May 2013

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Change of Heart; So what?

by Devon Hickle

      In 1996, a bill was moved to congress to, not essentially, but effectively ban and make illegal the

marriage of two human beings who happen to have the same genitalia. This should be considered

laughable due to the sheer absurdity of the bill in lay terms. It was titled, which was undoubtedly

thought of as a heroic name when written, the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Section three of this

bill “codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance

benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors' benefits, immigration, and the filing of

joint tax returns.” This should be painstaking to read for two reasons, the bureaucratic prose is stale,

and the actions the words mean to put forth are blatantly discriminatory. The passing of DOMA meant

that the United States federal government can only recognize marriage through “traditional” lenses,

that of only a man and woman.

      In 1999, a bill very similar to the Defense of Marriage act aimed to stretch the arms of

discrimination even farther, at least in the District of Columbia, but however was (very narrowly) turned

down. This amendment was introduced to prohibit same-sex couples from adopting children. (While this

was turned down in D.C. in 1999, in 2011 North Carolina voted very positively on an amendment that

would allow the state to disregard any civil union; a couple that is not married.) These two bills, sharing

other than their tasteless intentions, share a single voter who has now gone back on his stance on the

issue of homosexuality.

      Four days ago from my writing this (18 March), an obscure and irrelevant Senator from Ohio,

Robert Portman, after learning of his son’s preference for the “long” ham decided it was due time to

recompense for his previous actions and come out in favour of a formerly despised stance. His son

tweeted that same day that he was “proud of his father” for this change. The realm of the Left has

already unified on a single answer; Hypocrite. Narcissist. Wingnut. Bigot. Fair enough, he probably still

owes us at least those titles for some other issues. However, here something has been done. A

progressive stance was taken by a conservative; he has now rendered himself a dissident among his

party. This is laudable to be sure, but in no way is it a suitable outcome for a several year process of


      No doubt Portman hopes his public apology and turn-about support of the repealing of DOMA

will grant him heavy hands of applause. And he has gotten this; there is a small number in the

blogosphere who do applaud Portman for his change in stance, as if it were a significant step forward.

Ignoring that it took the issue to hit him in his own lair for his support to be rallied, it could be seen why

one would see this as praise-worthy. But it did take that. It took Portman seeing that his own son would

be the recipient of his previous vitriolic stance for him to change his mind. In a column for Slate William

Saletan likened the experience to President Obama’s change of heart.

“It’s how President Obama explained his conversion on gay marriage last May…. Where were all these

critics then?”

Well, right here. Obama’s conversion was a step Forward, sure, but perhaps too strategic for my liking.

Saletan also writes “When your parents and peers are liberal, reaching liberal conclusions is no sweat.”

Why Slate felt so inclined to publish this is questionable.  Fortunately, these are not exactly liberal

conclusions. Nor a conclusion any Republican should disregard. It’s more a matter of human rights, and

why a party that screams to be so in favour of them has to have a change of heart on matters of human

rights. It is a poor state when the oppression of a fellow homo sapien is considered a viable option under

any circumstance.

      Saletan again: “You don’t support SNAP benefits because you know malnourished kids, any

more than you support climate-change legislation because you know peasant farmers. It isn’t empathy

that leads you to these conclusions. It’s inertia.” Saletan almost gets the point. One does not support

SNAP benefits because one may know a hungry child, or climate-change policies for one’s peasant

farmer friend. These issues get support, like the same-sex equality issues and policies, because there are

those who are being disenfranchised by those who claim to be under a divine order or with charges

from a pseudo-science. Support is rallied because there are hungry children, there is a threat of severe

climate change, and despite Portman’s change of attitude, there are still fellow humans who are being

subjugated because of his and his cohort’s previous and continuing actions.