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What do you make of the latest developments in the gay marriage debate?

May 10, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
What do you make of the recent developments in the gay marriage debate?

Earlier this week 61 percent of voters in North Carolina voted to amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The amendment seems to outlaw recognition of domestic partnerships between men and women as well as between gays, which could have an impact on companies that offer health insurance for domestic partners of employees. The following day, ABC broke into regular programming to announce that President Obama has officially said he thinks gay marriage should be legal. Vice President Joe Biden said the same a few days earlier. North Carolina already outlawed gay marriage, but this enshrines the law in the constitution so it can't be overturned by a judge. Thirty other states already had similar constitutional bans, so it doesn't represent much of a change. Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. It is also legal in Washington D.C. and in Washington state's Suquamish tribe and Oregon state's Coquille tribe. Washington state and Maryland could begin offering same sex marriage licenses this year, but voters will go to the polls in November in both states to decide whether those laws should stay on the books. It was briefly legal in California in 2008 before voters passed a law banning gay marriage.

I don't know that this issue is likely to have much of an impact on the November elections. Obama's opinion is just that, an opinion. It would take Congress or possibly the Supreme Court to pass a federal law overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act and override state constitutions and laws forbidding gay marriage. Voters are also likely more concerned about the economy than the gay marriage issue. National media is making much of reports that many black voters oppose gay marriage, but I doubt that one issue will prevent anyone from voting for Obama. Only 5 percent of blacks in one poll said they planned to vote Republican in the election. People already have their minds made up on gay marriage, but I doubt they're going to base their vote for President on that issue, particularly one the President can't personally do anything about.

Personally, I favor gay marriage and I think it will likely become federally recognized in another decade or two. I know people who are gay and are impacted by laws that outlaw it. This country is not a theocracy and I see no good reason to deny gays the right to marry. I don't have any objection to legal recognition of polygamous marriages by adult Muslims or Mormons either, for that matter, though they would probably be a tax nightmare.

On the other hand, I also understand the arguments against gay marriage, which are based on belief in religion and natural law, and I don't necessarily think people who are opposed to gay marriage are hateful and bigoted. If the time ever comes that gay marriage is federally recognized, there will need to be strong protections in place for churches and religious groups regarding whom they employ and whom they do business with and their rights to teach their children as they see fit. What form those laws will take will probably be the subject of much lively debate.

For now, I wish the election talk would focus on fixing the economy and on the health care debate, both issues that the President can actually do something about.


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