Time for the rest of the country to get in line with Vermont

Wednesday March 27, 2013

The Supreme Court heard legal arguments Tuesday in a challenge to California's ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8. The justices indicated they might not be ready to rule in favor of same-sex marriage on a national scale.

As an Associated Press article put it: "The fact that the question was in front of the Supreme Court at all was startling, given that no state recognized same-sex unions before 2003 and 40 states still don't allow them."

Today the debate continues as the Supreme Court justices consider the federal law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of benefits afforded straight married people.

All day Tuesday, the topic dominated news outlets and social media, including Twitter and Facebook.

The discussion also struck a chord with Banner readers, who responded en masse to our query on Facebook as to how they thought the court should rule.

The response was overwhelmingly in favor of a pro-same-sex marriage ruling.

Carole Sinclair-Smith posted "Every citizen should be equal, have the right to be happy. and to marry whomever they please. I'm not sure why that is so hard for some to understand."

"You love who you love. The heart just does. It should not matter the sex of the people in love," said Bonnie LaCroix.

"Considering 50% of all marriages end in divorce, they should agree to let anyone committed to each other share benefits and rights together. You shouldn't have to get ‘married' to qualify for that," said Donna Lauzon.

Teresa Littlefield said, "They should pass it. Let them get married!!!!"

Robin C. Meiklejohn stated simply "For equality."

"Judge not and be not judged," said Jillian Batchelder Burkett.

If the Supreme Court dismisses the case without a ruling, as has been suggested by Justice Anthony Kennedy, gay marriages would likely be permitted to resume in California -- without changes anywhere else. In California, same-sex couples were allowed the right to marry for a brief period until 2008, when voters there adopted Proposition 8.

When a lawyer for two same-sex couples urged the court to support same-sex marriage rights everywhere, Kennedy feared such a ruling would push the court into "uncharted waters."

It looks like our collective toes are already wet.

And even the president has declared support for gay marriage. President Obama's administration contends that when states offer same-sex couples civil union rights of marriage, as California and eight other states do, they also must allow marriage. The other states are: Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island.

Same-sex marriage is legal in nine states, including Vermont, and the District of Columbia. The other states are Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Washington.

Thirty states ban same-sex marriage in their constitutions, while 10 states bar them under state laws. New Mexico law just stays silent on the issue.

The Supreme Court has another chance to debate the question today, in a second case that challenges the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that bars the government from recognizing same-sex marriages, and decrees that states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

It might end up being resolved (or not) as a question of states' rights.

It's time to recognize that this issue isn't going away.

Vermont was the first state to introduce civil unions in 2000, and passed a low allowing marriage for same-sex couples in 2009.

Vermont was proactive; now the rest of the country needs to catch up.

Isn't it time we were all on the same page?

~Michelle Karas


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