Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gay Marriage 1, Homophobes 0

Here in Massachusetts, gay marriage is protected--and safe for the time being--thanks to a lot of hard work by lobbyists and activists. The Republicans' use of same-sex couples as a bogeyman to scare our neighbors isn't working like it once did. (Though that was the only bad news in the recent election; 7 of 8 ballot initiatives to outlaw gay marriage/civil unions passed. Only Arizona rejected a ban).

This piece is running in my local paper, and will hopefully be picked up by some other papers in the Boston area. Think about it!

Thanks for Not Voting

By Judah Leblang/2006

I’d personally like to thank each of the 109 state legislators who voted to recess last week’s constitutional convention, and who prevented a vote on the proposed ballot initiative that would outlaw same-sex marriage and civil unions in Massachusetts. While Howie Carr and Mitt Romney howl that these legislators “disgraced” their office by not voting on the initiative—which only needed 50 votes out of 200 in two consecutive legislative sessions to pass—I believe that these officials did us a service by not prolonging the agony, and by not wasting a lot of taxpayer’s time and money to continue the debate as to whether gay marriage should be legal in Massachusetts.

Whether the Catholic Church and the Focus on the Family types like it or not, the train has left the station; the horse has left the barn. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts—and the courts of several other states, along with those of Canada, Spain, Holland, etc, have declared that gay people are worthy of the same rights as heterosexuals, and that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue. Here in Massachusetts, more than 8,000 gays and lesbians have “tied the knot,” and despite the dire warnings of Governor Romney, George W. Bush and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the sky has not fallen.

Other politicians and officials have argued for an up or down vote, to “let the people decide.” I strongly disagree. As a gay man, as a member of a traditionally oppressed group, I do not want my civil rights (or lack thereof) to be determined by our governor, my neighbors, or by religious officials. Our founding fathers wisely established our republic as a representative democracy, to protect minorities from “the tyranny of the majority.” These same fathers established a system of civil marriage and emphasized the separation of church and state, principles I heartily endorse.

Some of these same self-righteous folks decry the “activist judges” in places like Massachusetts and New Jersey. Again, they argue that the local populace should decide, that the definition of marriage should be determined by popular vote. There’s a clear parallel here to the arguments put forth by the advocates of Jim Crow laws in the South. Without “activist” federal judges, black folks might not have earned their place at the table for many years; their dreams might have been deferred even longer.

Today we look upon the old miscegenation laws, which forbade the mixing of the races, and were overturned by a Supreme Court decision in 1967 as a relic of another time—an era of ignorance and fear. In a similar vein, in a generation or less, people will look back on the “defense of marriage laws” recently passed in 20+ states and shake their heads in wonder. They will look back at the fear and hate of the “other” and wonder how heterosexual marriages were “threatened” by same-sex couples who simply wanted to make similar commitments to each other.

Those 109 legislators ensured that discrimination would not be written into the constitution of our commonwealth. Instead, Massachusetts stands out as the only state in which folks like me can marry, and have our marriages declared equal in the eyes of the state. Soon, another state, and then another will join us. And that is something to celebrate. As Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe bends at the elbow of justice.”

Justice was done at the State House last week. And I’m thankful for it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice essay! And great workshop yesterday. I blogged about it... Thanks again for all the helpful tips. I'll be back to visit!

12:23 PM  

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