How should we judge our elected leaders, by their inspiration or by their achievements?
It’s fine for elected officials to inspire. Inspiration is a powerful tool in politics, one that can lead to important achievements. A leader who can inspire can get a lot done. Inspiration is not, however, an achievement in itself.
Chellie Pingree, U.S. Representative for the first congressional district in Maine, gave an inspiring speech yesterday, celebrating the passage of marriage equality legislation into law in her home state.
Listen carefully to the speech, however, and there’s something important you won’t hear: You won’t hear a call to action in the U.S. Congress. Representative Pingree thanked Maine for leading the way in the cause of marriage equality in the United States, saying, “Maine moved the country one step closer to federally recognizing and protecting the right for two people, regardless of their gender, to be married.” Pingree did not, however, call upon Congress to follow with its own marriage equality legislation.
Chellie Pingree has not written any legislation to provide same-sex couples with equal marriage rights. She has not cosponsored any such legislation, either. As inspiring as Pingree’s words might be, her actions are wanting.
We send representatives to Washington D.C. to take legislative action, not just to adopt poses implying action. Representative Pingree is in a position to create a law providing the equality for all America that she applauds in Maine.
It’s inadequate for Congress to allow states like Maine to lead the way. The question of marriage equality is ultimately a federal question. The Constitution, after all, guarantees equal protection under the law, and marriage laws that discriminate against same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Only Congress or the Supreme Court can correct this injustice, and the Supreme Court doesn’t seem ready to act any time soon.
Chellie Pingree, if you really mean what you said yesterday, then it’s time to step forward and craft legislation to repeat on the national level the victory of marriage equality achieved in Maine.