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John W. Eyster: 'New birth of freedom' = Same-sex marriage

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John W. Eyster
June 10, 2014

I am celebrating the “NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM” which is expanding throughout our nation with the realization that the provision of the 14th Amendment for “EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAW” to ALL PERSONS regardless of sexual orientation.

Abraham Lincoln's 3-fold challenge to resolution as he concluded his Gettysburg Address has been the key motivator for my long standing mission for democracy/civics education which included founding and maintaining the WASHINGTON SEMINAR at Parker High School, Janesville.

Every seminar field study that I led opened and closed at The Lincoln Memorial with reflection on that 3-fold challenge.  The 3 resolutions are:

1 – that these dead shall not have died in vain

2 – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom

3 – that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

We KNOW that for Abraham Lincoln on that November 19, 1863, the “new birth of freedom” focused on former slaves.  Subsequently, we know from our US History that the “new birth of freedom” has expanded to Women, Native Americans, immigrants from many nations, African-Americans, freedom of persons of different races to marry.  The focus over the past few years has been the “new birth of freedom” for Lesbian-Gay-Bi-Transgender sexual orientation expanding now the freedom of persons of the same sexual orientation to marry.  I believe this is the unfolding of the so-called “Manifest Destiny” of the American dream and culture.

This “new birth of freedom” came in WISCONSIN last Friday, the 6th of June when US Federal Judge Barbara Crabb succinctly declared the WISCONSIN CONSTITUTIONAL BAN on same-sex marriages UNConstitutional, "Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution."

I celebrated with my brothers and sisters of the United Church of Christ in WISCONSIN as our conference, in session at Green Lake, voted with super-majority to declare our WISCONSIN UCC CONFERENCE to be “OPEN & AFFIRMING” during the business session on Saturday, June 7.

Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ's (UCC) designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the UCC which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.

Any reader interested in finding an ONA congregation of our United Church of Christ is welcome to use the “Where to find an Open and Affirming Church.”  I would note that both the Congregational UCC in Edgerton and First Congregational UCC in Janesville are ONA congregations.

The United Church of Christ has been a progressive movement in the Christian faith since its birth.  It's theme, “God is still speaking” articulates its understanding of the dynamics of God's continuing revelation through human life and experience.  That revelation continues TODAY!

The United Church of Christ ordains persons who are homosexual for pastoral ministry.  Pastor Lora Whitten is currently serving the Congregational UCC in Edgerton.  She is openly lesbian.

Many UCC clergy have been officiating at same-sex marriages in WISCONSIN since Judge Crabb's ruling last Friday.  One of the same-sex marriages in Milwaukee last Friday evening was that of the senior pastor of Plymouth UCC, Andrew Warner with his long-time partner, Jay Edmundson.

I had the joy and privilege of officiating at a same-sex wedding for my friends, Jim and Lee in Minneapolis last April.  They were married in October 1992 and desired to be LEGALLY MARRIED.  With Jim facing surgery and wanting to protect Lee, the legal marriage was planned in Minneapolis.  Jim and Lee were highly impressed by the welcoming hospitality of Minneapolis for them as a gay-couple there to be married legally.  This was my first experience officiating at a same-sex wedding and I am grateful for the privilege Jim and Lee gave to me.

I understand that persons of conscientious Christian faith do NOT accept my understanding of God's continuing revelation as God speaks to us today.  I am OPEN & ACCEPTING in relating to ALL PERSONS, even Christians who assert that they KNOW God's will.  I wish they were OPEN & ACCEPTING to ALL PERSONS.  I would remind them, “GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD”!  I earnestly believe he loves the whole wide world and all humankind in all of its diversity!

In this context, I do NOT understand the way in which some elected officials are reacting to the “new birth of freedom” including LGBT persons.  WISCONSIN was the FIRST STATE of the USA to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, credit and all public accommodations.  When he signed the bill into law in 1982, Governor Lee S. Dreyfus, Republican, stated, "It is a fundamental tenet of the Republican Party that government ought not intrude in the private lives of individuals where no state purpose is served, and there is nothing more private or intimate than who you live with and who you love."

TOO BAD that WISCONSIN did NOT continue “FORWARD” to be a leader in human relations and become one of the first states in the union to provide for persons to live with whomever they loved and have the protections of legal marriage.  WHY NOT?

WE THE PEOPLE of WISCONSIN were persuaded that there was need to PROTECT straight (male-female) marriage resulting in the passage of the Amendment in the November 2006 referendum voting.  This is the Constitutional Amendment which has now been declared UNConstitutional when evaluated in terms of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution providing for “EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW.”

I was VERY happy to read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's persuasive editorial published yesterdayarguing that our Attorney General should not waste taxpayers' money on an appeal when considering the national perspective of a series of federal judges ruling such barriers to same-sex marriage UNConstitutional. I am among US citizens who hopes our US Supreme Court will move forward with a milestone decision during its 2014-15 term to clarify that EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW does include marriage which will make same-sex marriage THE LAW OF THE LAND throughout the USA.  I believe this decision will be as significant as the 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia declaring interracial marriage to be part of “EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW” and expanding the “NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM”! 

I encourage readers to be sure to review the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial, “State should drop appeal of same-sex marriage decision.”  The point is well taken supporting NOT APPEALING, “Instead, Wisconsin authorities should follow the lead of Pennsylvania, where a Republican governor last month said he would not appeal a similar ruling in that state. Gov. Tom Corbett had wanted to fight the ruling but then decided that he likely would lose an appeal. Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, already had declined to appeal the ruling, saying the state's ban was unconstitutional.”

I was happy to note that the editorial went beyond the issue of public opinion asserting, “…there is a fundamental question of equal rights. Would Van Hollen and Walker defend a state ban on interracial marriages? On marriages between Catholics and Lutherans? Between Republicans and Democrats? Of course not, although some states did once ban interracial marriages. The right to have a consensual loving relationship recognized by the state should be accorded to everyone. Government should not interfere with such private matters.”  I agree.  What do YOU think?

Responding to Van Hollens assertion that Crabb's ruling creates confusion, the editorial asserts, “Van Hollen argues that Crabb's ruling should be stayed so as not to create confusion for the nearly 300 couples who have been issued marriage licenses in Milwaukee and Dane counties since Friday's ruling. Other counties are holding off on issuing such licenses, awaiting the state's appeal. And, in truth, Crabb could have been clearer in her ruling, which, unlike other courts' rulings, doesn't explicitly say what county clerks should be doing. Crabb is asking for more information before deciding whether to stay her own decision while it is appealed. There is a chance the ruling will be stayed even though Crabb did deny Van Hollen's request on Monday.

“But Van Hollen only has a point if he appeals Crabb's ruling. If he doesn't, the argument and the confusion are over. He should refrain from such an appeal and recognize that Crabb's ruling — like other such rulings across the country — is a victory for freedom for all Americans.”  I agree.  What do YOU think?

I commend and thank our ROCK COUNTY CLERK, LORISTOTTLER for making the decision to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples starting yesterday morning at 8 am with several couples being married yesterday (Monday, June 9).  I thank her for her choice to wave the fee for the 5-day waiting period in context with the threat of our WISCONSIN'S AG to shutdown same-sex marriages ASAP.  The Gazette has outstanding coverage of our local situation in today's issue (Tuesday, June 10).  I read with special interest and appreciation the feature, “Stories of the seven: First couples to wed talk about their decisions” which complements the page one lead, “New to 'I do': Women make history with Rock County's first same-sex marriage.”

Now the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “U.S. Appeals Court won't rule on gay marriage until at least Wednesday.”

I urge the WISCONSIN AG to cease and desist.  The WISCONSIN motto is “FORWARD.”  Let's move FORWARD!  We MUST now fulfill our resolution, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”  This expansion is same-sex marriage.


John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor of political science at UW-Whitewater and an advocate for Project Citizen, a model curriculum for democracy/civics education in Wisconsin high schools. John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.


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