WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 — The Supreme Court will weigh in on some of the most hot-button issues facing the country today, including DOMA and California’s Proposition 8.
The decisions of the justices will impact the future of American society for many years to come. Just yesterday, in a 7-2 decision, the Court struck down an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship when one registers to vote.
It ruled that Arizona’s evidence-of-citizenship requirement, as applied to Federal Form applicants, is pre-empted by the NVRA’s mandate that States “accept and use” the Federal Form. Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion. The two dissenters in the case were Justice Alito and Thomas.
Among other cases, the Suprem Court will soon rule on affirmative action, gay marriage, and voting rights. While voting rights and affirmative action are important cases, the issue of gay marriage is the case getting most public attention. The Supreme Court will decide on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, and on Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban.
Activists on both sides of this issue are hoping that their side is victorious. Those who support LGBT rights are hoping the court will strike down both DOMA and Proposition 8 at both the federal and state level.
On the other hand, advocates for religious and traditionalist views believe a favorable ruling for gay marriage (state or federal) would lead to the further deterioration of the family in society and potentially open the floodgates to the sanctioning of all types of new marriages.
At the center of this debate is the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay conservative group that works within the Republican Party to advocate equal rights for LGBT people. Founded in 1977, the group has thousands of members with chapters all over the country.
Recently the group made news for suing the Federal Government over the don’t ask, don’t tell (DADT) policy, which excluded gay people from openly serving in the military.
Given the potential for a sweeping ruling on gay rights, by the court, I decided to sit down with Gregory T. Angelo, LCR’s Executive Director , and ask him some questions on gay rights, religious freedom and his opinions about the Supreme Court’s potential decision on DOMA and Proposition 8.
Ivory: Gregory, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Let’s start with the basics. Tell us about yourself. How did you become the Executive Director of LCR?
Angelo: I have the distinct honor of being the first person to head Log Cabin Republicans to come from a Chapter Leader’s background. I started by involvement in Log Cabin Republicans in 2007, and in 2008 dove in headfirst to support the work the New York City Chapter was doing to grow its numbers and raise its profile during that Presidential election cycle.
My expertise is in public relations and communications, and at the time I saw an organization I believed in that was doing great work, but that I felt could benefit from a stronger public relations strategy.
The work I did for Log Cabin Republicans locally in New York City led to my appointment ― and later reelection ― as Chairman of Log Cabin Republicans of New York State. During that time I presided over Log Cabin Republicans of New York State when marriage equality passed by legislative vote for the first time ever in a Republican-controlled legislature. In 2011 I was asked to lead Liberty Education Forum, the non-partisan, nonprofit sister think tank of Log Cabin Republicans, and when the previous Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans, R. Clarke Cooper, indicated his intention to depart following the 2012 election cycle, I came on-board as Interim Executive Director and was certified by the Board of Directors as the Executive Director in February of this year.
Ivory: Why was your organization formed?
Angelo: Log Cabin Republicans started as a state-based group of gay Republicans in California who supported Ronald Reagan and his opposition to the Briggs Initiative, a referendum not unlike Proposition 8 that would have made it illegal for gay people to teach in public schools. The initiative looked like it was going to pass until Reagan came out against it. It ended up failing. In order to support Reagan and pay homage to the roots of equality of the Republican Party in everything from emancipation to suffrage, the name “Log Cabin Republicans” was adopted as a not-so-subtle tip of the stovepipe hat to Republican President Abraham Lincoln.
Ivory: On your website there is another organization called The Liberty Education Forum (LEF). What is this?
Angelo: Liberty Education Forum is the non-partisan, nonprofit sister think tank of Liberty Education Forum advocating a message of gay acceptance to conservatives and people of faith across the United States. We have a Speakers Bureau whose members appear around the country making the case for equality, and a Scholars Bureau that speaks on the science of sexual orientation and against so-called “ex-gay” therapy.
We work with a number of prominent faith leaders and unique individuals such as Randy Roberts Potts, the gay grandson of the late televangelist Oral Roberts.
Ivory: Why do gay people want to get married?
Angelo: Marriage is about love and commitment, and right now there are loving, committed same-sex couples who want to engage in civil marriage partnerships to create the stability and strength that only marriage can provide. It’s really just that simple.
Ivory: What would be some immediate benefits of Federal recognition of same-sex marriage?
Angelo: Federal recognition of marriage equality would have numerous benefits: Partners would be able to file taxes together, inheritance tax penalties would be relived, Social Security benefits would extend to a spouse, bi-national same-sex couples in the country legally would be able to sponsor their foreign-born partner for citizenship ― the list goes on. There are over 1,100 benefits same-sex couples are denied in the absence of federal marriage recognition.
Ivory: Many argue that opening the door to same-sex marriage gives license to other forms of marriage like polygamy and marriage between siblings. Is this not a fair criticism?
Angelo: This slippery slope argument has been made by opponents of same-sex marriage for years, and while it may have held water in the uncharted territory days back when Massachusetts began recognizing marriages nearly a decade ago, none of these things have come to pass. The alternative relationships that you mention involve issues of patriarchy, coercion, abuse, and a host of other negatives that have nothing to do with committed same-sex relationships, and to make that connection is offensive to any loving gay couple.
Ivory: If the Supreme Court upholds California’s same sex ban, what challenges would result from such a ruling?
Angelo: Whatever the Supreme Court rules, I don’t think anyone expects the fight to end. If the Court upholds Proposition 8, then the fight would go back to California and the state level.
Ivory: Many religious groups fear that a broad ruling by the court allowing marriage for all same-sex couples nationwide would be an attack on religious liberty. Do you think such fear is justified?
Angelo: I don’t get the connection between “religious liberty” and opposition to same-sex marriage. The marriage we are fighting for is civil marriage, which is a government license that has nothing to do with religion.
We now have marriage equality in 12 states and the District of Columbia, and no place of worship in any state has ever been forced to perform a same-sex marriage. There is a difference between civil marriage and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony ― we’re fighting for the former, not the latter, and those espousing “religious liberty” in their opposition should take note of that distinction.
By the way, a number of churches do perform Holy Matrimony between same-sex couples. We should respect their religious liberty as well.
Ivory: A few libertarian leaning writers have argued that marriage is a personal matter and should not be defined by the Government. Wouldn’t removing the government from the marriage business solve this entire issue?
Angelo: The “take government out of the marriage business” argument is the classic libertarian approach to this, but we’ve crossed the Rubicon on this one. Like it or lump it, government is in the marriage business and as much as I like the flat tax, getting government out of the marriage business would involve far more than a change in the tax code.
We’re far, far more likely to see same-sex marriage become a reality in the United States than we are of ever seeing the government abolish marriage.
Ivory: Public opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage is shifting quickly. Why do think the shift is happening so quickly?
Angelo: It’s been nearly a decade since we’ve had states that recognize same-sex marriage in the United States. All of the gloom and doom prophecies of marriage equality opponents has simply not come to pass, so people have been forced to rethink their opposition. And in a far more personal way, more and more gay Americans are living their lives as out, gay, committed couples, and showing their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and families that they’re just as deserving of love, respect, and marriage as their straight counterparts.
Ivory: Give me your personal opinion. How do you believe the high court will rule in both cases?
Angelo: Conjecture is pointless when it comes to the Supreme Court. Suffice it to say, Log Cabin Republicans is prepared for all possible rulings. We’re in this one for the long haul, and you ain’t seen nothing yet.
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