Dunlap and the herd:
We can learn from this protector of human, civil rights

Some people call Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap a “nut,” some accuse her of political arrogance, and some say she was breaking the law by trying again to make it possible for homosexual couples to get marriage licenses in her county.

Her opponents include the Democratic governor, the Democratic attorney general, county commissioners, legions of fundamentalists, and most Republicans including the President. In my book, they are all dead wrong.

Arrayed against a tyranny of the majority, Victoria Dunlap also has the admiration and respect of tens of thousands of New Mexicans, me included.

She has the spine and grit to go against what most generously can be called the mob mentality of a confused majority.

Dunlap was slapped back fast. Equal rights for gays is still being denied in Sandoval County. And Dunlap may never hold public office again. But her effort to take the issue of same sex marriage out of the court of public opinion and put it into courts of law and the Legislature is wholly commendable.

Let's see how many people in power would actually sign their names to laws that disenfranchise thousands of New Mexicans, keeping them in the status of legal pariahs and having grossly hurtful impacts on their family members.

Legally protecting the human and civil rights of people in same sex relationships is one of those bellwether issues. I can't think of anyone I know of, if they thought about it carefully, who would want to associate themselves, in any way, with homophobic practices that span a spectrum of injustices, from forcing people to wear pink triangles to gay bashing of the most violent sort.

This local mess falls into the tragic political strategy of using homophobia to shore up votes by proposing a Constitutional Amendment forbidding same sex marriage.

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are legal instruments protecting, by both the letter of the law and its spirit, the liberty and fairness to which every American has the right.

The Constitution is not a document of exclusion but one of inclusion. And the law of history is abundantly clear about what happens when the tyranny of the majority allows a minority to be persecuted: If it happens to one group, one person, one minority, it can, and probably will, eventually happen to you and yours.

That is the basis of the practical logic of the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection under law to everyone.

This law of history is part of the ethical foundation of the Constitution. As Rev. William Sloane Coffin has said, “Homosexuality is not a big issue for Biblical writers. Nowhere in the four Gospels is it even mentioned.” Then in the spirit of the New Testament, he asked “Shouldn't a relationship be judged by its inner worth rather than its outer appearance?” Who could answer no to such a question?

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
March 23, 2004