homophobia:

In addition to reaching out to young people who flocked to the polls for President Barack Obama a year ago, gay-marriage defenders tried to appeal to Maine voters' pronounced independent streak and live-and-let-live attitude.

The other side based many of its campaign ads on claims — disputed by state officials — that the new law would mean "homosexual marriage" would be taught in public schools.

Yes. That's right. They told voters that if gay marriage was legalized, then schools would start teaching their kids to be gay.

The voters are as much to blame as those advocating the bill, of course. They chose to vote to deny their fellow Americans basic personal freedoms that everyone in a free country should rightfully possess. They did so because they were bigoted enough, regardless of how many 'gay friends' they may have or how much money they've donated to AIDS research, to feel their skin reflexively crawl at the idea that their kid might be 'made gay' by the school system. They were also foolish enough to believe a lie designed to frighten them rather than vote based on principles of individual liberty.

Yet it is impossible for me to ignore the lie. The reason for the lie is simple, of course: there is no legitimate way to argue the legalistic denial of adult Americans free choice in their private lives and there is no legitimate way to argue against the American principle of individual liberty. Since every honest argument from the right would come down to these issues, lies are necessary. Lies are always necessary to support bigotry. Bigots must lie to others, each other, and themselves in order to feel secure and moral in their bigotry. If they had to truly face and understand the truth they would not be able to live with themselves.

This is not merely about bigotry, however, nor is it merely about lies.

The notion that it is acceptable to deny individual Americans their rightful liberties as human beings is not one that should be considered valid at law by Americans, liberal or conservative. The traditional conservative policy of governmental non-intervention in the personal sphere is utterly at odds with such policy. Those of us on the left, who advocate for a more just economic, legal, and social system should be offended.

Unfortunately, individual liberty is too radical for the people of Maine... if it means someone might teach their kids to be gay.

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