Saturday, February 18, 2012

Marriage Rights and the Tide of History

Recent events in four different states give hope to those who want to see full equal rights extended to our fellow citizens someday. First, here in (my adopted state of) California, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of marriage rights in a case stemming from our passage of Proposition 8 a couple of years ago. Shortly after that, the state of Washington (my home state) passed, and Governor Gregoire signed, a law designed to make gay marriage legal there.

Close on the heels of those two actions came pro-gay marriage votes by the legislatures of New Jersey and Maryland. While New Jersey Governor Christie predictably vetoed the NJ bill, the Maryland action is expected to eventually make to the desk of Governor O’Malley, who is expected to sign it into law.

So the long, slow slog towards general acceptance of gay marriage continues. I mean, four actions in four states over such a short period of time must mean that momentum is building. At least that’s how I read it.  

Of course, many others will see those actions not as hopeful signs of a more tolerant future, but rather as further evidence that the world is falling apart around us.  For many Americans, gay marriage as a threat to all that we middle Americans hold dear.

I used to be inclined to think like that, but I got over it. And you know what? I really think the country as a whole is getting over it.  I fully believe that the tide of history is moving towards acceptance, tolerance and empathy, and I have no doubt that gay marriage will be legal and widespread within a few years. Within a decade or so, I believe it will be not just tolerated but accepted as normal by the vast majority of Americans.

It’s the getting there that is so distressing though. I find myself wishing we could just fast forward past the anguish that is going to accompany moving from point A to point B. Seriously, wouldn’t it be great if we could just skip over the ongoing vitriol and accusations, the shouting on the 24-hour news channels, the inevitable associations of gay marriage to bestiality, polygamy and other perils, the courts alternately moving the ball forward or backwards, the motivated few pouring money and time into one side of the debate or the other, the calls for Constitutional amendments that will never pass, and the tears of the faithful as they convince themselves that life as we know it is inevitably changing for the worse.

But the battles have to be fought, and the victories won, before we get there.  Someday though Americans will look back and wonder how people of our time could have been so worked up over something as innocuous as allowing gay Americans who are in love to marry each other.  

The tide of history is moving inevitably in that direction, and I wish we could all just jump on and enjoy the ride!

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