Gay marriage tide won’t be turned back

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After two days of Supreme Court arguments on a pair of gay marriage cases, many observers have their doubts that the high court will issue sweeping decisions that would make marriage equality the law of the land.


Instead, the verdict may be some form of split decision that will give both sides something to celebrate, as well as something to complain about. There are indications that the justices might well restore gay marriage rights in California without extending those rights to other states where gay couples cannot yet be legally wed, but also strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits legally married gay couples from receiving federal benefits currently enjoyed by heterosexual couples.


But whatever the decisions may be, there remains the inevitability that gay marriage will one day be legal from sea to shining sea, perhaps through a single future court decision or through state-by-state legislative action or direct referendum votes. Polls show a fairly rapid shift from broad opposition to gay marriage not that many years ago to majority support today, and those who remain in the “no” camp tend to be closer to the grave than the cradle.


We believe that denying equal treatment to gay Americans is the equivalent of doing the same to people from “different” racial backgrounds or those with religious affiliations that perhaps are not in the mainstream.


Of course, the most common argument we hear against gay marriage is that it somehow would tear down the institution of traditional, “Biblical” marriage. Heterosexuals have certainly done enough damage to the institution to make that argument moot. If these traditionalists are that concerned about protecting marriage, perhaps they should be campaigning for laws to make divorce illegal. But we don’t see that happening, do we?


There also is the argument that it is important to protect traditional marriage because it encourages the production of offspring, and gay people cannot procreate in the common fashion. In that case, couples who have no intention of having children, the infertile and older folks should likewise be prohibited from getting hitched.


Then there’s the assertion, which has little if any legitimate support in respectable research, that gay couples should not be able to adopt children because they cannot provide the same quality of upbringing that a traditional mother and father can. Again, we have seen the wonderful job that many mom-and-pop couples have done with child rearing, and we are not convinced that a committed gay couple could not do just as well, if not better.


We also hear that gay marriage is not “natural” and that being gay is a “lifestyle choice.” Our take on that is that only the shallowest thinkers among us still believe that being gay is a decision.


When one strips away all these half-baked arguments against gay marriage, we are left with perhaps the most likely reason some fight so vehemently: They find the idea “icky,” and it makes them uncomfortable.


That’s simply not a good enough reason to deny an entire class of people the rights they are due.


There was a time when nearly all gay people lived in the shadows in this country, but fortunately many are now comfortable enough with how they think their family, friends and society would react that they can be “out” and proud. The next step is for them to be treated, under the law, exactly the same as those who were born “straight.”


We look forward to the day when we can look back on prohibitions against gay marriage as being every bit as regretful and foolish as the days when women could not vote or when black Americans had to use separate bathrooms.


Like those other civil rights fights, this battle has been long, but it will be won, and we hope it’s sooner rather than later.


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