Editorial: LGBT community should support constitutional amendment
The New Hampshire House will soon vote on Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution 17, which would explicitly outlaw discrimination based on “sexual orientation.” The language would join “race, creed, color, sex or national origin” under “equality of rights under the law” that “shall not be denied or abridged by this state.” The Senate passed the change unanimously, 23-0, and it needs three-fifths passage in the House before it can go to voters in November.
Certain conservatives and a segment of the LGBT community are united in opposition to the amendment, obviously for different reasons.
The argument from the far right is familiar. Brian McCormack, executive director of Cornerstone Action, said the first responsibility of lawmakers “is to protect and uphold our constitutionally protected freedoms, not pass and enact laws that guarantee special safeguards for some, but bully and punish others.” Follow McCormack’s logic further and nothing less than the destruction of New Hampshire’s economy and social fabric will occur should this specific protection be added to the state constitution.
Tired, predictable and alarmist.
More troubling is opposition from LGBT activists. Their criticism of the amendment involves the failure to spell out protections for the transgender community. It is difficult to fault anybody for expressing those concerns, but political and social reality makes this battle feel perilous. Any interpretation of “sexual orientation” should include the state’s transgender residents, but if and when it doesn’t, that is the time to join this battle. By fighting now, the LGBT community risks turning an amendment with wide support into an opportunity for the far right to hijack the debate.
Progress has always been about the pace of change. When the Founding Fathers crafted the U.S. Constitution, they were fully aware that the failure to address slavery was a sleeping giant. The Civil War was a steep price to pay for caution, but it’s unlikely there would have been a union to preserve had the Founders demanded an end to slavery during the nation’s infancy. Revolution is never tidy and often too slow.
There is one other change proposed in the amendment that illustrates the importance of word choice. Right now, the section of the state Constitution on natural rights begins, “All men have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights . . .”
The amendment would change the second word to “individuals” to eliminate the anachronistic use of “men” to describe all human beings. The right word, however, is “people.” Not only is it more correct, it better reflects the spirit of the natural rights section of the state’s bill of rights.
All people, regardless of skin color, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, deserve to live their lives free of discrimination. To dispute any part of that is to turn a blind eye to the nation’s long history of steady social progress.