Angry Dan's Column
In Defense of Flags, Marraige, and Fascism
So when was the last time you were pleased with your Congress? Personally, it was last week when the Senate refused to give in to the annual attempt to pass a flag-burning amendment. I especially like the full-page ad the People for the American Way took out in USA Today (27.Mar 2000). Though I had some contentions with the quote from General Colin Powell.
"We are rightfully outraged when anyone attacks or desecrates our flag. Few Americans do such things and when they do they are subject to the rightful condemnation of their fellow citizens. They may be destroying a piece of cloth, but they do no damage to our system of freedom which tolerates such desecration…
"I would not amend that great shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants. The flag will still be flying proudly long after they have slunk away."
Good, Mr. Powell, try to make both sides happy. However, I'm not. First of all, anti-flag amendment campaigners have long had problems with a different phrasing of "rightful condemnation": it's called "fighting words," which is not covered under the First Amendment, which would therefore make flag burning illegal. Thanks to several Supreme Court decisions, flag burning is not considered "fighting words," but Mr. Powell seems to think it could very well be considered so.
And I do agree that it's just a piece of cloth and that it does "no damage to our system of freedom." However, if that's so, why are we "rightfully outraged"? If you're gonna support something, support it all the way - in the lawbooks, in the courts and in our minds. Because as long as you can say we can be rightfully outraged about this, expect shortsighted, so-called patriots to push for this amendment.
So a gold star for the U.S. Congress. But not for many state congresses, Ohio included. Ohio's senate is looking to pass Senate Bill 240, one of these Defense of Marriage Bills. If you neglect your newspaper reading, Defense of Marriage Bills have been wildly popular in just about every state but Vermont. They're all responses to the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which let the states make their own little definitions of marriage and allowed them to refuse to recognize marriages performed in other states.
What does that mean for us straight folk? Not much if the laws are written competently. However, this means a lot to our gay, lesbian and bisexual readers. Ohio's Defense of Marriage Bill, typical of most Defense of Marriage Bills, reasserts Ohio's legal definition of marriage - must be between a man and a woman of appropriate age who are not closer than second cousins - and specifies that any marriage not in that definition performed elsewhere is null and void here in Ohio.
So let's say you're a happy homosexual couple living in Vermont, where it's legal to get married. You do so, settle down, maybe adopt or have a couple kids. One partner's gotta follow the company when it relocates to Columbus, so the minute you cross the state line, you're not married anymore. Heck, it's entirely possible that the adoption's not legal anymore either because you're not married, so the state may just take your kids. On the other hand, a happy hetero couple with adopted kids from Vermont can move to Ohio without a major interruption in their lives. Anybody see a problem with this?
Not Jay Hottinger (R-Newark), who is sponsoring this bill. He seems to believe that the happy homosexual couple is gonna come into this state and completely rip asunder the institution of marriage. I guess he thinks the happy couple's also gonna turn our kids queer and set loose AIDS in our communities, right? Because one contrary opinion is sure to invalidate long-held beliefs. So Hottinger's response is knee-jerk conservative: let's take away their right to file joint taxes on a practical level, take away their right to be regular participants of society on the symbolic level.
I hope you've got a problem with this, so I encourage you, if you live in Ohio, to find your state senator here, state representative here and let them know how stupid SB240 is. If you live in another state, find out your congress's reaction to the Defense of Marriage Act. And if you're happy about the failing of the flag burning amendment, contact your Congressional representative here and thank them.
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