In his statement praising presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s “Inclusive Tone” yesterday at the NAACP Convention, Log Cabin Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper added that “it is unfortunate that he countered his outreach to gay and lesbian Americans with a gratuitous attack on the freedom to marry.”
All he said about marriage was simply this, “As President, I will promote strong families – and I will defend traditional marriage.” He never said he would deny individuals the freedom to form couples and define their unions as marriages.
Now, this is not to say I join Mr. Romney in supporting a federal constitutional amendment allowing states to recognize only traditional marriages as such. I don’t; I oppose this change to our national charter.
Clarke’s statement, however, suggests that marriage doesn’t exist in the absence of state recognition. To the contrary, marriage has existed as institution long before governments recognized it. And many marriages exist today without the benefit of state sanction.
The issue in the marriage debates is not whether gay couples are free to marry, but whether the state should recognize their unions and grant them the same benefits they offer to straight couples.
Freedom doesn’t come from the state, but the state can limit its exercise. Recall what Mr. Jefferson wrote in our nation’s defining document, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Clarke would be right to fault Mr. Romney for supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage; he’s wrong to say the Republican is attacking freedom.
*in most jurisdictions–and at the federal level.