This letter was corrected at 12:15 p.m. Sept. 27, 2012. A correction is at the bottom of the letter.
On Nov. 6, Maryland is poised to make some history. Maryland has the opportunity to become the first state to approach same-sex marriage by popular referendum. Still, the referendum is not a done deal, and it will require people of courage and principle to stand up.
As such, it is unfortunate that many in our state Republican leadership have chosen to stand in the way of Republican principles. It was former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman who said, “If we really believe (and we should) that every citizen is endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness, shouldn’t this include the right to marriage?” Indeed, same-sex marriage is supported by a wide and varied group of Republicans, from former first lady Laura Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney to Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ambassador John Bolton. No one would consider these stalwarts of Republican politics any other than true conservatives … and yet they support same-sex marriage, which makes you wonder why so many conservatives oppose it.
The Republican Party has historically supported equal rights for all individuals. It was President Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican, who saw our nation through its bloodiest conflict to ensure that all men were born free. When liberty was threatened by Jim Crow, Republicans rose up again to challenge the institutions of power and ensure that freedom, given to us by God and protected by our Constitution, was secured. We are again summoned to defend the sovereignty of the individual. To defend that most basic of human rights: the ability to enter into contract.
At its root, this is what civil marriage is: a contract between two consenting adults to share their lives together, come what may. The right of contract is the most fundamental of our rights. Contracts are the basis upon which a society operates. Even our Constitution creates a binding contract between the government and the governed. That contract limits the scope of government and its ability to interfere in the personal lives of We the People. This limitation of power is the cornerstone upon which the Republican Party and conservatism were built. It is the height of hypocrisy to call for the government to get out of our lives in one area and interfere with it in another. Our party must lead or get out of the way. We are either for limited enumerated powers being granted to our government or else we are no better than the Democrats on this issue.
Where is the power to regulate marriage found in the Constitution? Ros-Lehtinen, a former resident of Prince George’s County, reminds us that “[a]s Republicans, we are committed to ensuring that the … government play[s] its proper role. Defining marriage is not part of that role.” The Founding Fathers obviously did not see a reason for government to be involved in affairs of the heart. Far too often, those who fled to America did so because the state used marriage as a weapon to punish religious minorities. Our English ancestors used the power of the state to delegitimize the marriage of Catholics. Why? Because the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church were at war, and the King of England was the head of the Anglican Church. Will we continue their tradition of delegitimizing that which threatens our world view?
Or will we recognize that the Republican ideals of limited government, personal responsibility and economic self-determination require that we overturn the existing structures of the status quo? It is time that we realize that same-sex marriage does not threaten the ideals of the Republican Party. Same-sex couples want the same thing that we all do: individual dignity, access to good jobs, good schools and good government without overbearing regulations or taxes. By opposing the repeal of same-sex marriage in Maryland, we would be removing a barrier that prevents our party from reaching out to the many individuals who share our vision of America.
The effort to bring this law to referendum was absolutely correct. The process by which same-sex marriage became law was an insult to the principles of good government. The backroom deals and power plays make a mockery of our political institutions. However, the point has been made: the Democrat Party in Annapolis cannot rule by fiat. We the People still have a say in our own lives. And we must act in favor of all individuals, not just some. I ask all Republicans to stand for liberty; reinforce the sovereignty of the individual that is so fundamental to the American Way. In supporting liberty, we will continue our glorious tradition rooted in Lincoln and the Founding Fathers.
Jason W. Papanikolas, former chairman of the Republican Central Committee for Prince George’s County, is writing on his own behalf and not on behalf of the committee.
Correction: Papanikolas is no longer chairman of the Republican Central Committee for Prince George’s County. He was writing to express his own views and not on behalf of the committee.