Equal Protection of the Laws

I remember standing in my dinning room in 1996, reading about DOMA in Carson City’s morning paper, thinking that it wasn’t such a big deal and not understanding why it was controversial. I was 16, focused on school and swimming, lived a very homogenous corner of the US, and didn’t know any out gay people besides my sister and aunt. They seemed happy every time I saw or spoke with them, so what’s the big deal if the federal government wants to protect Alabama from Hawaii. There were many things – bigotry, the tax code – I failed to understand that morning but what is clear now, is that DOMA is unconstitutional. We should never accept a federalist approach that gradually “grant rights” to an oppressed minority. Civil rights belong to every citizen and are not to be “granted” by a benevolent majority but simply recognized by a tolerant, efficient government.

As the 14th Amendment says…

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [Emphasis mine]

Let’s take three lessons from this small story and disgraceful but thankfully relatively short period of American history. First, talk openly, honestly, and fairly about civic issues in front of your children. Second, the 14th Amendment is a wonderful and powerful addition to our founding document. And finally, civic issues and public policy has real impact to actual people. Never forget that.

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