Nel's New Day

February 19, 2012

Marriage Equality ‘Inevitable’

What is the reason for banning same-sex marriage? One man used the excuse,  “How am I supposed to explain to my kid that two men are getting married?” So how does he handle the non-stop news of the past few weeks regarding same-sex marriage across the country!? I’ll give him a clue. When I toasted the anniversary of two lesbian friends at Thanksgiving one year, I told my two grand-nieces, ages 5 and 7, “These are two people who want to share their lives together like your mother and father did when they got married. This is their anniversary.” It’s not rocket science!

But back to all the same-sex marriage talk this year. Washington and New Jersey legislators passed bills that legalized marriage for gays and lesbians in their respective states. Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the Washington bill; Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the New Jersey one because he wants people to vote for civil rights that should be provided by the Constitution. The Maryland House of Delegates passed marriage equality legislation with a vote of 71-67; the bill is on the way to the Senate.

North Carolina and Minnesota have referenda this year on constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage; Maine will probably have one to legalize it. Rhode Island is also considering a marriage equality law, and an Illinois lawmaker has proposed upgrading its civil union law to marriage equality.

Meanwhile the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of gay and lesbian marriage. It was a very narrow ruling, stating that California could not take away a right that they had given—the people who married in California before the passage of no gay/lesbian marriage Proposition 8 are still married in California. But it’s still a ruling.

A civil unions bill escaped the Senate Judiciary Committee in Colorado by a 5-2 vote. Obviously civil unions are not the same as marriage, but they are a start, if only to have a state supreme court say that it’s unequal and then legalize marriage. At this time, 11 states have either a civil union or domestic partnership law that gives same-sex couples the same state rights as married couples have. West Virginia plans to join these states.

With over one-third of the people in the nation living in states that either legalize same-sex marriage or give couples the same rights, the Democratic Party is moving toward adding a marriage equality plank to their national platform, a move toward erasing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (banning marriage equality) with the Respect for Marriage Act. Meanwhile, federal courts will hear three DOMA lawsuits in Massachusetts this year.

When Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages eight years ago, people in this country opposed them by a 2-1 ratio. Now a slender majority supports them. Since gay/lesbian marriage in Massachusetts, state supreme courts in California, Connecticut, and Iowa have ruled in favor of them, and legislatures in another five states have legalized same-sex marriage. New Hampshire has also decided not to repeal its marriage equality law.

Michael J. Klarman, Harvard Law School professor and author of Same-Sex Marriage Litigation and Political Backlash, thinks that marriage equality is “inevitable.” According to Klarman, more and more gays and lesbians are becoming open about their sexual identity because the country is becoming more accepting. A factor that strongly predicts support for gay/lesbian equality is knowing a gay or lesbian. Most people don’t want to discriminate against those they know and love. The more people who come out, the more others know open gays and lesbians.

Young people are another reason that same-sex marriage is inevitable, Klarman said. One study showed a 44-percent gap between the youngest and the oldest survey respondents regarding gay/lesbian marriage. In 2011, 70 percent of those between ages 18 and 34 supported same-sex marriage.

Even conservatives see the legalization of same-sex marriage as inevitable. Less than a year ago, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on a Christian radio program that “it is clear that something like same-sex marriage … is going to become normalized, legalized, and recognized in the culture.” He continued, “It’s time for Christians to start thinking about how we’re going to deal with that.”

Klarman agrees with many others that there will still be a great deal of fighting about the issue, but let’s hope that he is right, that same-sex marriage is “inevitable.”

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