PHIL WIELAND: Our nation can't go far when rights come with a star

2012-12-07T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Our nation can't go far when rights come with a starPhil Wieland, (219) 548-4352
December 07, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Somebody always wants to add asterisks to basic constitutional guarantees. I call it the Roger Maris Syndrome.

When Maris broke Babe Ruth's home run record in 1961, baseball purists wanted to put an asterisk next to it to indicate it was done in a 162-game season as opposed to Ruth's 154-game accomplishment.

From the penning of the Declaration of Independence, tacit asterisks have been a standard feature of our nation's founding tenets. Thomas Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal," but there was an asterisk to note that this applied only to "all men are created equal as long as they are men, not women, are white and own property." The more property a white man owned, the more equal he was.

Over the past 225 years, it's been a close race between efforts to remove some of those asterisks while adding others. The slaves were freed and given the same rights as everyone else, but not really. Sixty years later, women finally got the right to vote, but are still considered more qualified to clean the glass ceiling than break through it.

Various immigrant groups have been given the asterisk treatment at different times in our history. These days the "all men are created equal unless you are different from us" asterisk is focused on gays. In the past, as long as we didn't admit they existed, nobody felt we needed laws or constitutional amendments reminding us to violate their rights.

It was heartening that several states rejected laws banning gay marriage in the last election. I wish I could believe Indiana would be so enlightened. The GOP-dominated state Legislature has approved an Indiana constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, but it must pass a second time and then be put on the state ballot for final approval.

Some people are urging the GOP to spend their time more productively to deal with some of the state's real problems. Lots of luck with that. I think they worry the crest of the wave of ignorance and fearmongering, pushed by a seemingly steroidally enhanced paranoia over the alleged "gay agenda," might subside if they dally.

Heaven forfend people have time to realize it's all a phony fear.

The NRA is sure President Barack Obama's re-election means jack-booted storm troopers will soon arrive to take away the small tactical nuclear weapons they need to hunt squirrels. The anti-gay crowd is just as sure granting gays the same rights the rest of us have, to marry whom we please, will result in all of us having to take same-sex partners.

These people need a swift kick in the asterisk.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 548-4352.

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