Almost three years after the Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that invented a new right of gay marriage in the United States Constitution, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta sat down Friday for an interview with CNN’s Christiana Amanpour and fielded questions about gay rights.
Amanpour framed the questions in the wider context of gay relationships, where there are clear differences between the two countries. But Kenyatta’s answers should fall four-square on the question of homosexual marriage in the United States.
“This is not an issue, as you would want to put it, of human rights. This is an issue of society,” Kenyatta said. “Our own base, as a culture, as a people. Irregardless of which community you come from. This is not acceptable. This is not agreeable …
“This is an issue, that the people of Kenya themselves, who have bestowed upon themselves a constitution, right? After several years (Kenyans) have clearly stated that this is not a subject they are willing to engage in.”
Of course, gay marriage wasn’t a subject Americans were willing to engage in either.
And perceptive Americans might have noticed their country also has a Constitution — one that’s a lot older than Kenya’s — and that for centuries no one assumed the Constitution framed by some of the most brilliant men God ever created guaranteed the right of two homosexuals to marry.
But in June 2015, Justice Anthony Kennedy and four liberals on the Supreme Court decided, suddenly, that right was there after all.
In the short time that has passed since that emotionally rich but logically bereft ruling, the results have been chaotic for liberties that are actually enshrined in the nation’s founding document.
The freedom of religion, for instance — as practiced by a Christian baker in Coloradowho declined to bake a cake for a gay couple’s “marriage” — hinges on yet another Supreme Court case due to be decided this term.
It’s important to make it clear that Kenyatta’s views about gay rights are considerably different from those in the United States — where views were much more tolerant even before the Obergefell decision.
In Kenya, according to Nairobi-based The Star, “Section 165 of the Kenyan Constitution outlaws same-sex marriages and stipulates a five-year jail sentence for any sexual practices between same-sex partners.”
There were still similar laws on the books in the U.S. regarding sodomy and the like until the high court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas. But it’s safe to say that acceptance, if grudging, of gay relationships themselves was the American standard.
But from an American viewpoint, Kenyatta’s words are definitely applicable to the debate over gay marriages.
When the issue was placed on popular ballots, traditional marriage proponents won an overwhelming majority of the contests. In 2004 alone, 11 states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman, according to a CNN timeline of the issue.
In 2006, voters in another seven states more did the same.
In 2008, the most liberal Democratic state in the country — California — passed Proposition 8, to amend the state’s constitution to ban same sex marriage (Arizona and Florida approved similar bans the same year). The popular will is clear.
Gay marriage activists like to point out they have won numerous court cases on the issue, but the point is, in a democracy the law is what society, through the electorate, says it is — not a group of well-organized activists, and certainly not a handful of appointed judges.
For the vast majority of Americans — and certainly all true conservatives — individual rights are paramount. And what happens in a home between adults is nobody’s business but theirs.
But when the Supreme Court — led by Justice Anthony Kennedy — issued the Obergefell decision, it changed the course of the conversation, and too many Christian businesses — from a giant like Chick-fil-A to a small-town Michigan farmer — have felt the impact.
A “liberal” statement on gay rights in general is clearly what Amanpour was pushing for in her interview with Kenyatta.
His answers, when applied to gay marriage, could be a lesson for the United States, and especially the Supreme Court.
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