SCOTUS should follow Murkowski’s conservative lead on gay marriage

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. (Peter Foley/Bloomberg)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. (Peter Foley/Bloomberg)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) yesterday followed Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.) to became the third Republican in the U.S. Senate to come out in favor of marriage equality. While her powerful statement was a testament to a politician willing to rethink a fraught policy position, it also is a clear expression of her conservative ideals. And that’s a good thing. One I hope will be mirrored by the Supreme Court soon, maybe even today.

“I am a life-long Republican because I believe in promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government,” she said. “I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values: it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives – while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another.” And then Murkowski made this important point:

What could be more important to the pursuit of happiness than the right to choose your spouse without asking a Washington politician for permission? If there is one belief that unifies most Alaskans – our true north – it is less government and more freedom.  We don’t want the government in our pockets or our bedrooms; we certainly don’t need it in our families.

The key part of Murkowski’s entire statement is the last eight words I pulled out above. “We certainly don’t need it in our families.”

I’ve long tired of the “government, stay out of my bedroom” argument as a way of professing a pro-gay stance. It reduces being lesbian or gay to simply a matter of sex. By including families in her statement, Murkowski puts the emphasis where it belongs. Supporting marriage equality is about bringing legal and financial stability to couples who are no different in their concerns about how to take care of themselves and their families. The only difference is that the person to whom they have committed themselves is of the same sex.

“[C]ivil marriage also touches the foundation of our national culture: safe, healthy families and robust community life. In so many ways, sound families are the foundation of our society,” Murkowski said. “Any efforts or opportunity to expand the civil bonds and rights to anyone that wants to build a stable, happy household should be promoted.”

The only way same-sex couples can be a part that national culture is if the government gets out of the way. Congress won’t do it anytime soon. But the Supreme Court could push government out of the way as early as today. While I haven’t a clue how the justices will rule, my hope is that even the most conservative among them will recognize the dignity of same-sex couples and force their government to do right by them under the law.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.
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