John Lewis writes a

October 25, 2003

John Lewis writes a strong editorial for the Boston Globe: / News / Boston Globe / Editorial / Opinion / Op-ed / At a crossroads on gay unions.

Lewis makes two good points: that there is a distinction between the religious liberty to conduct or refuse to conduct a marriage ritual for two individuals and the human right to get married, a civil right. He places this conflict within the context of the civil rights movement, comparing current laws against gay marriage with earlier laws against interracial marriage. "But our rights as Americans do not depend on the approval of others. Our rights depend on us being Americans."

Strong stuff, and he seems to be joining in a Democratic/Liberal attempt to turn Republican/social conservative gay bashing into a debate about human rights, civil rights, and the meaning of citizenship. See, for example, what Counterspin has been saying.

It is hard to defend abstract rights against cheap shot slurs. Consider the way that people have used flag burning to frame politicians as anti-American when they defended free speech rights. I remember a few years back John Warner of Virginia was cheap shotted as anti-patriotic for refusing to vote for some silly flag-icon law. He responded with a wonderful essay explaining the nature of basic liberties and tying his defense of those liberties to his service as a Marine in Vietnam. He was still chickenhawked, although he did win that election.

John Lewis is very aware that it takes time to convince people that abstract rights are more important than inherited prejudices. I hope that Counterspin et al are able to turn the debate to free speech and the nature of American citizenship. We are overdue for a debate on that. I just dearly hope that the debate comes to the right conclusions.

Posted by Red Ted at October 25, 2003 09:59 AM | TrackBack