Sunday, March 3, 2013

Something Wonderful Is Happening

Frequent readers to this space know that I am an unwavering advocate for gay rights.  While there are many social issues that give me a deep sense of moral conflict - late term abortions, for instance, I see utter moral clarity in the struggle for equal rights for gay men and women.  I have always rejected traditionalist views that revolve around either unprovable religious theories ("that is what God intended" rings shallow for me, unless you can put him or her on the phone) or constructs lacking evidence ("children are best raised by a mother and a father" may sound nice, but a. presents an utterly false choice and b. is not born out by the evidence of the success of children of gay adoptions versus straight adoptions and/or birth children raised by gay couples versus other divorced/remarried children.)

Beyond any factual debate of the social impacts of gay marriage, gay adoption and non-discrimination laws against gay and transgendered people, this is fundamentally a moral debate.  If we believe in freedom and equal rights as fundamental American and human moral precepts, then they demand that those rights be applied without filter.

To wit, would anyone argue against black marriage or black adoption due to the fact that children raised by black couples have higher recidivism rates than those raised by white couples?  To do so would be repugnant, racist and offends our very moral fabric.

Would anyone argue that Catholics should not be allowed to adopt children or get married since Catholic children experience a higher rate of sexual abuse than those raised by parents of other religions?  To do so would be absurd and bigoted.

Such it is with gay rights.  Gay people have a right to lead the lifestyle that they choose.  They have a right to have the person that they love make critical medical decisions when they cannot.  They have a right to protect the financial well-being of those that they love.  They have the right to access to the same health care benefits as straight people.  Or at least they should.

Gay marriage has been a lightning rod issue in this country.  I have said frequently that I believe that the evolving moral compass of this country always eventually swings towards greater social justice.  But the path is not always a straight line.  It has taken us over 200 years to get to where we are with civil rights and women's rights, and there the work is certainly not done.

So it is with a level of wonder and excitement that I take in the pace at which our attitudes and laws about gay rights are changing.

Think back to 2004, a mere 9 years ago.  In that election cycle, gay marriage was a wedge issue for the right.  11 states passed ballot initiatives banning gay marriage, including blue states like Oregon and Michigan.  Karl Rove leveraged public sentiment against gay marriage to mobilize conservative voters and defeat John Kerry, who, ironically, was against gay marriage.

In fact, every Presidential candidate from both parties through 2008 had stated opposition to gay marriage.  Bill Clinton signed the awful Defense of Marriage Act during his Presidency.  Al Gore was opposed to gay marriage, as was John Kerry.  Barack Obama was a stated opponent of gay marriage in 2008.

Then the wonder began to happen.
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage, by court order.  Connecticut followed in 2008, then Iowa in 2009, also by court order.

While gay marriage was beginning to happen in the US, it was happening at the dictate of judges.  Through 2009, no state legislature had passed a gay marriage law and no pro-gay marriage ballot proposition had ever passed a state.

Then, a flurry of change happened.  Vermont legalized gay marriage in 2009 by legislative action.  New Hampshire followed in 2010.  Washington, DC did so in 2010 also.  New York followed in 2011, including passage from a Republican state house.  Legislators were showing courage and changing their stripes.

President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden showed up to the part, albeit way too late and endorsed gay marriage.

Then the voters weighed in in 2012, legalizing gay marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington by ballot initiative.  Minnesota, while not legalizing gay marriage, explicitly rejected a ballot initiative that would have amended the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

Now comes the Supreme Court Case over the gay marriage ban in California.  Amazingly, to date, over 100 national REPUBLICAN figures have signed on to an amicus brief in SUPPORT of gay marriage. While they do not include 2016 Presidential aspirants, they do include Meg Whitman, Rep. Ilena Ros-Leithan, Rep. Richard Hanna, former RNC Chair Ken Melhman and former Governors Jon Huntsman, Wiliam Weld, Christie Todd Whitman, Jane Swift and Paul Celucci.  Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson is also a strong supporter of gay marriage, although he has yet to sign the brief.

Republicans SHOULD be advocates for same sex marriage.  If they are to be the party of liberty and freedom, as they aspire to, they should never acede to having the government dictate marriage terms.  Democrats should also support same sex marriage as it supports their cause of social justice.

We have come a long way on this issue.  National recognition of same sex marriage now seems inevitable at some point in the next 20 years.  And it can't come soon enough.

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