In 1854 Elizabeth Cady Stanton addressed the New York legislature, saying:
[I]f you regard marriage as a civil contract, then let it be subject to the same laws which control all other contracts. Do not make it a half-human, half-divine institution, which you may build up but cannot regulate. Do not, by your special legislation for this one kind of contract, involve yourselves in the grossest absurdities and contradictions.
Her statement, in response to the deplorable inequities women endured in her day, is pertinent today as the nation struggles with marriage equality for same-sex couples. Lucid and direct, her words, spoken more than 150 years ago, are more progressive than those of our modern-day politicians. These politicians, swayed by pressure from the religious right, are ignoring basic justice for political gain.
President Obama states that his views on same-sex marriage are "evolving." This is insulting. He is undergoing no such evolution. He is waiting until the climate allows for a politician to support same-sex marriage without negative repercussions in the voting booth. While he bides his time to ensure his electability, my partner and I continue to be second-class citizens. One might think that this man would recognize injustice. His own parents, an interracial couple, conceived him at a time when marriage between two people of different races was illegal in many states. Perhaps his "evolution" would accelerate if he listened to Elizabeth Cady Stanton: "[W]e ask for all that you have asked for yourselves in the progress of your development ... simply on the ground that the rights of every human being are the same and identical."
Republican presidential candidates are more forthright with their opinions, but those opinions are based on ignorance or prejudice. Rick Santorum states that gay relationships do not "benefit society." He believes that children must have a married mother and father and that "traditional" families provide the healthy and nurturing bedrock of American society. If I followed his absurd logic, I would abandon my partner of 16 years and marry a woman. If my wife and I had a child, that child would end up in an environment with no emotional bond between the parents, a situation that would surely lead to misery and anger as the years of that loveless marriage progressed. This is preferable to a loving environment that my partner and I could offer a child?
Newt Gingrich signed a pledge of support for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. This is the same Newt Gingrich who wanted to redefine his own second marriage by asking his wife to allow him to keep a mistress. The hypocrisy is astounding.
The 2008 Republican platform called for the preservation of traditional marriage because, they stated, "our children's future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage." The GOP would have us believe that marriage is an unchanging tradition that has existed for millenia. But this is not true. The Bible, which many Republican candidates use to justify their opinions, is filled with men with multiple wives and concubines. Abraham, David, Jacob, and Solomon all prove this "tradition" to be false. So, please, do not use tradition and custom as weapons against my wish to marry my partner. "The tyrant, Custom," said Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "has been summoned before the bar of Common Sense. His Majesty no longer awes the multitude -- his sceptre is broken -- his crown is trampled in the dust -- the sentence of death is pronounced upon him."
I applaud the overturning of Prop 8 in California this week. We are inching closer to justice, at least in part of the country. However, the topsy-turvy history of Prop 8 is filled with the "grossest absurdities and contradictions." Must we be tortured for years to come as this same ridiculous situation slowly plays out 49 times in 49 more states?
Justice in our country is based on equality for all. Our nation separates church and state, so religious objections to civil marriage have no pertinence. I am tired of waiting while politicians posture and pontificate. I am inspired by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, not our current leaders. She reminds us that "The thinking minds of all nations call for change. There is a deep-lying struggle in the whole fabric of society; a boundless grinding collision of the New with the Old ... [We] demand at your hands the redress of grievances -- a revision of your state constitution -- a new code of laws."