Note: This op-ed is in response to column published in The Wonk Room on July 25 by Jennifer Thieme.
Recently, author Jennifer Thieme wrote an opinion piece calling out the organization for which I have the honor of serving as Executive Director arguing that civil relationship recognition for committed same-sex couples is an affront to Republican principles.
Contrary to Ms. Thieme's assertions, marriage equality is very much consistent with the conservative values of individuality and limited government. Her declaration that civil marriage is indicative of intrusive government is misguided, as is her proposed solution. Ms. Thieme warns that same-sex civil marriage invites dangerous and unnecessary governmental expansion. In this capacity, the state is authorized-if not forced-to make highly "subjective and malleable" judgments, facilitating a government that favors "the rich and powerful." To address these dangers, Ms. Thieme suggests that a subjective, intrusive government can be rectified by a policy of discrimination.
This paradoxical solution doesn't sound very Republican to me.
Ms. Thieme's arguments are rooted in her preference for biological parenthood and a presumptuous interpretation of the state's role in regulating marriage. She claims "the natural unit of mother, father and child can create itself and sustain itself independently of the state and its policies." This self-perpetuation supposedly empowers the family unit by warding off the need for excessive state intervention. This is true of all marriages-same-sex and heterosexual.
Hardly playing to a stereotype of wealthy elites, the preponderance of our membership is composed of gay and lesbian Americans trying to get by in a challenging economy-many of them raising children-who want the strength and stability that comes with civil marriage. The legal protections and financial stability that follows when a loving couple is allowed to marry prevents the need for welfare and discourages government reliance. Ms. Thieme cautions against the potency of economic advantage with regard to legal obstacles. How better to reconcile financial variance than the legal implementation of consistent, empirical equality across lines of difference?
Contrary to Ms. Thieme's claims, the state that recognizes same-sex relationships is not a tyrannical one. Such recognition does not denigrate, degrade, or distract from the any heterosexual union. An excessively subjective state can be countered only through objectivity: equal recognition for all Americans negates the government's capacity to pick and choose.
Bewilderingly, Ms. Thieme proposes that the discriminatory policies that facilitated American slavery be applied to present day same-sex civil marriages. The exclusion of slave families from the legal system did not resolve the injustices of their treatment, nor did it combat the constant threat of familial disintegration at the hands of the state. Why then, would Ms. Thieme suggest that the exclusion of another marginalized group-gay and lesbian Americans-as an appropriate and effective means of protecting her enumerated priorities of individual rights and strong family?
At Log Cabin Republicans, we do believe that the government should get out of marriage-but not in the manner that Ms. Thieme suggests. The government was not "out" of marriage in the era of slavery; rather, the state was very much in the way, obstructing the basic rights of Americans based on subjective preferences for another race. In the present, the state continues to erect obstacles in the pursuit of equality for all. Log Cabin Republicans holds that the government should get out of marriage, but unlike Ms. Thieme, we believe "getting out of marriage" means the government getting out of the way.
Log Cabin Republicans does not presume that Abraham Lincoln would support marriage equality (my own opinions notwithstanding). Rather, we acknowledge the founding philosophies that gave birth to the Republican Party, celebrating the conservative values of equality and limited government. Contrary to Ms. Thieme's assertions, these notions are indeed consistent with civil marriage equality for same-sex couples. Gay rights are civil rights, and I doubt that history will treat opponents of marriage equality as kindly as the author hopes.