Approval of same-sex marriage is the right thing to do

07/16/2013 6:31 PM

07/16/2013 6:31 PM

I endorsed and voted for the 2005 Kansas constitutional amendment, stating that a marriage should include only a man and a woman. Seven out of 10 Kansas voters agreed, giving the state a constitutional amendment that, in effect, outlawed same-sex marriage. (Missouri, just the year before, had passed a similar amendment with 72 percent saying marriage should only be between a man and woman.)

The idea of a gay marriage just did not sit well with me then. I can try to explain it, but the best answer is it was a visceral, emotional response to an idea that then seemed to be out of bounds.

I don’t know if that was outright bigotry, or my fears that same-sex marriage would undermine the traditional institution of marriage itself. Perhaps it was both that led me to vote against gay marriage.

Fortunately, people can change. I have undergone change on a number of levels.

The response I have today to same-sex marriages is why not? If two people love each other, how does it harm anyone if they want to join in matrimony?

More important is how my attitude has shifted toward recognizing that laws that ban same-sex marriage are discriminatory. I see now that regardless of my feelings about the institution of marriage, same-sex couples deserve the same rights as any couple, and to deny them those rights is intrusive and unjustified.

I also came to realize that traditional marriages will survive just fine. Heterosexual marriages and same-sex marriages can co-exist without undermining the long-held tradition of marriage between a man and a woman.

So, when the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to all federal benefits eligible to heterosexual couples by striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, I found myself relieved, not repelled.

I have been trying to figure out what caused me to change my mind in so many important ways. And while I strive for critical thinking, the answer in this case surprises me. The best I can come up with is, almost overnight, I just got used to the idea.

I know this. I am not alone in my changed attitude on this subject. Rarely, has any social movement seen such a dramatic shift of attitudes in such a short period of time, say the experts.

Just four years ago, when Pew Research polled on same-sex marriage, only 37 percent of Americans approved. In May of this year, Pew polled again and found that a startling majority of Americans — 51 percent — approved of same-sex marriage.

That is more of a revolution than an evolution.

No one knows why this dramatic shift occurred, but Pew Research did find one plausible factor to explain at least some of the shift. They researched how the media portrayed same-sex marriage and found a 5-to-1 ratio in favorable stories toward gay marriage.

It is also important to note that the well-organized same-sex marriage movement had over those few years become very vocal. They brought to the conscience of many Americans the injustice gay men and women were experiencing. Their suffering was a reminder that, as Americans, we must be tolerant and accepting of all citizens.

Of course, there still is a strong minority of Americans who may never change their minds. There are those who believe homosexuality is an abomination. There are others who accept homosexuality but believe same-sex marriage undermines our society’s values and diminishes marriage as an institution, as I once thought.

But the tide of history is clearly on the side of same-sex marriage. It will be only a matter of time — and not much time — before all 50 states will allow same-sex marriages.

That will happen when the U.S. Supreme Court rules that every state must recognize same-sex marriages in other states. And that will trump state constitutional amendments.

It may be another generation before the vast majority of Americans accepts same-sex marriage. But the day will come.

And many people will wonder why their parents and grandparents were so against same-sex marriage, when it will become simply a matter of fact.

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