Thursday, April 14, 2005

The slow march of history

One day, gay marriage will be legal nationwide. Scientific findings that sexual orientation is primarily genetic and each successive generation's greater tolerance of gay people will see to that.

Until then, society will encounter a lot of "firsts" along the way. One of those firsts will come in a matter of days, when Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, signs a measure to allow civil unions for same-sex couples. The state House passed the bill Wednesday, 85-63, and state senators, who already approved an earlier version, will OK the new bill next week. Connecticut will be the first state to establish civil unions without a court order.

The precedent will be a powerful one. Gay-marriage opponents no longer will be able to portray the issue purely as a battle between activist judges and the "tyrannized" majority. Once Connecticut lawmakers, of their own free will, approve same-sex civil unions, opponents' blanket assertion that most Americans everywhere oppose marriage rights for gay people will be eviscerated.

States' rights advocates will be in a tough position: Do they support a state's right to govern marital benefits as it sees fit, or do they abdicate their core values and call for federal intervention to prevent an undesirable outcome? Regardless, it seems the only way that a constitutional amendment against gay marriage will escape Congress is if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act or a state gay-marriage ban in the next few years. Because the justices realize what the political fallout from such a decision would be, they almost certainly won't touch the issue any time soon.

In the next couple of decades, many more states likely will permit civil unions as a matter of basic fairness. As they do, the public will get a chance to see that civil unions won't drive up divorce rates or otherwise "harm" traditional marriages. Everyday life will belie doomsayers' warnings that gay marriage will lead society into irreversible moral decay.

After Americans hear, year after year, gay people casually referring to their unions as "marriages" and their partners as "spouses," the distinction between "marriage" and "civil union" gradually will fade and eventually will become impossible for most people to justify. Somewhere along the way, once anti-gay forces have lost the power and influence they now wield, the Supreme Court probably will extend constitutional protection to gay people's right to obtain the benefits of marriage.

The result, decades from now, will be that society either 1) applies the word "marriage" to both heterosexual and homosexual unions or 2) calls both kinds of unions "civil unions" and gets the government out of the marriage business altogether. Either way, gay people will receive equal protection under the law, and thanks to the First Amendment, religious leaders will remain free to decide which unions they will or won't recognize.

And history, as it always does, will march on unabated.

9 Comments:

Blogger Nicholas Roussos said...

Personally, I think a slow move to giving homosexuals is wrong. Growing up, I always had to tell myself that my parents and grandparents (and those of everyone else) simply didn't know any better during the civil rights movement.

Well, I know better. So, I can't stand the thought of our country discrimanating against a group of people. Unfortunately, I'm not much of a political activist. So, I won't do much about it. If there's a vote to ban gay marriage, I'll show up and vote against it.

However, it's nice to see you statnig the obvious. Homosexuals WILL have the same rights as everyone else. It'll happend sooner or later. The only difference is how tarred the conscience of our society becomes.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Good points, Nicholas. A sad truth of human existence is that often it takes a few generations for members of a society to overcome ingrained prejudices and fear. Afterward, it's easy to look back and wonder what all the fuss was about, but such is life.

The irony is that many of the most ardent opponents of gay marriage talk a good game about importance of preventing the majority from trampling on basic rights like free speech, religion, gun ownership, etc. It's easy to support those concepts in the abstract, but things get a little dicier when people are asked to defend something they dislike.

Marriage is a fundamental right based in Americans' right to the pursuit of happiness. If anyone cares to assert that it isn't a fundamental right, I encourage him or her to push for legislation abolishing marriage altogether. See how that one plays with the public.

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still think it could break either way--national acceptance or gay pogroms. Something tells me that Roy Moore will have a hand in this.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Moore almost surely will fade into the background after he loses in the 2006 governor's race. Even if the worst-case scenario occurs and he does win, the odds are excellent that he would be a one-termer.

Moore's tenure, in the long term, would amount to little more than a sad historical footnote for Alabama -- the "what the hell was that about?" kind -- much like former Gov. George Wallace's "segregation forever" speech and his Stand in the Schoolhouse Door. Nationally, Moore would achieve about as much electoral success as Wallace did: none.

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would you want to involve a state in a marriage, when that right is freely given us by God. So is the state God? Then why ask and allow the state to be a party to your marriage. Taxes is not a reason God will understand? Taxing His authority and commandment, Remove thy self from their ways and follow God's law.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Anonymous commenter, I can't quite tell whether you're for or against gay marriage, or for or against the idea of marriage licenses in general. Can you clarify? If you're opposed to gay marriage, can you offer a legal justification for barring it, or would that opinion rely strictly on the Bible?

11:25 PM  
Anonymous NoIvory said...

I live in CT and work in NYC. I'm fortunate to live in this state, and I consider myself damn lucky. We've got to speak up for what we believe in. I think society will change from an "open speech movement" and little by little people will see "us" as people. All else will follow.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

I agree that eventually we, or our children, will look back at this whole issue and think "What was the big deal?"

I recently attended a 2nd grade music program where one of the students gave a short speech in admiration of Abraham Lincoln. She talked about slavery as if it were obviously the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard of. As I watched, I thought of my wonderful gay friends. I wondered if, in one hundred years, children and society will consider denying people the right to marry as equally ridiculous. I sure hope so.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

I like the anecdote, Sara. Thanks for stopping by; I'm glad to have you aboard. I've added a link to your blog.

9:30 PM  

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