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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
Joe Brown Columns

Jolly cedes on marriage rights

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U.S. Rep. David Jolly, who represents most of Pinellas County, made national news last week when he told the Washington Post that it’s “fully appropriate” for states to recognize same-sex marriage. He was responding to a question regarding a ruling by a Monroe County judge that lifted Florida’s ban on gays getting married, which immediately was appealed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Jolly is only the eighth Republican member of Congress to support same-sex marriage. In his explanation, however, he makes a good case for why there should be more.

“As a matter of my Christian faith, I believe in traditional marriage,” Jolly said. “But as a matter of constitutional principle I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty. To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state. Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage, and therefore I support the recent decision by a Monroe County circuit judge.”

Sometimes doing the right thing means doing things you disagree with. In Jolly’s case, he admits he’s no fan of gay marriage, but that the U.S. Constitution gives homosexuals the right to do so.

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Jolly also lives up to one of the primary tenets of the Republican Party that began with Barry Goldwater and reached maturity under Ronald Reagan: limited, non-intrusive government. Although many Americans interpret that as less regulation on businesses, I believe it also means getting out of people’s personal business.

“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives,” said Reagan, which is why more Republicans should support same-sex marriage, even if they, like Jolly, find it goes against their personal beliefs.

Before nominating Jolly for the Profiles in Courage Award, it’s only fair to acknowledge he’s in a good position to take a moral stand. He faces no opponent in next month’s primary, and, thanks to the blunders of the Pinellas County Democratic Party, his only rival in the general election is a libertarian. Still, he deserves credit for taking a position that has political risks.

Then again, maybe Jolly doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of history and realizes that same-sex marriage eventually will become the law of the land. It probably will follow a legal path similar to the one that led to the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision, Loving vs. Virginia, that struck down state laws that banned interracial couples from marrying.

Some history: Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving were married in 1958 in Washington, D.C. She was black; he was white. They then settled in Caroline County, Va., but soon their home — or more specifically their bedroom — was raided by police officers in the middle of the night in a manner not unlike the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. A grand jury indicted the Lovings for violating Virginia’s law against marriage between whites and nonwhites. The couple pleaded guilty and were given a choice: Go to jail for a year or take a 25-year suspended sentence on condition they leave the state and not return. The Lovings opted to leave and moved to Washington.

At the height of the civil rights movement, they launched a court fight to overturn their convictions. In 1967, their case finally reached the Supreme Court, which had no trouble concluding that anti-miscegenation laws violated the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment barring race-based discrimination. This current court is much different, but I feel the same reasoning could be applied to same-sex marriage.

I’ve heard many say that there are no similarities between what the Lovings went through and laws that forbid homosexuals from marrying; the circumstances are/were different. A year before her death, on the 40th anniversary of her court case, Mildred Loving released a statement that read in part:

“Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me. ... I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.”

Iif gay marriage was OK with Mildred Loving, I can certainly live with it.

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