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Gay Marriage: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

By November 14, 2012 3 Comments

Wedding officiant for gay marriageAfter a near constant two-year presidential campaign, the election is final over and the results are in. President Obama has been resoundingly reelected with 332 electoral votes, a 62% increase over Governor Romney’s 206 electoral votes.

For me, the country has spoken and spoken clearly.

I believe that the election is a cultural tipping point.

President Obama and a progressive agenda won – including all-important healthcare reform. Across the country conservative candidates –whether incumbents or aspiring office holders – were defeated by inclusive and less doctrinal candidates.

Progressive candidates won, including the first gay-elected senator Tammy Baldwin. Starting in January, women will hold 20 seats in the Senate, and 79 in the House of Representatives. We are sending to Congress our first Buddhist senator and Hindu representative. For the first time in Congressional history, the majority of the new House Democratic Caucus will be women and minorities.

And there’s more.

Across four state ballot initiatives, marriage equality (gay marriage) won in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. Here are the results:
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  • Maine. Question 1 on the ballot proposed to legalize gay marriage, reversing a 2009 referendum that lost narrowly. With 53% of the vote, marriage equality is now legal in Maine.
  • Maryland. Question 6 proposed approving a state law passed earlier this year legalizing same-sex marriages. With 52% of the vote, marriage equality is now legal in Maryland.
  • Minnesota. A ballot initiative to deny same-sex couples the right to marry was defeated by 51% of the state’s electorate. Marriage equality is now legal in Minnesota.
  • Washington. Voters were asked to decide whether to approve a law passed earlier this year allowing gay marriages. With 52% of the vote, marriage equality is now legal in Washington.
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The implications are game changing.

I think this signals a major sea change. Previously, 31 states had considered ballot measures on gay marriage, and all 31 had voted against marriage equality. Now four states join six others and the District of Columbia where marriage equality is the law of the land. These states join 11 other countries allowing gay marriage.

Doesn’t making gay marriage legal change the meaning of marriage?

There has been a lot of cultural noise regarding this question. The answer is No and Yes.

Why No?  First of all, this only impacts civil marriage. Religious groups, of course, are free to restrict marriage to those who conform to their beliefs. In no way do these laws force any faith community, minister, priest, rabbi, imam or anyone else for that matter to officiate at same-sex marriages. The opposition by religious groups is in my opinion a red herring,

Why Yes?  The notion of civil marriage is assuredly expanding. While there are religious voices that see marriage equality as threatening the fabric of society by altering the definition of marriage as a union of “one man and one woman,” changing marriage “as it’s always been,” history would prove otherwise.

The notion of a “traditional marriage” is more myth than reality. In the Old Testament, the Hebrews were polygamous. King Solomon had 500 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Men have been taking multiple wives in cultures throughout history including China, Africa, and among 19th century American Mormons.

Marital exclusivity and the role of love are recent developments. According to Harvard historian Nancy Cott,

[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes”]Until two centuries ago, monogamous households were a tiny, tiny portion of the world’s population, found in just Western Europe and little settlements in North America.[/blockquote]

The connection between love and marriage is equally recent.

As late as the 18th century, marriage was primarily for power, wealth and status. It is only in the 20th century with the evolution of the women’s-rights movement where women began to be regarded as marital equals and not as chattel.

With gay marriage we have a further evolution of the joining of loving, equal and committed individuals as a natural expression of hardwire sexual orientation. From the June 1969 Stonewall riots to emerging recognition of same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian Americans are beginning to take their place in the fold of U.S. marriage – with all the responsibilities and benefits of legal marriage. I am reminded of the words of the French author and philosopher Victor Hugo,

[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes”]Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come[/blockquote]

I stand with marriage equality.

I am a strong proponent of gay marriage and affirm the dignity and worth of gays and lesbians believing that GLBT equality is a civil right. I am honored to officiate at the wedding of same-sex couples.

At a post-wedding ceremony dinner for a couple that I had the privilege of marrying last month, I sat at a table with eight guests and next to an 82 year-old woman. The issue of gay marriage came up with people sharing different views. One of the guests asked our senior tablemate what she thought about the issue.

Her response was as powerful as it was simple:

[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes”]When there’s too much love in the world, then I’ll worry about gay marriage; until then, I am fine with it.[/blockquote]

Maybe her perspective is the most important one of all.

Children in the Wedding Ceremony

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