More than 60 years ago, my parents came to America because of a dream they had for their children. They wanted us to grow up in a country where we could live freely and where we would be treated equally under the law.
For more than 200 years, this has been the dream of America, a dream that is embodied in our Constitution. And on June 26, 2003, that dream was made reality for millions of Americans by the United States Supreme Court.
On that summer afternoon, the Supreme Court declared an “equality of treatment” for Americans as it struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy law, declaring once and for all that private consensual activities between adults are just that—private.
As a gay American, I could breathe a sigh of relief. My parents dream came to fruition for me and millions of others like me. From that day forward, we could love without a fear of persecution under the law.
That day was historic in defining liberty by our Supreme Court. But the court’s decision was not unanimous. There were some on the bench who disagreed—who felt that our Constitution does not apply equally to all Americans.
From the bench, Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the three dissenting justices, screamed that the court was wrong. He claimed that gay and lesbian families were not protected equally under our Constitution—and that laws discriminating against us are not only acceptable, but constitutional. Scalia accused the other justices of succumbing to the “homosexual agenda.”
On a day that should have given me much hope, I felt disturbed and unsettled by Scalia’s vile rhetoric. His alarming and vicious comments struck me to my core. It was beyond my comprehension that this man, given the honor of upholding our most sacred beliefs, could relish using such words that affected so many Americans. But I too comfort in the fact that Scalia was in the minority; six of nine justices ruled in favor of equality.
But now, that could all change.
The next president will have the opportunity to appoint easily as many as three new judges for the Supreme Court, enough to overturn Lawrence v. Texas and countless progressive gains. Pres. George W. Bush has publicly declared that he wants more judges like Scalia on the bench, and that if he is given the chance, he will appoint judges to the Supreme Court who agree with Scalia’s right-wing ideology.
Bush wants a Supreme Court that will not come to the defense of the liberty of gay Americans. He wants to tip the balance of the court and turn back the clock on the rights so many Americans have fought so long to achieve.
This November, the Supreme Court is on the ballot. Our Constitution and our liberty are at stake. But luckily, even as we face a fundamental choice in this election, we have an opportunity to make certain that Bush’s vision is not realized.
The choice for liberty and equality this November is John Kerry. Kerry is the only candidate who believes that the Court should defend and uphold the liberty of all Americans. He will appoint justices who will base their decisions on the Constitution, not their own personal right-wing ideology. And he will never abuse our Constitution for political gain.
My parents came to this country to make sure their children would have a fair chance. And now that I’m a mother, I have the same dream for my son that they had for me—that my son live his life freely and be treated equally under the law.
John Kerry will appoint men and women to the Supreme Court who will ensure that my dream for my son remains a reality.
Roberta Achtenberg is senior vice president for public policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Appointed assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development by Pres. Bill Clinton in 1993, Achtenberg was the first openly gay person confirmed by the United States Senate for a major executive branch post.