The gays and Muslims want their civil rights respected: Republican wedge issues are back!

During the summer recess, the Republican Party likes to fill the time with some sort of emotional, hot button issue. Or two or three.

Last summer it was “Death Panels” and other outright lies of health care reform.

The summer of 2010 has twin-billing.

First, it’s the return of the gays and defending “true” marriage. Producing this one took a lot of work. Last year, California’s Proposition 8 sought to overturn a California Supreme Court decision that the civil right of marriage could be had between two men or two women, besides the traditional kind.

People don’t understand that marriage, under small-c civil law, is a contract. There is no “sacrament of marriage” in civil law. It doesn’t exist: it’s a religious concept. So the whole civil rights issue boils down to who can make the marriage contract. Since any number of gay people want to, the state(s) should really be neutral about it. Restricting marriage contracts to just men and women marrying each other is an offense to liberty. That’s another way you can look at it. If two men or two women want to make a marriage contract, they should be able to, and the state should recognize it.

But, once again, this simple issue has everyone worked up. Why? Like I say, civil rights don’t work unless everyone’s civil rights are respected. You don’t necessarily have to like gay people or want to have your own gay marriage. You simply have to acknowledge that some people want this.

The second issue, and one that I’m not as well-read on, is something referred to as the “Ground Zero Mosque”. From what I do know, it isn’t actually at the site of the World Trade Center tragedy. And as you might know from prior postings some years ago, I even have an issue with this monicker of “Ground Zero”, as historically it’s been used to mean the detonation spot of a nuclear blast. The Trade Center was a conventional attack. Contemporary sloppy language.

So, it turns out that the mosque is not anywhere near the Trade Center site. It’s blocks away. The other problem is that it’s these people’s religion. The folks who are organizing the prayer site are doing this because Islam is their religion. It has nothing to do with 9/11. The 2001 attack was carried out by 19 young people who were influenced by a radicalized form of Islam. New York was not attacked by Islam.

It’s like saying there should be no Christian churches or Jewish temples in Hiroshima or Nagazaki, because, after all, “look at what they did!!!!!”

So to me, the Ground Zero Mosque looks like a manufactured issue. The President even having to speak out about it is somewhat of a shame, although I understand very well why he did. But the thing is, though, as I said above, the government is supposed to be neutral with respect to religion. That’s what President Fillmore told the Japanese in the letter that Commodore Perry delivered. Neutral. That’s a fifties’ value. Eighteen fifty. 1853.

Is kick the Muslims around going to become part of Americana in the 21st century? I hope not.

I think the Republican Party, in its craven attempts to court the religious vote–the vote of people who want to inject specific religion not only into the public sphere, but into public laws–goes too far.