The disintegration of civilization is now officially upon us now that Vermont has legalized gay marriage--the first state legislature to do so.
I once had the good luck to cover civil unions in Vermont for the Chicago Tribune. I'll never forget the words of Stan Baker and his partner, who began the challenge that led to the first legalized civil unions between homosexuals in the nation nine years ago.
I asked them if they still wanted to be married some day.
"We are married," Baker said.
After their civil union, the couple had a ceremony with all the bells and whistles in a local church. They showed me their wedding album. They were in love.
And now, on or after September 1, 2009, they can finally be married just like anyone else.
By a single vote, the state legislature overrode the veto of Republican Governor Jim Douglas to make Vermont the first state to approve homosexual marriage by law rather than via a court ruling. Proposition 8 failed in California in November 2009, but otherwise the momentum for gay marriage is there for all to see. The Iowa Supreme Court just made same-sex marriage legal, and the District of Columbia voted to recognize same-sex marriages within D.C. A bill that passed the state House in New Hampshire is now moving into the State Senate. Legislatures in Maine and New Jersey are also debating same-sex marriage. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has said he would sign a same-sex bill should it come before him. New York also recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states.
On the other side of the chasm state constitutional amendments or laws banning gay marriage are now in place in thirty states with more likely to come. The Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996 and signed by President Bill Clinton, continues to deny full federal benefits to homosexual couples--and to defy logic. Arrayed against those who would defend marriage is the Biblical mantra that marriage between a man and a woman is both within the natural order of things and the very best way to raise a child.
Maybe so: who knows? Aging studies used to support the claim are unconvincing at best.
The stakes could not be higher if you can believe the anti-gay-marriage forces. In a friend of the court brief submitted to the Iowa Supreme Court, Liberty Counsel--a law firm spun off from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University--argued: "Plaintiffs present this Court with a package cleverly wrapped in the mantle of liberty, due process and equal protection. Beneath the colorful packaging, however, lies a ticking bomb aimed at demolishing the very institution to which Plaintiffs claim to seek admission. Plaintiffs are asking this Court to detonate that bomb and destroy an institution that has existed for at least several thousand years 'in all or nearly all known human societies.'"
The argument grows continuously weaker over time. A ban on divorce, for example, would do a far better job of protecting marriage than limiting the institution to a man and a woman. And are not a pair of loving and stable homosexual parents better than man and wife who drink too much or otherwise send their family careening toward self-destruction? Opponents of gay marriage always make a case for the best-case heterosexual scenario without acknowledging the worst.
Those opposing gay marriage have another problem and it's a big one. States allowing gay marriage--Connecticut, Massachusetts, and now Iowa and Vermont--report no crumbling of society or detonations of any kind. The claim that gay marriage means the end of civilization is belied by what many of us see before: a homosexual population just as willing and capable of being parents as anyone else.
It's only a matter of time before the walls come tumbling down: I expect the final say will come from a Supreme Court laden with Obama nominees. The calculus is compelling to Liberal Nation: civil unions--and other legal approximations thereof--constitute a separate but equal status no more equal than separate water fountains at the height of segregation. Even civil unions per se stoke separation because they are available only to homosexuals. Opponents of gay marriage tend to point to ancient studies that always prove homosexual parenting is bad. But vociferous opponents of gay marriage will often argue just as vociferously for equal rights for homosexuals without seeing the tongue-twisting contradiction in what they propose.
In the end, the opponents of gay marriage seem to want to win a semantical point.
We remain, of course, a divided nation when it comes to our embrace of gay marriage, though a shrinking minority would deny anyone equality based on sexual orientation. All the polls of younger voters show they accept the homosexual population as their own--a very encouraging sign indeed. They not only see the future: they happen to be the future.
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