President Obama made history Monday by supporting LGBT equality in his inaugural address, but conservatives are not happy about the nod to marriage equality. National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown responded by claiming that Obama’s words “further divide the nation” because “gay and lesbian people are already treated equally under the law”:
BROWN: Gay and lesbian people are already treated equally under the law. They have the same civil rights as anyone else; they have the right to live as they wish and love whom they choose. What they don’t have is the right to redefine marriage for all of society. In fact, six federal courts have rejected the idea that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court in a summary decision in 1972. Furthermore, that vast majority of states have codified the commonsense view held for thousands of years that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. The President is profoundly wrong to imply that those who have acted to protect marriage have denied anyone’s rights by doing so.
A presidential inauguration should be a time for the nation to come together; instead President Obama chose to voice his support for a radical agenda advanced by some of his biggest campaign contributors to redefine marriage for everyone. Marriage brings our nation together. The concept of gay ‘marriage’ would have been totally alien to our founding fathers, and the protection and advancement of marriage between one man and one woman will immeasurably serve the common good of this country and further strengthen our Union. Today the President should have thrown his support behind this beautiful vision of men and women coming together in love to raise the next generation. Nonetheless, we pro-marriage Americans pledge to defend the institution which the President has chosen to undermine once again.
Brown distorts both history and present reality. The Supreme Court dismissed that 1972 case, Baker v. Nelson, with a one-sentence order that did not speak to constitutional rights whatsoever, opting simply not to take up the question of same-sex marriage at the time. However, six years prior in the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision, the court unanimously ruled that “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.” According to Brown’s position, the right to legal protections with a committed partner and children is a “basic civil right” that only straight people deserve.
Gay and lesbian people are not treated equally under the law. In more than half of states, they can be summarily fired from their jobs or kicked out of their homes, let alone not marry their loved ones. (The situation is even worse for members of the transgender community, who are unfortunately largely invisible in discussions about same-sex marriage.) Brown clearly rejects the lived experience — if not the very existence — or the nations millions of same-sex families. There is nothing “radical” about these families seeking the same protections other families are entitled to, and nothing “equal” about them not having such access.