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Lange: Marginalizing Discrimination

07/08/11 7:55AM By Willem Lange
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(HOST)  The Marriage debate currently working its way through state legislatures nationwide is both complex and highly emotional.  But for commentator Willem Lange, it all seems to boil down to the fundamental principle of equality before the law.

(LANGE) Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey. Imagine what his business card must look like! If you wade through the scholarly verbiage on the Institute's website, you will find that it's dedicated to re-establishing theocracy in the United States and stamping out deviant life styles.

In an op-ed piece of a few months ago, Professor Franck declares himself upset by current cultural trends that challenge "traditional" marriage and social values, and deplores that he and his colleagues have been "marginalized" by those who disagree with them. "Clearly," he writes, "a determined effort is afoot, in cultural bastions controlled by the left, to anathematize traditional views of sexual morality, particularly opposition to same-sex marriage, as the expression of ‘hate' that cannot be tolerated in a decent civil society."

My initial reaction to that sentence was straight from Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter": "‘I weep for you,' the Walrus said: ‘I deeply sympathize.'" Where the devil were Professor Franck and his colleagues when Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was marginalized to death in 1998 near Laramie, Wyoming, by a pair of homophobic thugs? What concerns will they express for the thousands of gay adolescents who, freed from the ancient "traditional" restraints on self-expression, are still bullied - sometimes to suicide - by their peers? Seems to me if you're concerned about the survival of the institution of marriage, you might work on saving it where it's most threatened; so-called traditional marriages are disintegrating at a rate of about fifty percent .

"Defenders of traditional marriage," laments Professor Franck, (I'm quoting here.) "must be likened to racists, as purveyors of irrational fear and loathing. Opposition to same-sex marriage must be treated just like support for now long-gone anti-miscegenation laws." To which I would add, Right on! But only when those defenders try to enact their private religious or cultural beliefs into legislation and deny other citizens the basic right guaranteed them by the Constitution: equality before the law.

I think what's happening to Dr. Franck and his colleagues is, they're feeling the tremors of a tectonic shift in popular attitudes and practices. Increasingly, as more tolerant younger people ascend to power, traditionalists have an uphill pull in the cultural tug of war. But it's hard to feel sympathy for them. They're not being denied any of the rights tradition has denied to others.

Instead of pushing hateful laws like California's Proposition Eight and then deploring the label of "hateful," they should instead enjoy the greatest feature of democracy - the right , absent the proof of civic injury, to believe, worship, cohabit, and consort as they please - and leave the rest of their fellow citizens alone to do the same.

This is Willem Lange in East Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.
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