On equality anniversary, marriage rights threatened

CE authors were happy to discover that their op-ed on marriage equality ran in The Columbian, a local newspaper in the not-so-blue region of southern Washington State. Here’s the text:

 Three years ago on May 17, lesbian and gay residents of Massachusetts filed for the
first legal marriage licenses in the United States.
    With marriage equality, nearly 9,000 Massachusetts same-sex couples have wed in civil or religious ceremonies since 2004. Hundreds of thousands of people from across the nation have witnessed our weddings.
    Many of us married because we wanted to symbolize our love and commitment, to protect our families in times of crisis, to access benefits — such as family health insurance, hospital visitation rights and joint property rights. We also married because we wanted to give our children more security and to proclaim to our
communities our status as families.
    Same-sex marriage is a success in Massachusetts. The sky has not fallen. Massachusetts continues to lead the country with one of the lowest divorce rates of any state — 2.5 percent — according to Census data.
    And nearly 800 religious leaders in the state have signed a declaration supporting same-sex marriage.
    Moreover, no clergy members have been forced to marry any couples whom they did not choose to recognize as worthy of marriage according to the dictates of their religion.
    Yet, a well-funded right-wing religious coalition persists in trying to undo our civil rights by bringing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to the ballot in 2008. Other such amendments have passed in 26 states.
    The group offers only religious arguments for ending same-sex civil marriage and it insists that the “people deserve to vote.”
    But since when in our democracy does the majority vote on the civil rights of a minority? Would anyone suggest that people vote on whether interracial marriage should be banned once again?
    On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, setting into motion a movement to ensure full equality for African-Americans.
    Fifty years later on May 17, 2004, same-sex couples filed for the first legal marriage licenses in this country.
    The symmetry of these anniversaries is not lost on the lesbian and gay community.    Same-sex couples should not tolerate “separate but equal” civil unions. Second-class citizenship is neither fair nor right. It certainly is not what we value as American citizens.

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