Friday, May 12, 2006

Letter to the campaign of Andrew Horne

Here is a copy of a letter I just sent to the campaign of Andrew Horne, a Democrat running for a chance to oppose Republican Congresswoman Anne Northup the 3rd District's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. While I do not know Mr. Horne personally, he a member of Christ Church United Methodist, where I have preached occasionally, and is a friend of a friend of mine. I hope that he and his campaign seriously consider this short (for me, anyway) letter concerning his position on gay marriage and civil unions:

I am seriously considering voting for Andrew Horne, but I have one tremendous hang-up. While I suspect that he and I may agree on the moral value of homosexuality (that is, that homosexual sexual acts are not inherently immoral, and that their moral value does not depend on the sexual orientation of the parties involved, but rather on the nature of the relationship and internal factors specific to the situation, just as in heterosexual sexual acts) and that we agree on the basic humanity of homosexuals as persons; I am troubled by some of his quotes on social and legal issues related to the treatment of homosexuals.

To both the LEO and the Courier Journal he stressed his belief that while no one should be discriminated against on the basis of anything (which I took to include sexual orientation, though it was a very broad statement - "I don't believe in discrimination of any kind") he went out of his way to say that legal recognition of homosexual relationships was a state and local issue. While that may reflect his personal conviction (and I have no doubt that he is a man of conviction), it seems like a passing of the buck, or a ducking of a controversial issue.

Perhaps such passing and ducking is necessary when running a political campaign, but I wonder whether this is healthy. Saying of an issue related to discrimination and the recognition of the basic rights and humanity of any person that it is a "state and local issue" carries with it morally disastrous results. How long, for instance, was discrimination against blacks justified morally as a "state and local issue."

If the state of Kentucky passed an amendment to its constitution institutionalizing discrimination against, for instance, African-Americans, would anyone in good conscience be able to say that that is a "state and local issue" not subject to federal intervention? I hope not. And if homosexuals are, as homosexuals, a minority whose rights are to be protected rather that moral reprobates whose relationships are to be restricted by the state, we cannot say of their basic right to have legal recognition for their partnerships that it is a state and local issue.

I hope that, at some point in the future, Mr. Horne will be able to take a morally prophetic stand on this, just as he has on issues of economic justice. To do otherwise is to participate in institutional discrimination.

Chris Baker


Brian Cubbage said...

That's a good letter, Sandman, and I hope that Horne reads it. I think you've parsed his position accurately (although only he and his campaign knows for sure): It really does feel like an attempt to pass the buck so that he can neutralize the gay-marriage issue in anticipation of the post-primary season.

I suspect that his strategy here is motivated by a look at the 2004 election and recent Republican election tactics. The Republicans are taking a real beating in the polls and are backed into a corner; even their base is restive. So Horne probably wants to create as low a profile as possible on the gay marriage issue so that he can give Northup less ammunition in November.

(Really, Horne's entire candidacy is a deprive-the-ammunition strategy on the part of the Democrats; Horne's a military man and so gets a pass on the "my opponent hates the military and hates America" charge.)

So Horne's positioning here might be sound political strategy, but it certainly isn't a prophetic and visionary stand.

Tyler Simons said...

I agree with both of you, but bemoan the fact that we are reduced to hoping for public prophecy and vision from politicians. Horne's dilemma is a tough one. I wonder if visionary religious leaders, whose job it really is to proclaim and prophecy are trying to get the word out into the culture and failing.

If I were in the UCC, which has already approved same-sex marriage, I would be encouraging those married in the church to speak out about the universality of marriage and holding very public weddings -- not just in Massachusetts. If marriage is a religious institution, the church should engage in it everywhere. State control of the sacraments is absolutely unacceptable.