Monday, January 17, 2005

Freedom still has some ringing to do

The question for many Alabama legislators is no longer if gays should be sold down the river. Now it's just a matter of when.

The Birmingham News today published a story in which several lawmakers take it for granted that a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage would pass both houses easily. But rather than debating whether they have the legal or moral right to relegate the state's gay people to second-class status, legislators are waging a turf war over when the statewide vote on the amendment should be held.

Democrats want the vote to come during the 2006 primaries, while Republicans want it on the general-election ballot, reasoning that the measure would help their victory prospects by attracting thousands of GOP-leaning social conservatives who would ordinarily stay home. State Christian Coalition President John Giles, whose organization actually opposed an anti-segregation amendment last year (because of taxes, it claimed), is predictably eager to strike yet another blow for regression with this measure. I suppose Giles is having too much fun playing politics to pay attention all of that "love thy neighbor as thyself" talk.

Alabama has plenty of company when it comes to open, official bigotry toward gay people, but I'd hope at least a few lawmakers would stand up and oppose efforts to enshrine even more discrimination in our state constitution. If anything good can come from the crass political gamesmanship on display in Montgomery, it's that a few Democratic lawmakers -- motivated more by political self-preservation instincts than by any sense of human decency -- nonetheless could do the right thing behind the scenes by bottling up this measure in committee.

How sad it is to learn on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day that our state's legislators still don't believe in King's dream of freedom and equal protection for everyone.

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