Same-sex marriage: one state at a time?

6 Oct

Today’s news about the Supreme Court’s direction to allow appeals court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage to stand in five states arguably has greater reach than just Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin  (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/07/us/denying-review-justices-clear-way-for-gay-marriage-in-5-states.html). Marriage equality seems imminent in other states that currently ban same-sex marriage.

Still, I found myself less than enthusiastic when I read the headlines. Irritated, even.

While this is good news for proponents of social equality, I can’t help but think it’s not good enough news. My issue is rooted in findings from a 2013 New York Times/CBS News poll that “[a] solid majority of Americans opposes a broad national right to same-sex marriage, saying the power to legalize gay unions should rest with the states — even as most support marriage equality for gay people” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/07/us/politics/states-should-decide-gay-marriage-poll-finds.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0).

That troubles me. Why? Because this issue isn’t just about gay people or gay unions. It’s about unequal taxation, and access to health insurance and government programs that provide a safety net for families, as reported by a coalition of gay rights groups in “All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families” (http://action.familyequality.org/site/PageServer?pagename=AllChildren). It’s about whether children should be penalized because some people have a problem with their parents’ sexuality. And the welfare of those kids shouldn’t have to wait for 50 independent states to slog through propositions, bans, appeals and rulings up the food chain of courts. It just doesn’t make sense in these United States that children in Wyoming should have fewer rights or protections than children in Massachusetts and have to wait longer for equal care just because they got born or adopted in a different state.

And I believe there’s something simple we can do about this. A professor of mine from graduate school said that the way we frame a question determines the possible solutions. In this case, the way we frame the issue determines the possible perspectives on it. I think it’s time to shift the argument from “legalizing gay unions” (do you hear me, NY Times and CBS?) to protecting the rights of children no matter who their parents are. I wonder how that would poll.

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