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July 17, 2008

Public And Political Attitudes Changing On Gay Marriage

I ran across an excellent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times this morning. In it, Gail Collins outlines the evolution of attitudes towards gay marriages since Massachusetts became the first state to legalize those unions.

I'm sure we all remember the intensity of the right-wing hoopla surrounding the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision and the consequent legislation that followed. There were petitions, news articles and talk radio programs that screamed about the demise of the institution of marriage and painstakingly detailed the false perceptions of the supposed immoral "lifestyle" of the "mentally disturbed" and "anti-christian" homosexuals. And, much like the rantings in California today, impassioned attempts at constitutional amendments which, as we all know, failed.

Even after it became the law of the state, the then Governor Mitt Romney, in a complete political turn around and desperate attempt to appease the right-wingers prior to his Presidential run, dug out the obscure law of 1913 to prevent Massachusetts from becoming “the Las Vegas of same-sex marriages.”

This week, the Massachusetts Senate voted to repeal even that law (see my July 15th posting "Breaking News"). So what changed?

According to Gail Collins:

"Well, with the economy the way it is, becoming the Las Vegas of anything whatsoever began to sound like a good deal. California has been raking in money from weddings of out-of-state gay couples since a court made same-sex marriage legal there.

In Massachusetts, a study commissioned by the state, with the optimism of such studies everywhere, predicted that getting rid of that old law could create hundreds of jobs, millions in tax revenue and tons and tons of local business for hotels and restaurants and party planners. As an advocate predicted reasonably, when a gay person decides to come to Massachusetts and get married, “most won’t come alone.”"

Of course the fact that four years later heterosexual marriage wasn't destroyed, God didn't smote the Godless citizens and most people in that state hardly ever even talk about it anymore. It has become, for them, a regular part of their daily lives and, in effect, a non-issue.

Ms Collins' piece is also an excellent, in-depth analysis of the changing views on social justice with a little precognitive irony thrown in. After the 1970 Supreme Court ruling that people of different races had a constitutional right to wed, someone suggested to President Nixon that same-sex marriages would be next. He responded, “I can’t go that far; that’s the year 2000.”

To read the full opinion piece, go to: New York Times Opinion