Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the court decision that legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts (my blighted neighbor to the south), and this seems like a good time to take a look back on just how that came to be, and offer my own opinions (for what they’re worth) about the whole mess.
I have to admit I felt a little bit of a vicious thrill when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (their highest court) ruled that gay marriage was constitutional. For the last few years, they had had regular constitutional conventions at which the topic had come up. And each and every time, the thuggish Democratic leaders of the legislature (who run the conventions) had aggressively ignored and avoided the subject, not wanting to split their more mainstream supporters from the liberals. They were repeatedly warned that if they didn’t act one way or the other, it would end up in court. And when that happened, they found that they simply didn’t have time to find any compromise and wiggle room, and the newly-empowered gay rights factions were in no mood to compromise after winning it all.
(It might be worth mentioning here that the decision in favor of gay marriage passed the court on a 4-3 vote, and the Chief Justice, Margaret Marshall, just happens to be married to Anthony Lewis, one of the New York TImes’ leading liberal columnists.)
I heard on the news yesterday that in the year since the court decision, 8700 same-sex couples have been wed in Massachusetts — one-third of them lesbians. (We will now pause while a significant percentage of the male readership takes a moment to appreciate that image. [wistful sigh] OK, back to work.) And somehow, the world has managed to continue to exist.
A little while ago, over in another blog’s comments section, I briefly outlined my position on gay marriage. I always intended to expand on what I wrote there, and this seems like as good a time as any to actually do that.
As I’ve said before, I grew up in extremely rural New Hampshire, and was pretty much contemptuous and concerned about gay people for a good chunk of my life. Then I went to college and actually met a few of them, and found out they weren’t so bad after all. I ended up with several good friends who were gay, and eventually used my position in Student Government to help their group gain official school sanction (along with quite a few other groups — that was part of my duties). One particularly good friend, Marc, even called me “an honorary fag” as a compliment (I think).
That led to a rather odd change in perception that has lingered to this day. I no longer fear and resent gay men, because every single gay man in this world represented one less man I had to compete with for the attention of women. And every gay woman simply shared an orientation with me, so I couldn’t resent them, either. The only group I really had any reason to be concerned about were my fellow straight men. In my dream world, every single other man would be gay, and most of the women would be lesbians (because there’s only so much of me to go around). I’d have my pick of the straight women (and curious and adventurous lesbians).
With that in mind, I’m in favor of legalizing gay marriage in some way or another. I quite frankly don’t see how that (if done in a secular fashion, and no attempt is made to force churches to accept it) threatens the institution of marriage. Personally, I think marriage is under enough of an assault now (by the likes of such as Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, and Michael Jackson, just to name a few) that it would be strengthened by broadening its base a bit.
However, as much as I support the idea of gay marriage, I believe in the rule of law even more. Such a huge change in in institution that predates not just the United States, but most of Western civilization, should not be forced down the throats of people by four judges in one extremely liberal state — let alone a couple of mayors in New York and California, in open defiance of standing laws. (I so much wanted one of those couples whose marriages were annulled to sue the mayors for fraud, but it never happened.)
One of the biggest arguments conservatives put forth is the idea that liberals have used “activist courts” as a back door to changing laws, instead of working through the democratic process. And when incidents like this happen, it gives that argument a lot of credibility. I happen to agree with this — the courts’ job, according to the Constitution, is to INTERPRET the law, not re-write it, and that’s just what they did in Massachusetts. It also leads to overreactions to counter it, such as the proposed Constitutional amendment. Some may argue that such an amendment is the equivalent of using a shotgun to kill a fly, but in this case the conservatives say the fly has grown to the size of a small elephant, and a shotgun is needed.
Ideally, I’d like to see “civil unions” legislation introduced and passed in all 50 states. I don’t see that happening any time soon, but I think the ball has started rolling. There might be some setbacks, as the “too much too soon” effect provokes some backlash, but I think that’s the way it’s generally heading. We’ll get there, but we’re not there yet.
And to any gays who might be reading this: relax, be patient. It might seem dark right now, but over the decades America is growing more and more liberal, more tolerant, more accepting of your lifestyle. As one person put it: “‘the love that dare not speak its name’ now won’t shut up.” The people who used to use the terms “fag” and “fairy” and “homo” as insults while growing up are now corporate HR managers overseeing same-sex-partner benefits programs. The fruity interior decorators are now major TV stars with their own series. Lesbians basically took over daytime TV a while ago.
I have seen the future, and it is fabulous.