In the conclusion of his 26-page ruling that made marriage equality legal in Oregon, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane beautifully and bluntly laid out why that state’s ban on same-sex marriage could not stand.
Generations of Americans, my own included, were raised in a world in which homosexuality was believed to be a moral perversion, a mental disorder, or a mortal sin. I remember that one of the more popular playground games of my childhood was called “smear the queer” and it was played with great zeal and without a moment’s thought to today’s political correctness. On a darker level, that same worldview led to an environment of cruelty, violence, and self-loathing. It was but 1986 when the United States Supreme Court justified, on the basis of a “millennia of moral teaching,” the imprisonment of gay men and lesbian women who engaged in consensual sexual acts. Bowers, 478 U.S. at 197 (Burger, C.J., concurring), overruled by Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 578. Even today I am reminded of the legacy that we have bequeathed today’s generation when my son looks dismissively at the sweater I bought him for Christmas and, with a roll of his eyes, says “dad … that is so gay.”
It is not surprising then that many of us raised with such a world view would wish to protect our beliefs and our families by turning to the ballot box to enshrine in law those traditions we have come to value. But just as the Constitution protects the expression of these moral viewpoints, it equally protects the minority from being diminished by them…..
My decision will not be the final word on this subject, but on this issue of marriage I am struck more by our similarities than our differences. I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.
Because McShane didn’t stay his ruling and there is no state official in Oregon willing to defend its ban on same-sex marriage, Oregon is now the 18th state in the nation, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize marriage equality. Add federal and state court rulings declaring unconstitutional bans on same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Idaho, Arkansas and Michigan and the number goes up to 25. They are all under appeal. That number goes up still to 28 if you include rulings in Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky that require those states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
The march to marriage equality is becoming more of a sprint. Only the Supreme Court can tell us where the finish line is. And the time for it to do so is drawing nigh.
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