Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gay Marriage in Massachusetts @ Five

Five years ago today the first gay marriage became a reality in my home state of Massachusetts when ceremonies were performed at Cambridge City Hall.

Consider what I wrote about gay marriage some six months before those ceremonies in November 2003:

Conservatism at its best treats individuals on their own merits. Marriage (or a civil union) is only as good as the two individuals involved. There is, of course, no guarantee of success but that is true of all human endeavors. In America, having the right to fail is better than having no right at all. Those who oppose civil unions or gay marriage blindly assume that the individuals joined at the altar are inherently incompetent. This is inherently unfair. Yes, some individuals ought not to get married be they heterosexual or homosexual. That is a lesson people must learn for themselves even if it is the hard way. The government can encourage values but it cannot legislate morality.

Perhaps what saddens me most is the suggestion that gay marriage or civil unions will mean the end of marriage. What this tells me is that the people who defend the sanctity of marriage really have no faith in it at all. If a single court decision and a subsequent legislative amendment are all it takes to bring down marriage one must ask if it is an institution worth preserving. Of course, I do believe marriage is an institution worth preserving and hope to enter into marriage some day in the future. However, one does not strengthen marriage by putting down other people who wish to live in a stable, responsible environment. It comes through hard work, sacrifice, compromise, candor with healthy doses of laughter and merriment.

I still stand by this assessment. Marriage is only as good as the two people who enter into it and there is no guarantee for success be they heterosexual or homosexual. Five years later, some of the same sex couples are still together while others are not.

So here's what has happened over the past half decade. In addition to Massachusetts, same sex marriage is the law of the land in Connecticut and Iowa while Maine and Vermont will join the list this September. Of course, civil unions have been legal in Vermont since 2000. New York and Washington D.C. recognize same sex marriage from other jurisdictions but do not perform their own ceremonies.

Over the same period, thirty states have passed constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage. In thirteen of those states, the constitutional amendment applies to both same sex marriage and civil union.

So while some people might think same sex marriage is coming to a jurisdiction near you in the grand scheme of things its spread has been relatively slow. Some people accepted it from the get go and others have come around on it while others still will never accept it in any way, shape or form.

I suspect however that gay marriage will be more widely accepted five years hence. People born in 1980 and beyond, be they liberal or conservative, are more receptive to same sex marriage then their elders. Even if they don't support same sex marriage the issue of homosexuality isn't the taboo it was even three decades ago and are very likely to have friends (and possibly even family) who are gay.

With that I wish the same good luck and fortune to the same sex couples who have married here in Massachusetts that I do to the men and women in the Bay State who have entered into matrimony.

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