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Gay marriage comes to Oregon and Pennsylvania
May 21, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
The Associated Press reports today that North Dakota and South Dakota are now the only two states in the nation where lawsuits have not yet been filed challenging the constitutionality of a ban on gay marriage. That will probably not stay the case for long. Nationwide, bans on gay marriage are falling like dominoes. Oregon and Pennsylvania became the most recent states this week to allow gay marriage.
Gay marriage is currently legal in 18 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington along with the District of Columbia. Illinois will join the list as of June 1. District court judges have overturned bans in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Idaho, Arkansas, and Texas, but gay marriage is on hold until appellate courts have ruled on appeals.
So what does North Dakota do when gay marriage becomes legal here, as it inevitably will? I think people who voted for the constitutional ban here years ago (I voted against it) will likely be surprised at how little fuss it will cause. No one else's rights to marry or not to marry a person of the opposite sex will be affected. Instead, a right will be given to a group of people who currently lack it.
It looks like the main objections to the legalization of gay marriage are coming from conservative religious groups. They fear, perhaps with some cause, that expressing disapproval of gay marriage could lead to lost job opportunities or political losses. There is considerable pushback from parent groups about introducing lessons about gay and transgender people into school curricula. If gay marriage is legal nationwide, it is likely that schools will be required to teach children about families that have two same sex parents and include the subject matter in sex education classes.
There are probably ways to address those concerns without leaving the subject matter entirely out of school curricula. For instance, I think the right to freedom of expression demands that kids who object to same sex relationships be permitted to say so in school, provided they are not using their objections as a way to be cruel to classmates or teachers. There is a clear difference between expressing an opinion and name-calling. I think kindergarteners, particularly kids who have classmates with two mommies or two daddies, probably should learn that families in our society come in different conglomerations and it is possible for a same sex couple to be legally married, just as it is possible for heterosexual couples to be married. That lesson doesn't prevent their parents from instilling the lesson at home that their children must be kind to all of their classmates, but the family has religious objections to the idea of same sex marriage.
Religious leaders will not be required to marry same sex couples, but it is certainly possible that secular businesses with some religious affiliation will be required to provide insurance for the same sex spouse of an employee. Private businesses probably will be more apt to require that all employees practice tolerance of gay colleagues. Society made similar adaptations to interracial marriage and the increasing numbers of women and minorities in the workplace four decades ago. Those changes didn't come entirely easily either, but I think they changed society for the better.
I will look forward to the day when the first North Dakota couple files a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of North Dakota's ban on gay marriage.
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