Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Marriage Equality

Civil unions in Vermont and Connecticut.
Same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and Canada.
Domestic partnernships in various counties, cities and states across the nation.
Other countries that allow same sex marriage or allow LBGT people to serve in the military or that offer widows benefits to people who have lost their same-sex partner to death.

Now New Jersey joins the growing the list of progressive and fair-minded regions that must offer all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-gender couples who wish to make a legal commitment.

The arguments are already raging. Some are saying Civil Unions are good enough. Others point out that separate but equal is never really equal. Someone else pipes up that all marriages should be civil and religous blessings should be optional additions to the state marriage contracts. Those who view equality as a threat are already predicting gloom and doom and the fall of society because a few small northern states have decided that gay citizens are citizens none-the-less and can't be legally marginalized based on their consensual relationships.

Regardless of where you fall in the discussion, allow me to suggest that it is good for us to be having the discussion. We are considering the humanity of people often demonized without proper consideration. We are daring to suggest that "liberty and justice for all" really means ALL. We are raising the question: is bigotry ever acceptable simply because we claim it is a religious value. We are talking about important issues and in some places we are daring to experiment with broader freedom and truer equality. That takes courage and such courage should be applauded.

Some gloomy Guses said all that is righteous and decent and wonderful would perish and wither if women could vote. The same predictions were made when racial segregation was challenged. Some people predicted doom and disaster if a Catholic should ever become president. Including women, Jews, Catholics, immigrants, people of color, sexual minorities, the working class, and others into the potentially equal distribution of power and privilege has been a long struggle, and every victory has been hard won. And yet, most would agree in hindsight that making society freer and more just has not damamged our culture, it has improved it. And really, if the only thing keeping our country strong was its ability to discriminate against minorities of one kind or another, then it didn't deserve to remain strong anyway, because strength that is maintained at the expense of the powerless is abusive and obscene.

One small area at a time, equality is taking hold as we continue to march forward in the potential and promise of our shared future. This is an exciting time and I have great hope for what still may come.

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