Friday, September 05, 2003

I miss the good old days, when elected Republicans sometimes made sense

When Alan Simpson was a senator he rarely missed a chance to appear on a political/news show and throw in his two cents. I often disagreed with him, but unlike most current Republicans in office, I could not always predict him. And on occasion, he was even right.

Now I find out he’s the “honorary chairman of the Republican Unity Coalition, a gay-straight alliance of Republican leaders whose avowed purpose is to work to encourage tolerance and to address concerns of gay and lesbian Americans.” A few excerpts from his recent opinion piece in the Washington Post:

Missing the Point on Gays

By Alan Simpson

…[A]fter the Supreme Court's reasonable ruling in Lawrence v. Texas that the government had no business policing people in their bedrooms, a panic developed. Some worried that the decision would lead to gay marriage, thus posing a threat to the survival of the American family.

In the view of this old Senate hand, it's time for everyone to take a deep breath, calm down and wait for this storm to head out to sea. But no such luck: Several Senate members want to create more anguish by pushing a proposal to amend the Constitution. It would set a federal definition of marriage as being a union between a man and a woman.

…But a federal amendment to define marriage would do nothing to strengthen families -- just the opposite. And it would unnecessarily undermine one of the core principles I have always believed the GOP stood for: federalism….

As someone who is basically a conservative, I see not an argument about banning marriage or "defending" families but rather a power grab. Conservatives argue vehemently about federal usurpation of other issues best left to the states, such as abortion or gun control. Why would they elevate this one to the federal level?

What's more, it is surely not the tradition in this country to try to amend the Constitution in ways that constrict liberty. All of our amendments have been designed to expand the sphere of freedom, with one notorious exception: prohibition. We all know how that absurd federal power grab turned out. …

The Republican Party I call home is one that purports to respect "freedom for everybody," respecting the rights and dignity of the individual. And that dignity must be respected by both the letter and spirit of our laws.

My views were formed back in my days as a kid in high school in Cody, Wyo. There was one classmate everyone would whisper about: "Jimmy, he's one of those." And we all knew what "one of those" was. Then, one horrible day, Jimmy committed suicide. It was the worst thing, a terrible waste, a sickening tragedy. Jimmy was one who felt isolated and hounded. He deserved a helluva lot better, from those of us in Cody, and from American society as a whole. …

We all know someone who is gay, and like all of us, gay men and women need to have their relationships recognized in some way. How are gay men and women to be expected to build stable, loving relationships as all of us try to do, when American society refuses to recognize the relationships?

Not long ago the daughter of an old family friend of mine came home for a Thanksgiving dinner with her lesbian partner -- and my friend is one of those "old cowboy" dads, too! He and his wife gently took their daughter's hand, and her partner's hand, and said grace together just as millions of American families do every year.

To reach the best understanding, the debate over gay men and women in America should focus not on what drives us apart but on how to make all of our children -- straight or gay -- feel welcome in this land, their own American home.

Well said, Senator.

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