On Joining the Gay Marriage Bandwagon

by Jamison Koehler on August 1, 2011

The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals.  It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.

—            Massachusetts Supreme Court, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, 798 N.E. 2d 941 (2004)

Back in the early 1980’s, there was supposedly a list of environmentally-committed employees at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who then-Administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford wanted to get rid of.  I don’t know if any such blacklist ever existed. What I do know is that this list, if it did exist, seemed to get longer every year with more and more people claiming to have been on it.

While I don’t have the numbers to back this up, I have always suspected that the Civil Rights movement from the 1960’s has experienced a similar phenomenon in recent years; that is, that more people now claim to have been actively involved with the movement than actually were.  It may have taken some courage to speak out back then when many of the rights we take for granted today were still under debate. It doesn’t take a wit of courage to argue in their favor today.

I was thinking about all of this a couple of weeks ago when reading about the law legalizing gay marriage in New York. In typical fashion, Mirriam Seddiq was one of the more outspoken voices in favor of the new law.  She wrote that gay marriage serves as a litmus test for her:  “If you are against gay marriage, I probably don’t really like you.”

I don’t take this quite as far as Seddiq. Many people I like and respect oppose gay marriage. There are also some issues involved that I can’t even pretend to understand.  At the same time, the first time I read Goodridge v. Department of Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision on gay marriage cited above, I had the exact same feeling I have every time I read Henrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker:  He takes what I want to say and turns it into poetry. And the Goodridge decision has to be among the most beautiful and persuasive cases I have ever read on any issue:

The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society.  For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits.  In return it imposes weight legal, financial, and social obligations . . .

Many people hold deep-seated religious, moral and ethical convictions that marriage should be limited to the union of one man and one woman, and that homosexual conduct is immoral.  Many hold equally strong religious, moral, and ethical convictions that same-sex couples are entitled to be married, and that homosexual persons should be treated no differently than their heterosexual neighbors.  Neither answers the question before us.  Our concern is with the Massachusetts Constitution as a charter of governance for every person properly within its reach.  “Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code” . . .

Barred access to the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage, a person who enters into an intimate, exclusive union with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership on one of our community’s most rewarding and cherished institutions.  That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under law.

I am confident enough in this country to believe that we will eventually end up in the right place. In fact, I am convinced that future generations will look back at the debate over gay marriage today with the same puzzlement with which we view earlier battles. It is hard to believe, for example, that at one time someone must have opposed the right of African Americans and women to vote.  Would anyone ever make that argument today?

As for people who oppose gay marriage today, I don’t mean to oversimplify things and you are certainly entitled to your views based on the religious, moral, and ethnical convictions described by Goodridge.  I also suspect you will be welcome in the gay-marriage camp should you eventually come around. But let’s be real here. While you can always try to add your name to the list later, the time to come out in favor of gay marriage is today. Because now is when it really matters.

2 Comments on “On Joining the Gay Marriage Bandwagon

  1. A gay man can marry any women he wants to. Assuming she consents and neither is already married. As an unmarried heterosexual I have the same right. The Supreme Judicial Court of Suffolk County simply created a law out of thin air based on the false premises that the failure of the Commonwealth to permit or recognize same-sex marriage is somehow discrimination. It is not. It is completely ludicrous to conclude that one white person is a member of a suspect or quasi-suspect class based on who that person wants to have sex with. Does the Constitution endow a right to follow one’s heart? Isn’t that what the Supreme Judicial Court of Suffolk County is saying, ” The Massachusetts Constitution gives you the right to follow your heart.” This Court specifically foreclosed remedial legislation in the form of a civil union law that would have given civil unions the same status as marriage. The gay marriage movement is not about civil rights or discrimination. Its about a small minority using extra-constitutional arguments to impose their will on the majority.

    I do not support gay marriage. I do not discriminate against gay people. One of my co-workers is gay and HIV positive. He some times brings his boyfriend to work. I don’t care. My brother (who recently died) was gay. I don’t care about a persons sexual practices whether they be gay or heterosexual. Its none of my business. What I do care about is persons with an agenda demanding my approval. Not merely someone like Jamison, who is trying to persuade me, but rather someone who is demanding approval on pain of labeling me a discriminator or hater.

    I support the actions taken in New York because the people making the decision had the approval of their legislative representatives. It doesn’t mean I support the result, just the process. If the People of New York are not satisfied they can vote their representatives out of office. Not so in Massachusetts or California.

    In California we voted into law that marriage is between a man and a woman. A gay San Francisco U.S. District Court Judge decided that he knew better. He based his decision on the U.S. Constitution equal protection clause. The right to follow one’s heart I guess. The same is true in Massachusetts except that they didn’t merely strike down a law, they ordered the legislature to enact a gay marriage law. Where in law school was it taught that the Judicial Branch can order the legislative branch to enact a law?

    I don’t really care that much about the gay marriage debate. It’s likely that if such a law were enacted there would be no perceived difference in my life. So why don’t a just go along? I believe a marriage is between a man a a woman. Not a man and a man or a women and a women. I believe that society has a special interest in promoting traditional marriage that is not present in gay marriage. That’s it. If the opposite view point wins the debate, so be it, they haven’t yet.

    There is a line in the musical Hair ” Do what ever you want to do, be whatever you want to be just as long as you don’t hurt anyone.” Sounds good, right? I like that line. When you monkey with the Constitution you hurt everyone because Its words become meaningless. In “Through the Looking Glass”, Humpty Dumpty and Alice has a little discussion on the meaning of words:

    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory, Alice Said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t- till I tell you. I meant, “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you”.
    “But glory doesn’t mean a “nice knock-down argument”, Alice objected.
    “When I use a word”, Humpty Dumpty Said, in a rather scornful tone, “It means just what I chose it to mean- neither more no less”.
    “The question is”, said Alice, “is whether you can make words mean so many different things”.
    “The question is” Said Humpty Dumpty, “Which is to be master- that is all”.

    “Equal protection” doesn’t mean “gay marriage”. But the Supreme Judicial Court of Suffolk County and Judge Vaughn Walker have assumed the role of master.

    So to all my straight and gay friends out there, follow your heart. Just don’t force me to follow your heart. And don’t label me a hater just because we disagree.



  2. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances. .Consequently if marriage were to be redefined nationwide to include homosexuals religious viewpoints suggesting only a man and a woman can marry would come to be seen as lacking protection just as Mormon views about polygamy were in the 19th century..The First Amendment s guarantees of freedom of religion freedom of speech and freedom of conscience would be effectively abolished were the Supreme Court to affirm Walker s decision because the homosexuals newly created marriage rights would trump those of dissenters to publicly disagree..This has already been seen in cases in New Jersey and New Mexico where Christians were taken to court because they refused to participate in same-sex weddings..Judge Walker in one quote from his decision says Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harms gays and lesbians said Wendy Wright president of Concerned Women for America. He is basically saying just having religious beliefs on a subject harms someone else.. What the judge is trying to say is that if people feel guilty about something it harms them. .His logic could setup a legal rationale for the governmental to crackdown on religious opposition to homosexual behavior because it would come to be seen as subversive of good order just as racism has..Marriage unlike other institutions suggests societal sanction for a relationship and carries societal responsibilities which will force traditionalist Christian Jewish and Muslim business owners and religious organizations to recognize married same-sex relationships or face legal action if they refuse to extend marital benefits..This has already happened in the District of Columbia and Massachusetts which have redefined marriage..This would in effect mandate the assent of conscience and will to behaviors the Bible and Qur an teach are immoral which is contrary to the spirit of democratic pluralism that respects freedom of conscience..

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