Last week the Minnesota legislature approved putting a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage on the 2012 ballot. The vote in both houses was almost entirely down party lines with Republicans voting for it and Democrats against. Current Minnesota law does not recognize same-sex marriages. The constitutional amendment would prevent state courts from ruling that law unconstitutional.
This issue isn’t about what you or I may think about same-sex marriages on a moral or religious basis. It’s about liberty and it’s about tolerance. President Kennedy said, “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” In other words, you can be opposed to gay marriages, biracial marriages, mixed-religion marriages – whatever you want to be against, but that’s separate from preventing someone else from living according to their understanding of right or wrong.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, liberty means “the quality or state of being free; the power to do as one pleases; the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges; the power of choice.” That’s the heart of the same-sex marriage issue. It’s the freedom of a same-sex couple to enjoy the same rights and privileges as mixed-sex couples.
With all the Tea Party pronouncements of their fight for liberty (at least half of the Tea Party groups listed on the web have “liberty” somehow incorporated into their name), you’d expect them to be all for the rights of same-sex couples to marry. But they’re not. For Tea Partiers, liberty apparently only applies to other Tea Partiers. That's not liberty. It's self-interest.
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." It’s the best rule of thumb I know of for evaluating questions of liberty. By that standard, there is no basis whatsoever for preventing gay marriages.
I hope that Minnesotans will recognize the proposed constitutional amendment for what it is – a direct attack on liberty – and will vote “no” in 2012.