News item: Maryland's House of Delegates, on a close vote, approved the Civil Marriage Protection Act recently. The measure, which was approved by the Senate last year, will go to the Upper House for what is hoped to be a perfunctory approval and then on to the Governor for his signature.
"I wish I knew how it would feel to be free!" When I listen to the debates in State Houses across the country about equality in marriage, the words of this civil rights song come to mind. I hear parents of gay children speak about their families. I hear children parented by those in committed same-sex relationships speak of the moral values they were raised with and watch them demonstrate their scholarship and achievements. I hear both men and women in long term same-sex unions speak of their wish to have the same legal rights for home ownership, survivorship, pension and insurance benefits, and medical decision making opportunities for their partnerships as their married neighbors currently enjoy. In short, I hear their wishes to truly be free.
One of my friends, a lesbian state legislator in Maryland, spoke about her wish that future women in their twenties would not be afraid to "come out" before choosing to lead a life of public or elective service. A male friend recently saw his long term partner hospitalized for surgery. He agonized about being allowed to freely visit him and about being able to make medical decisions should that be necessary. He came to the hospital with reams of legal documents to protect against potential refusals. Traditionally married couples do not have to address this issue, so why should society deny this right to anyone?
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, most surviving partners received benefits from their government; many of those in same sex relationships did not. Survivors in some instances lost their homes, because they had no access to pensions or death benefits received by others. Is this what a free society should permit? Some rules have since been changes to reflect these issues. The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell took away one level of sanctioned second class categorization for military service members. Repeal of DOMA should soon follow. A country which proclaims "liberty and justice for all" should not apply an asterisk to this phrase.
Some people are taught by their religion that "homosexual relationships" are antithetical to religious law. Others have been raised in homes where intolerance was the rule. Most medical authorities will agree that relationship tendencies are a built in quality as much as musical talent or hand dominance. Others state that the Creator created each of us and does not make mistakes. Who are we to question sexual or gender identities? What are the next steps in this discussion?
In Maryland many legislators from African American communities were petitioned by the churches in their areas to vote against this bill. The same pastors, who formerly led demonstrations for civil rights, were now holding rallies against the rights sought by the GLBT communities. Another legislator, whose ancestry is South Asian, also voted against this bill. How can members of any minority, people who know the civil rights history of this country, in good conscience vote to deny civil rights for any other group?
In my lifetime, we have seen people marching for African American Civil Rights, speaking out for migrant workers, others demanding fair and equal pay for women, and many protesting for peace and against war. Most likely, each of these groups had members of the GLBT communities in their ranks advocating for collective betterment of our society. It is now time for marriage equality to be passed by State Houses across this land and full legal citizenship rights granted to all families who seek it. Recently the Washington Post reported about the Supreme Court decision of many years ago (1967) "Loving vs. Virginia" which allowed mixed race marriages across the land and struck down archaic prohibitions against such unions. The article mentioned how mixed race children and marriages had increased especially over the last few decades. Could it be possible that marriage equality will be seen this way in the near future? It can be if we, as a society, make this choice.
Iowa has recalled the judges who approved the legality of that states law in 2010, so we know the negatives voices are out there.
Some rail that a same sex marriage makes a mockery of traditional marriage. Could they not see the tears of joy as couples married in NY and DC as soon as they were able to legally do so? This argument cannot be defended. Strong marriages are not conditioned upon any marriages of others, gay or traditional. From my position in life as a divorced, senior grandmother of one and mother of two children, I urge all to stop and look at this measure as a civil right and one which is long over due. Cherish each of these lives and these loves whatever form they make take, for we as a society will be richer for it. When rainbows flourish, we may find that the storied pot of gold is in ourselves and our society. Let's make this happen.