By CHRISTOPHER OTT
Here we go again.
For the second year in a row, President Bush used his State of the Union address to divide one group of Americans from the rest. He is pushing again for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban legal protections for gay and lesbian couples and their families. Similar measures are under consideration in a variety of states, as well.
It's ironic that the Bush administration's aim this year is the same as last time, since circumstances are dramatically different.
Last May, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to extend the rights and responsibilities of marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Opponents of equality warned of dire consequences. But, predictably, the sky hasn't fallen.
Bush and others claim that they want to "protect" the institution of marriage. But equality is no threat.
No one loses any legal protections when the same protections are extended to gay and lesbian couples. Ensuring equality doesn't mean there's less to go around.
The best opponents can do is say that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry will "devalue" the institution of marriage. However, this argument doesn't make sense.
Freedom of religion
Early in our country's history, ensuring freedom of religion didn't devalue anyone else's faith. Ending slavery and segregation didn't devalue anyone else's citizenship. Allowing women to vote didn't devalue the electoral process. And allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry doesn't devalue anything, either.
Opposition to equality boils down to discomfort and, sometimes, hostility. Some opponents of equal treatment for gay and lesbian couples don't want to share the rights and responsibilities that help protect their own families.
But that's not the way America works. No one should be denied the basic right to equal treatment that our country guarantees.
Do the president and other opponents to equal rights really understand the consequences of the amendments they support?
Do they really want gay and lesbian couples separated at the emergency room door in the event of an accident or illness?
Do they really think long-term couples should be denied the right to make medical or end-of-life decisions, which married couples take for granted?
Do they think that kids should be denied health coverage by one parent's health insurance because the law treats them as strangers? Or that it's fair for gay and lesbian people to pay the same taxes as everyone else, but to be denied the hundreds of rights, benefits and protections of marriage?
Do they really think that a gay and lesbian couple that has been together for 50 years does not deserve the protections that non-gay newlyweds enjoy from day one?
X Christopher Ott wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services