Eventually, marriage equality will arrive

The recent California Supreme Court ruling upholding Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage ballot measure, was a terribly unfortunate decision. The court used a tortured approach to contradict its own earlier ruling affirming the freedom to marry as rectifying an "inequality problem". It is clear the court was afraid of the public reaction had it ruled against it.

Many have said that, because a majority voted to approve the proposition, nothing more is needed. Not quite. In 1922 Oregon voters passed a measure outlawing Catholic parochial schools (it was defeated in Jackson County). The measure was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1925. Constitutions are sets of standards below which we cannot allow ourselves to go, even if a majority votes for it. Oregon has since passed statutes prohibiting "Discrimination because of race, religion, color, sex, national origin, marital status, or age "¦" in employment and housing.

These statutes are sensible laws protecting minorities from the majority. Some say that homosexuality is not innate, like race, so it is not worthy of protection. But, as shown above, this is irrelevant. We protect against discrimination because of religion and marital status, both of which are matters of choice. Besides, the testimony of the vast majority of gays themselves, and a preponderance of scientific evidence, points to it being innate. For example, speaking of brain structure, New Mexico Emeritus Professor of Psychology Victor Johnson has said, "The brains of homosexuals do differ; they tend to be midway between a man's and a woman's brain."

Others say we shouldn't change the definition of marriage. Marriage equality doesn't change the definition of marriage any more than giving women the vote in 1920 changed the definition of voting. It's a silly argument.

These are the same people who want to save "traditional marriage." What tradition? Historically we've had arranged marriages, child brides, marriages of convenience. Many of the biblical patriarchs, such as David and Abraham, had multiple wives. With our high divorce rate, spousal abuse, and family killings, gays certainly can't do anything worse to marriage than we've already done.

Marriage is about commitment. Why, in these troubled times, would we want to shut consenting adults out of marriage and a commitment to take care of each other? My wife and I welcome lesbians and gay men into marriage because it is just and because it would strengthen the institution of marriage and help stabilize society in general.

Oregon has already outlawed marriage equality with Measure 36, so we are unlikely to confront the issue any time soon. Several other states, however, have approved it: Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. New York and New Jersey are on their way. When society-as-we-know-it doesn't collapse as a result, more states will follow. Thomas Wheatley of Basic rights Oregon says they are currently focused on public education and doesn't realistically expect freedom to marry coming to a vote before 2012. Eventually Oregonians will see the justice in granting marriage equality to lesbians and gay men.

Until then, heterosexuals have time to step back from their gut reaction toward homosexuality to dispassionately consider the above arguments. It would also be valuable to try to see the issue from the perspective of someone who is gay, that their sexual desire and, yes, love for someone of the same sex can be just as deep and real as hets feel for the opposite sex. Just because it is difficult for some to imagine, doesn't make it any less true.

It will be a joyous day when my gay friends can cement their loving relationships in marriage and enjoy the same legal and financial benefits married heterosexuals have. A joyous day indeed.

David Leo Kennedy of Ashland is a former chairman of the Human Rights Coalition of Jackson County.

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