Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Gay Marriage Now All About Politics

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, April 1, 2013


By Bill Gouveia

A decade ago you could barely find a politician who would publicly favor gay marriage. Today, elected officials are jumping on that bandwagon faster than Pink Hat Red Sox fans hop on board in the middle of a pennant race.

The former President who signed the Defense of Marriage Act now says it should be repealed. The current President has come out in favor of gay marriage and has refused to enforce federal rules designed to prevent it. And recently the conservative Republican senator who was almost the party’s vice presidential candidate came out in favor after his son came out about his homosexuality.

The United States Supreme Court is deciding a case that could make gay unions legal across the country. Yet judging from the tone and content of their public questions (not always a good barometer) it seems they are merely trying to delay the inevitable until they believe more of the country is willing and able to accept it.

In other words, the battle over gay marriage is – at this point – pretty much all about politics.

That is hardly a new or shocking revelation, but the obviousness of it now is so much clearer than it was just five years ago. That is sad, because for the people directly affected by it this has never been about politics. For them it is about love, life, commitment, and equality.

Gay people want the right to marry their same-sex partners and have it recognized by the government. They want the right to inherit, the right to medical visitation and decisions for spouses, and for their families to have rights equal to those given to heterosexual families.

Quite honestly, it doesn’t seem like a lot to expect. And it is rather amazing they even have to be asked for anymore.

This is not a religious issue. America has no national religion. Allowing gay civil marriages does not damage any specific faith, other than perhaps some religion’s sensibilities. No one is being forced into any kind of marriage, homosexual or otherwise.

Yet our leaders have approached this basic civil rights issue as though it was a newfangled nuclear weapon. Justice Anthony Kennedy said during the recent proceedings, “We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more.” And Justice Samuel Alito asked of pro-gay marriage lawyers, “You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones or the Internet?”

These justices are selectively utilizing history. Gay marriage may be relatively new, but gay people and gay couples have been around almost as long as the human race. To somehow claim the effects of officially recognizing something that has always existed is going to harm those who believe it is immoral or too expensive is just wrong and repulsive.

How long does it take to properly assess whether denying rights to people based upon nothing but their sexuality is something this country should continue to do?

To answer Justice Alito’s question – no, you should not render a decision based upon those things. Instead you should render a decision based upon the law and the principles of equality upon which this country was founded. Stop worrying about what the people might be ready for, and instead concentrate on what they need.

It is hard to fathom what the big deal is here at home in Massachusetts, where gay marriage has been legal since 2004. Yet legally married Bay Staters are refused the rights granted to heterosexuals on a federal basis and in other states.

Public opinion is evolving on this issue. A majority polled now believe same sex marriage should be legal across the country. But frankly, that is not a good reason to make it so.

The reason it should be legal and recognized is because civil marriage should be a right afforded all Americans.

Gay marriage does no harm to the so-called “traditional” part of the institution. In the late 1960’s the Supreme Court ended discriminatory laws against interracial marriage, helping a split nation move forward.

It is time for a highly divided and terribly politicized court to once again step up and do the same.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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