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We the people

Who decides what’s best for Arkansas? by JASON RAPERT SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | June 1, 2014 at 2:29 a.m.

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave a two-minute speech at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in which he uttered a few words capturing the essence of the Declaration of Independence. At the end of his great message he declared a powerful truth about our nation, stating "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." I still believe in that concept of American representative democracy and I believe the current culture war on marriage between one man and one woman is a symptom of the degradation of the fundamental principle that is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution--that our government is based upon "We the People."

Over the past few days, our great state of Arkansas has been thrust into the national spotlight due to the unilateral decision of Circuit Judge Chris Piazza of Pulaski County, proclaiming that he alone knows what is best for Arkansas when it comes to holy matrimony rather than the 750,000 voters who passed the Arkansas Marriage Amendment in 2004. Judge Piazza decided that 750,000 individual citizens of our great state, representing 75 percent of the electorate at the time, were wrong, and their sense of morality and beliefs no longer mean anything in Arkansas. In reality, he rendered a judgment essentially saying that the will of an overwhelming majority of the people in our state means nothing and their votes do not count.

What are Judge Piazza and activist judges like him across our country really saying to Americans who represent the overwhelming majority of voters in individual states that have seen their laws struck down and provisions of their state constitutions unilaterally torn from the laws of our land related to marriage? I believe they are saying they no longer respect the values, traditions and mores of the majority of the population in our nation and that they singularly have the right to impose the will of a small vocal group upon the rest of our state and the nation.

Before making my case in defense of the right of our state to adhere to the will of the people and uphold Amendment 83, commonly called the Arkansas Marriage Amendment, I must take a moment to correct an error which I cordially pointed out to the editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and asked for a correction. The newspaper declined to admit its error and offered instead for me to write a guest article in response to its column, which is being offered to readers now.

On May 21, 2014, in the editorial column, the paper erroneously reported that I proposed the impeachment of Judge Piazza. It said "It was back to the bad old days in Arkansas last week ..." claiming that I was proposing the impeachment of Judge Piazza. To my horror, the newspaper took the error even further by comparing me to elected officials in the era of segregation, inferring negative feelings that any reasonable person should have about the unfair treatment of African Americans during what it called "the Furious Fifties" of the 20th Century. A horrible tactic when used by anyone, especially our state paper. Sadly, it is a tactic usually employed by liberals for anyone who opposes same-sex marriage or the policies of President Obama.

The paper now knows that I did not commence the impeachment discussions about Judge Piazza and was actually contacted by a few members of the House of Representatives who asked my opinion--as was reported in a story published in the City Wire out of Fort Smith. My official statements have been that the issue of impeachment is entirely a matter for the House members to consider and while not being sure that the issue warrants impeachment, I certainly understood the outrage of legislators and the vast majority of Arkansans who believe that the judge overstepped his authority by striking down the Arkansas Marriage Amendment.

If Piazza were ever impeached, I would be sworn in to hear testimony in the Senate. I believe that will not happen, but he will likely earn the distinction of prompting an initiated act by citizens to create a constitutional amendment allowing judicial recall in Arkansas. The voters of Arkansas that he has already disenfranchised will ultimately decide that issue; I would like to see him overturn that vote.

I mistakenly thought that all reporters continued to use the practice of "measuring twice and cutting once" to prevent misquoting anyone or falsely accusing others. Unfortunately they do not. This led to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette quoting from other sources that misrepresented my statement and it never bothered to actually contact me to verify my position. That initial error led to the situation going even further and ultimately to their making the comparison of me unfairly to times in our troubled past that I would never personally condone. Though I believe Paul Greenberg and others did not intentionally mean to misquote me or erroneously characterize my official actions, I am disappointed that news organizations are not taking the time to verify sources in a day and time when the news media has too often become a tool of political opponents rather than a fair and balanced arbiter of truth.

My official actions are well documented on this matter. In response to public outcry, I authored a legislative resolution asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to uphold Amendment 83 and voicing the outrage of Arkansans who were disenfranchised by the judge's judicial activism. The resolution had 56 legislators in support and a motion to suspend the rules to hear the resolution passed overwhelmingly on a voice vote. Sadly, the actual resolution was never voted upon due to actions by Rep. John Edwards during the Arkansas Legislative Council proceedings in which he as chairman either purposely or through misunderstanding procedure circumvented Legislative Council rules and prevented the resolution from ever being considered. This matter has been documented and will be discussed. The resolution will be introduced again when Democrat same-sex marriage proponents cannot prevent it being considered, and I predict it will pass with a substantial legislative majority.

As for the context of the debate raging in our nation and now in Arkansas over same-sex marriage, there are a few things that must be said.

First, honoring the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman whether out of a sense of morality or based upon one's religious faith does not mean that a person hates homosexuals.

Second, I do not personally hate anyone who has chosen a homosexual lifestyle and I believe they should be able to live their lives in peace like anyone else.

Third, marriage is integral to the concept of family, and research shows that children are given the best opportunity for well-rounded social development when they are raised in homes with a mother and father. I have read that children raised by their mother and father are less likely to live in poverty or to drop out of school and are more likely to finish college. It is also reported that they have a lower risk of becoming sexually active in their teen years as well. Natural marriage between a man and woman should be protected for the best interests of children and family.

Fourth, the tactics of intimidation toward those who object to same-sex marriage, including comparisons to racism, are unfair, unwarranted and shameful. When I was invited to join over 100 African American pastors on the steps of the Arkansas Capitol just a few days ago as they took a public stand for marriage between one man and one woman, that argument began to fall completely apart. Many African Americans believe in the God-ordained sanctity of marriage and are offended by the comparison made to racism. The reason activists like to make the association with racism is to demonize all those who want to protect the institution of marriage upon which the family unit is built in our society.

I have personally been the target of this tactic due to my stance on marriage and also as the sponsor of the Arkansas Heartbeat Protection Act. Many people have written about these baseless attacks orchestrated by The Nation, Rachel Maddow and Max Brantley. Even Paul Greenberg called them on this dirty tactic.

The attempt by liberal extremists to destroy the reputation of conservative Christians who uphold life and marriage between one man and one woman has become all too familiar to Americans. Hence the attempts to destroy Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and the Benham brothers who had their show canceled recently. They are only two prime examples of the hateful tactics of intimidation that the radical homosexual lobby and pro-abortionists are using today. These activists have sued florists, people who make wedding cakes and photographers who refuse to take part in same-sex marriage ceremonies because it is against their religious beliefs. They didn't try to stop same-sex couples from doing what they pleased; they just simply said we don't want to participate.

Shockingly, activist judges have now joined into these awful efforts of intimidation and ruled against these people who simply didn't want to participate in same-sex marriage activities. What happened to freedom in America? What happened to the First Amendment where these people were concerned? The America I was taught to honor and respect would never force Christians to do anything that violated the tenets of their beliefs. We have freedom of religion in this nation, not freedom from religion altogether.

The homosexual movement that represents only 3 percent of the population in our nation doesn't want just the freedom to live with a partner of their choice--they can do all that right now. The homosexual lobby wants to seemingly "force" every American to agree with them or suffer the consequences: having their reputation destroyed, losing jobs, having contracts canceled, seeing their businesses boycotted, risk being portrayed as a bigot simply for believing in the sanctity of marriage as ordained by God throughout the Bible and as honored for centuries by humankind and through the law itself.

What group is truly discriminating against another? It is Christians in particular in our nation that are being targeted and threatened if we do not submit to this radical cultural movement that destroys the foundation of families in our country. It is very interesting that Christians are targeted so heavily with the venom of the homosexual lobby because most all other major faith traditions do not embrace homosexual marriage either, including Islam.

In the end, the most egregious aspect of what is going on in America today is that the majority vote and will of the people in our nation is being trampled by activist judges who have taken it upon themselves to rewrite laws duly passed by legislatures across this country and even overturn constitutional amendments passed by overwhelming majorities of voters in states all across our nation. What good is American representative democracy as articulated by Abraham Lincoln as a government "of the people, by the people and for the people" if the people are disenfranchised by elitist judges who unilaterally say "your votes do not count"?

I do not respond to every detractor or every slur that is hurled my way and I have never publicly written about the fact that last year my own family received death threats as a result of the vicious attacks against me for trying to protect the lives of innocent babies. When abortion advocates realized that they could not kill the Arkansas heartbeat bill, they decided to "kill" the man through character assassination. When the Arkansas State Police advise you that you have credible death threats against you and your family, you realize how horrible the politics of personal destruction can really be. These tactics have gone entirely too far and it is time for everyone to realize that. The radical homosexual lobby that has intimidated individuals, corporations, business owners and churches to submit to their wishes should be ashamed, and activist judges who have trampled the majority will of the voters in states all around this country should be ashamed as well.

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." This is meant to ensure that the federal government only has powers that were specifically given to it "by the states" and that all other powers are reserved to the states and to "the people." The definition of marriage is a power reserved to the states and always has been. It is past time that Americans wake up and reassert their rights as free men and free women and restore the balance of power that our founding fathers envisioned.

A country that allows the majority vote and will of the people to be overruled when it comes to marriage will quickly take away other rights of the people as well. Do not take my word for it. Allow the words of President Thomas Jefferson to resonate: "I know of no safe depositor of the ultimate powers of [a] society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power."

I respond here today not only for myself but for every God-fearing American that has worked and toiled to make this nation great and keep us free. The majority of the population in any state has the freedom to vote for laws, support laws and live under laws that they themselves decide by majority vote are right for their states and that they wish to abide by. An America where a Christian is not allowed to abide by his or her own convictions, where states are forced to submit to the will of the same-sex marriage lobby when the majority of their population believes in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, and where laws and constitutional amendments are thrown out by elitist judges is not the America our great founding fathers envisioned. In fact, it is the opposite.

Our forefathers rebelled against the tyranny of a king and country that oppressed their freedoms and forced them to live under the will of an elite minority. They never meant for the judicial branch of government to usurp "we the people" who are truly the arbiters of power in our nation.

Finally, for all those that regularly malign me for honoring my faith in God--including this newspaper's own John Brummett--do not forget that our hallowed Declaration of Independence affirmed that we are a nation founded firmly on Judeo-Christian principles as well. Within the powerful words and phrases of the Declaration signed on July 4, 1776, specific references were made to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" that we are endowed by our "Creator with certain unalienable Rights" stating that our founders appealed to "the Supreme Judge of the World" and they closed stating "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

If America intends to remain free, we must never reject the fundamental principles and declarations of our founding fathers and we must not reject the hand of Divine Providence either. I agree with President Ronald Reagan who said, "If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under."

Our founding fathers knew that for freedom to flourish and the great American experiment of representative democracy to function as empowered by "the people," the people themselves needed a solid moral compass to urge them to do right and live peaceably with each other. I leave you with the following quote:

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens ... Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?"--George Washington, Farewell Address

You see, I am not the only legislator, elected official or statesman to respect the Providence of God Almighty. I will continue to honor God, stand up for the values of Arkansans who elected me to office and oppose those who believe that "we the people" are not to be trusted with governing ourselves.

Throwing out the will of 750,000 Arkansas people who went to the polls and voted for the Arkansas Marriage Amendment is not how representative democracy was meant to work. Judge Piazza does not have the power to act as a "super legislator" and make laws from his judicial bench. I hope and pray that the Arkansas Supreme Court will restore honor to the judiciary by overruling Judge Piazza and restoring the full force and effect of the Arkansas Marriage Amendment as voted on by the people of our state. I humbly rest my case.

Jason Rapert of Conway is a state senator representing District 35.

Perspective on 06/01/2014

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