« Previous  
 Next »

Moats: Freedom To Marry

06/29/11 5:55PM By David Moats
 MP3   Download MP3 

(HOST)  The passage of a marriage equality bill in New York last week reminded commentator David Moats of the long and arduous struggle for gay rights in America and the crucial role
played by Vermont.

(MOATS) Depending on how old you are, your reaction to the new gay marriage law in New York may be either “Ho-hum” or “I’d never thought I’d see the day.”

If you’re 20 years old now, that means that when Vermont was passing through its tumultuous struggle over civil unions you were nine years old. When it comes to gay rights, most people that age are inclined to wonder what’s the big deal, why shouldn’t gay people be allowed to get married like everyone else?

If you’re older, you remember. You remember how the battle over gay rights seemed like Armageddon each step of the way.

Those pushing for gay rights took the long view. They knew it wasn’t Armageddon. They had the faith that over time people would learn, people would begin to understand.

It may be hard to remember now, but 19 years ago Vermont was embroiled in a battle over a civil rights law that said gay and lesbian Vermonters could not be fired or denied housing because of their sexual orientation. Today such a law falls into the category of “no-brainer,” but back then backers of the law faced vicious attacks and political retribution. Every advance of gay rights was met with the argument that to legitimize homosexuality would be to undermine morality and threaten the family. Eventually, though, the right to marry was seen as a way to promote families and to encourage committed, loving relationships.

It's been a long process of education. We've become acquainted with gay and lesbian neighbors, friends, brothers, and cousins; and we've recognized what the Supreme Court understood as our “common humanity.” Two years ago Vermont took the step of approving marriage equality when the Legislature voted to override the veto of a marriage bill by Governor Douglas.

Vermont was a pioneer when it approved civil unions in 2000, but since then civil unions had become the conservative alternative for those who wanted to seem tolerant but who could not yet embrace full equality.

The outcome of the vote on the marriage bill in Vermont was one of the most dramatic historic events I've ever witnessed. The Senate had already voted to override the governor’s veto, and the final decision was up to the House. Everyone knew the vote would be close.

One by one, the roll was called. Then, when the speaker announced the results of the vote, one had the sense of history happening.

One second there was no freedom to marry in Vermont. Then, when the speaker had said the words - the bill had passed - there was the briefest instant when the realization set in that marriage equality, at that very moment, had become the law. Pandemonium ensued.

The struggle in New York was epochal in the same way. But now it’s the law.

Young people may wonder what’s the big deal.

Older people know.
comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter