“In sickness and in health” really scares some people…

As everyone is by now aware, I’m sure, the Massachusetts Supreme Court last week determined that gays in Massachusetts must be allowed to get married, because to deny them this right goes against the current Massachusetts Constitution. Those who know me know that I have very few “hot button” issues, but this is one of them (abortion rights are the other).

So, my question is this: what is it about gay marriage that upsets you so much? Why is the idea that two men or two women who want to commit themselves to each other financially, legally, and in all other ways so scary? Gays, as I understand it, are seeking the right to open joint bank accounts, visit each other in the hospital, inherit each other’s property upon death, and put their spouse on their insurance policy, among other assorted issues. I understand not extending those benefits to those who choose not to get married (when that is a viable course of action). I can understand why people get bent out of shape about domestic partner benefits for men and women “shacking up” together. Curmudgeons can rightly say to those couples “get married if you want those benefits,” and this ruling makes that a remedy for gays who want to gain legal benefits as well.

But what is it, specifically, about two men getting legally attached to each other that bothers you? I can see your answer formulating right now, perhaps even unconsciously: it’s sinful. Ah, “it’s sinful.” The Bible says that men shouldn’t have sex with other men. Indeed. On the other hand, laws in America don’t draw their source from the Bible. That’s not a good enough argument.

You might argue, then, that a society has a right to legislate according to the moral standards of the community. Fine, but how often in history have rights been abrogated through legislation because the “moral standards of the community” at the time believed those rights should be denied? And every time — whether it was letting women vote or integrating segregated classrooms or allowing interracial couples to marry — the law was eventually reversed. American society over the course of many years tends toward more tolerance rather than less, so does anyone really believe that in fifty or a hundred years gay couples will still be considered so morally reprehensible as to be disallowed from marrying? If it is the case that in fifty years we will, as a society, be generally accepting of gay marriage, I would hope that current legislators would have the clarity of vision to vote in a morally progressive way now, rather than wait fifty years for what’s moral to be considered “normal.”

You might ask why I care so much. I care, for one thing, because I enjoy the institution of marriage. It saddens me that if one half of a lesbian couple is in a car accident, her partner of twenty years may not be allowed to make medical decisions on her behalf, but could instead be overruled by a family member who lives 300 miles away and hasn’t seen the injured woman in five or ten years. I see nothing wrong with a man who has lived in his partner’s home for five or ten or fifty years inheriting that house upon the partner’s death, rather than having the estate go into a probate court for another five or ten years. I care because it seems completely unreasonable to me that two people who want to make a commitment to each other to care for each other, support each other, fight with each other, and bring each other chicken soup when they’re sick aren’t allowed to do that, just because they’re of the same sex.

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