Honestly, this should be a no-brainer. My home state of New York has the opportunity to provide equal protection for same-sex couples and some state senators are on the fence? Governor Paterson supports it and the Assembly has passed the bill twice with bipartisan support. NY Senators: This is the time to be on the right side of history.
This is not an easy article to write because I am, to be frank, really pissed that this is an issue at all. When I hear people talk about the "sanctity" of marriage while people can get hitched impulsively (sometimes compulsively) and get divorced in the blink of an eye, when commercially-driven TV shows put "holy sacred heterosexual" marriage up like a rope ladder in an obstacle course on a game show then turn the participants into tabloid darlings despite their lack of talent and charisma, the idea of marriage being anything but just another part of pop culture is just beyond me. Look - I'm totally psyched for Spencer and Heidi. They just got married. Like three times. And maybe they're actually in love. (I'd snort here, but I can't spell it.) But it was a stunt. A publicity stunt. It got them attention, it got them in magazines and it got them on a reality show. (And then they backed out. Or maybe they didn't. I can't bring myself to care.) But this is okay and same-sex marriage is not?
American marriage has become exactly that - a stunt. The decline of marriage has happened because pop culture adopted it as a stunt.
It doesn't have to be though. If proponents of "traditional marriage" really, truly believed in a romantic, genuine idea of marriage, they would realize that it has to do with the love between two people and the desire to unite as a newly formed family with special legal protections and benefits as support, even if it never grows beyond a family of two. (Perhaps even especially.)
I'm pretty sure that marriage, or at least monogamy, came before religion, but - and this is just a wild guess since I'm no cultural anthropologist, as much as I'd love to be - when spiritual beliefs were formed, believers recognized the bond felt by couples and wanted whatever entity or entities they worshipped to further support them. So they created vows and ceremonies, and marriages became a community and extended family affair. Because that's how things progress.
But since not everyone shares religious beliefs, laws were created that applied to everyone, including the legal contract of marriage. When we go get our marriage licenses, we get them from the state, not the church. If we get married inside or outside of a church, it's still only valid because the marriage fundamentally takes place through the state. Getting married in City Hall, Las Vegas, the beach or a country club is not a religious experience. It happened because the person performing the ceremony is allowed to do so by the state.
While the First Amendment supports the freedom of religions to support or oppose what they want, the law is fundamental in this country, and we are all guaranteed equal protection under the law. The California Supreme Court was actually for that before it was against it, which is why 18,000 couples were allowed to be married before Proposition 8 was passed. The decision by the same court to uphold something it had previously declared unconstitutional boggles the mind and breaks the heart. Yes, the couples who were married are still married. But where does that leave the couples who were planning the weddings they always wanted to have, or finally considered marriage once it finally became an option, only to have it taken away by a misguided, bigoted proposition?
Proposition 8 cannot happen in New York. In order for the state constitution to be changed, it has to go through the state legislature, most of which currently supports marriage equality. Right now, New York stands on the brink of partially correcting the mistake made by the California Supreme Court. The NY Senate needs 32 votes to pass marriage equality legislation, but some senators need some more convincing that everyone in their districts deserve equal protection under the law. They have the chance to look like heroes instead of, well, California.
The truly "conservative" thing to do would be to grant everyone this fundamental Constitutional right. (Conservatives and libertarians certainly like to cite that when defending the Second Amendment.) It's clearly spelled out that everyone deserves equal protection under the law, and marriage is a legal contract. Those of us who support marriage equality do not want to pass laws that affect religious institutions. As much as many of us would love to see churches take that big step into performing ceremonies for all its parishioners, it's a lot to ask. But that's why we are not asking. It's unconstitutional to do that anyway. But NY Senators need to address this misunderstanding and realize that not voting for marriage equality is putting personal beliefs before the civil rights of American citizens, local constituents - potential voters. And that is the wrong thing to do, morally and politically. (Seriously - I'm trying to help you guys. Cynical? Yes. Accurate? Yes.)
There will be growing pains. Some people will never, ever accept same-sex marriage. But the senators from my state would be surprised to know how many of even their most religious constituents either a) support marriage equality or b) couldn't really care less about other people getting married, gay, lesbian, straight, Spencer and Heidi, etc. Honestly - they don't care. People are smart enough to know that supporting gay marriage does not mean being forced to get married to someone of the same gender. And if they don't know this, well, then are those really the people whose votes you want in the next election?
And can I take a moment to mention the huge balls belonging to Theodore Olsen and David Boies , the Bush v. Gore opponents who want to bring same-sex marriage to the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court of the United States? Should this happen? Yes. Now? Maybe not. As perfect as this would be, since bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional and therefore illegal, this SCOTUS (even with Sotomayor) would never let it fly. And it would be another defeat, and it would sting worse. NY Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has said he will not bring the legislation up for a vote if he can't pass it, which is what it looks like right now. Another defeat like the one in California would be devastating, especially coming from New York. But there is still time before June 22nd, when the legislative session ends. The NY State Assembly approved marriage equality - for the second time - with bipartisan support, 89-52. Five people who originally voted "no" changed their minds. It's getting closer and it can happen. New York can be on the right side of history while more states catch up.
Because seriously New York - Iowa beat us to this one. Are you gonna let that slide?
PS. No offense to Iowa.
For more information on what you can do to get marriage equality passed in New York, please visit the Empire State Pride Agenda at http://www.prideagenda.org, where you can read about efforts in the state and find out more about contacting elected officials. Like our state senators.