Volume 16 • Issue 40 | March 5 - 11, 2004

EDITORIAL



Legalize gay marriage

Marriage is under threat in America. One only need visit a center for battered wives, look at the level of infidelity or note the 50 percent divorce rate to see there are problems with one of society’s most important institutions. Letting two adults who love each other get married poses no threat. Legalizing gay marriage is more likely to strengthen the institution than anything else.

Thursday, 100 gay couples tried to get married in the Municipal Building in Lower Manhattan. About 1000 supporters were outside the building near City Hall. This followed a Sunday City Hall rally, and thousands of gay weddings in San Francisco and New Paltz in the last few weeks, backed by courageous mayors, although not yet by courts, governors or state Legislatures.

It is a reasonable assumption to think that people who fight for the right to do something such as marriage will be more apt to take it seriously once they do it. Of course we may be wrong about that. Maybe gay and lesbian couples will manage somehow to surpass the divorce rate of heterosexuals. That’s really a side issue. The real question is on what moral basis can we continue to deny lesbians and gays the very real tangible benefits of marriage?

Gay marriage will be legal in Massachusetts starting May 17. Even if the state’s Legislature agrees on language banning gay marriage, such an amendment would take at least two years to pass. We know the sky won’t fall in Boston in the next two years, and we suspect the Commonwealth’s people will come to the same conclusion and ultimately decide not to codify discrimination into their constitution.

In the meantime gays in New York and around the country will no doubt go to places like Provincetown in what might be called the Summer of Marriage.

Eliot Spitzer, New York’s attorney general, says that since New York is one of 12 states that doesn’t have what some call a “marriage protection law,” gay marriages in Massachusetts will be legally recognized in New York. It’ll be up to New York’s courts to decide if he is right as they will have to decide about New Paltz and other legal challenges to our state’s marriage laws.

These legal maneuverings will play out in states across the country as well as in Washington. It is hard to imagine though, that there will not come a day when gay marriage is legal everywhere in America. The questions are how long will it take, how much acrimony we will have to go through to get there, and how foolish will some politicians look during the process?

As to the last one, President George W. Bush jumps to the top of the heap. The president’s call to use one of the greatest documents in the history of the world, the U.S. Constitution — which has continued to evolve to grant people like oh, women and blacks more rights — to use the constitution to discriminate is reprehensible.

Polls today show about two thirds of Americans are against gay marriage. Some of that opposition, however, appears to be soft, since about half are against amending our Constitution. And younger Americans are much more likely to support same-sex marriage, indicating support will grow with time.

The courts shouldn’t wait for the polls. It is their job to step in when rights are being denied, despite what the majority may think. Democracy is based on majority rule, but protecting the rights of minorities is also fundamental to democracy. Did black children in Little Rock have to wait for the Arkansas Legislature to decide they were entitled to an equal education?



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