Freedom For All – By Joseph L. Bruno
As a Republican, I believe in personal freedom. I believe the government ought to fundamentally leave people alone and I believe that people are people, no matter their color or stripe. When it comes to the right of homosexuals to marry, a right Governor Paterson has recently proposed to extend to them, these beliefs lead me to conclude that their rights are no different than ours.
When I was the Senate Majority Leader of New York State, I opposed same sex marriage largely because the overwhelming majority of my caucus opposed it. As a relatively conservative Roman Catholic, I instinctually view marriage as the foundation of the family. However, that view really does conflict with the rights that are afforded to all of us.
Our founding fathers gave us individual freedoms and the right to choose how to live our lives. This is America and we have unalienable rights. Let everyone decide how to pursue their own happiness. I understand that this issue stirs great passion in many people. I understand that many view it as a moral threat. However, my instincts tell me that homosexuals who wish to enter into the union of marriage are just like the rest of us and they ought to be free to enter into it.
Recently, former vice president Dick Cheney told the National Press Club that he favors the rights of homosexuals to marry because people should be free to enter into a union of their choosing. I agree with the vice president that people should be free, after all personal freedom is the cornerstone of all our beliefs and rights.
I previously endorsed civil unions as a pragmatic compromise. However, civil unions seem reminiscent of segregation. They relegate same sex couples to second class citizenship. In essence, we are telling them you can be equal, so long as you are separate. This does not square with the equal protection of the laws of the 14th Amendment and equality is the veritable birthright of the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln.
The Governor’s bill also contains an important amendment that allows individual religious institutions to opt out of the performance of gay marriages. We can’t and shouldn’t force churches to marry, but we should allow for same sex marriages. I believe this amendment is a crucial element because the bill does not use the hand of government to force a private religious institution to perform any rite outside of its belief system. Church and State are separate powers.
Governor Paterson has introduced this contentious issue for consideration. The senate leadership should follow suit and allow this bill to move forward. Life is short and we should all be afforded the same opportunities and rights to enjoy it.