Living up to Jefferson’s ideal

Published 10:38 am Saturday, April 26, 2014

by Tim Kaine
& Evan Wolfson

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the words “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, he put in place a moral standard that will always challenge us to be better people.

Our founders passionately believed in equality, but most saw no contradiction between that belief and slavery. It took 90 years and a civil war to correct that injustice.

The post-Civil War Congress that changed the Constitution to abolish slavery passionately believed in equality, but most saw no contradiction in women’s inability to vote.

It took nearly 70 years to remedy that injustice.

Today, Virginians and Americans are advancing Jefferson’s equality principle by re-thinking laws that limit the freedom to marry.

The two of us first became friends in law school more than 30 years ago. Our career and personal paths have taken different directions. But we share a commitment to making people’s lives better, their dreams more attainable and their families stronger.

And we share a commitment to Jefferson’s farsighted ideal. That’s why we look forward to the day when all loving couples, regardless of sexual orientation, can marry.

In recent months, 11 out of 11 federal judges have ruled against marriage discrimination.

In February, a federal judge in Norfolk was one of them.

U.S. District Court Judge Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen discussed Loving v. Virginia, the historic U.S. Supreme Court case that ended prohibitions on interracial marriage.

The Loving decision rightly proclaimed: “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

These favorable rulings are part of a continuing momentum across the country.

As all come to better know our gay family members, friends and co-workers, we know that they are entitled to equality and respect.

We understand why marriage means so much to them. And that’s why 59 percent of Americans and 56 percent of Virginians now support ending bans on the freedom to marry.

We act in our best traditions when we move closer to Jefferson’s equality ideal. That has been our history from 1776 to today. We will honor that history by making sure that all have the freedom to marry.

TIM KAINE, represents the Commonwealth of Virginia in the U.S. Senate. Evan Wolfson is the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, an advocacy group for marriage equality. This column originally appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.