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Posts Tagged ‘Gay marriage’

Two weeks ago, relatively quietly, the world changed in DC. On Wednesday March 3 the government of the District of Columbia began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The video below is of the first same-sex wedding in DC, a week later.

DC has joined five states in allowing same-sex couples to wed: New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut.

This is the civil rights issue of our time, but the change it brings is barely noticeable. It’s almost amazing how completely non-disruptive it is, even to those most opposed to it. As despicable as it was segregation was a way of life, and giving up a way of life and the set of traditions and beliefs around it is very difficult for many people.

Those opposed to gay marriage however are defending a way of life only in their minds. As the five existing states in America have shown, nothing happens when you allow same-sex marriage other than people of the same sex getting married. Heterosexual marriage continues as normal. Even for those most opposed daily life continues exactly as it did before. They are required to give up no traditions at all and it can only be a matter of time before most realize that the only belief they are giving up was a mistaken one: that gay marriage in some way threatened heterosexual marriage.

I feel fairly confident that most of those casually opposed to gay marriage will get over it pretty quickly. It will be hard to continue to make claims about the destruction of the institution of marriage when the institution continues as before, if not stronger. It’s harder to be scared of something that happens routinely around you without any negative repercussions. And as the states and jurisdictions which allow gay marriage slowly increase in America, it will become harder and harder to make a credible argument against it anywhere.

6 countries currently allow gay marriage: Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Sweden. I suspect the institution of marriage is getting along just fine there as well.

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Gay marriage is the civil rights issue of our times, the clearest and most blatant example we still have of institutionalised discrimination against a group of peope in our society. In America the battle is primarily being fought state-by-state as progressive chafe at the lack of progress at a Federal level, where the noxious ‘Defence of Marriage Act’ waits to be repealed.

This has been a one-step-forward, two-steps-back week for same-sex marriage, following in a year of mostly set-backs, starting with the passage on November 4 last year of Proposition 8 which rolled back gay marriage in California and then seeing the same happen in Maine last month. Against the strong hopes of many the New York State Senate on Tuesday rejected a bill already passed in the lower house which would have legalized gay marriage. This is a particular blow given the progressive tilt of New York and the $1 million spent by pro same-sex marriage organizations over the past year. Despite the confidence of many it wasn’t even close, going down 38-24.

There was some good news this week though and I’m thrilled to say it was out of Washington DC. Also on Tuesday the DC Council voted 11-2 to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. This is the first of three steps towards full legalization. A second vote is needed in two weeks, likely to pass by the same margin, and then there will be 30 days of Congressional review (because DC doesn’t have true democracy) but with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress it would be very unlikely to be blocked.

This vote has come after months of heated debate. Anti-gay marriage groups (led by the Catholic church) are still advertising on buses in the District but have lost their push to subject same-sex marriage to a public referendum. On November 17 the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled that the issue could not go for a public vote as it does ‘not present a proper subject of initiative because it would authorize discrimination prohibited under the Human Rights Act (“HRA”).’

Quite right too, fundamental human rights should not be up for a vote. Discrimination is unconstitutional (not to mention immoral), whatever the majority might feel at this moment in time. This, by the way, is why Australia needs a Human Rights Act.

The next battleground seems to be New Jersey where there is a push for the Democrat-controlled legislature to vote on same-sex marriage within the next few weeks, before the Republican Governor-elect takes office in January.

One step at a time, this issue will go the right way, the arc of history bends towards equality. The bigots are standing against this tide, but they will lose. To see the truth of this you only need to look at this graph:

Moreso even than the normal left-right or red state/blue state divides support for same-sex marriage is determined by age. Even in the most progressive state, Massachusetts, the 65+ age group is less supportive of same-sex marriage than the 18-25 year-olds in the most conservative state, Alabama. It really is only a matter of time. But that’s no cause for complacency. Every day that some people are denied rights afforded to the rest of us due to their sexual orientation is a tragedy and a crime.

If you’re in the US you can get a free I love love sticker (seen at the top of this post) from Credo Action here.

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I found this video so moving. This is the heart of the gay marriage debate – the right of all people to be equal, to have their love honoured and recognised the same as anyone else. Phillip knows that giving these rights to others not only does not threaten straight marriage but ennobles it, and the country. Freedom is only real when it is shared equally. What on earth could those who oppose equal rights say to this?

Transcript:

Good morning, Committee. My name is Phillip Spooner and I live at 5 Graham Street in Biddeford. I am 86 years old and a lifetime Republican and an active VFW chaplain. I still serve three hospitals and two nursing homes and I also serve Meals on Wheels for 28 years. My wife of 54 years, Jenny, died in 1997. Together we had four children, including the one gay son. All four of our boys were in the service. I was born on a potato farm north of Caribou and Perham, where I was raised to believe that all men are created equal and I’ve never forgotten that. I served in the U.S. Army, 1942-1945, in the First Army, as a medic and an ambulance driver. I worked with every outfit over there, including Patton’s Third Army. I saw action in all five major battles in Europe, and including the Battle of the Bulge. My unit was awarded Presidential Citations for transporting more patients with fewer accidents than any other [inaudible] I was in the liberation of Paris. After the war I carried POW’s back from Poland, Hungary, and Yugoslavia, and also hauled hundreds of injured Germans back to Germany.

I am here today because of a conversation I had last June when I was voting. A woman at my polling place asked me, “Do you believe in equal, equality for gay and lesbian people?” I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me. Finally I asked her, “What do you think our boys fought for at Omaha Beach?” I haven’t seen much, so much blood and guts, so much suffering, much sacrifice. For what? For freedom and equality. These are the values that give America a great nation, one worth dying for.

I give talks to eighth grade teachers about World War II, and I don’t tell them about the horror. Maybe [inaudible] ovens of Buchenwald and Dachau. I’ve seen with my own eyes the consequences of caste systems and it make some people less than others, or second class. Never again. We must have equal rights for everyone. It’s what this country was started for. It takes all kinds of people to make a world war. It does make no sense that some people who love each other can marry and others can’t just because of who they are. This is what we fought for in World War II. That idea that we can be different and still be equal.

My wife and I did not raise four sons with the idea that three of them would have a certain set of rights, but our gay child would be left out. We raised them all to be hard-working, proud, and loyal Americans and they all did good. I think it’s too bad [inaudible] want to get married, they should be able to. Everybody’s supposed to be equal in equality in this country. Let gay people have the right to marry. Thank you.

Maine votes on Proposition 1, which would overturn the state’s law allowing same sex marriage, on November 3. The current polling is 48% in favour, 48% opposed. Go to No on 1: Protect Maine Equality for more information.

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