By now many of you are no doubt aware that Vermont has legalized gay marriage. The state house overrode the Governor's veto by a slim, but sufficient margin. Obviously this is not the result of an overwhelming majority, and it would be interesting to see the results of a statewide ballot initiative such as they had in California.
At present four states in our union now have legal marriage for homosexual partners. What is interesting is that the three other states - Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa - legalized this new definition of marriage through the courts, not the legislature. And California, which experimented with this novel procedure only to have the voters overturn them, is again trying to force the issue through the court system, petitioning the judicial branch to legislate outside of its jurisdiction. We will wait to see if the courts will dismiss the decision of a fair majority of voters and again play fast and loose with the governmental framework that our founders so carefully and cautiously constructed.
Three states at present are also lined up with bills to legalize gay marriage: New Hampshire, Maine, and New Jersey. Now one may easily observe that to date the majority of activity is occurring on the traditionally 'progressive' and liberal east coast, with Iowa as the exception. However, the precedent is set. Whether it be a move to legislate from the bench, or to push it by a bill in congress, the trend is spreading. One way or the other this so-called 'right' will be given regardless of what the majority of the nation desires or approves.
It is interesting how the Vermont legislature was influenced to pass this bill. In an AP article from April 8, autor Dave Gram wrote: "Courts typically deal with arcane ponts of constitutional law. While legislatures debate some of the same principals, the process may become much more personal. In Vermont, some of the most gripping debate came when gay and lesbian lawmakers took to the House floor last week and told their own personal love stories."
The article referenced Linda McLain, an expert in family law and policy, who also noted that using the "civil rights language of equality" could go a long way in making "gay marriage acceptable elsewhere."
Civil rights used to mean the rights one had by virture of their basic humanity - their gender and color, for example - and not their behavior. The precedent such legal developments set now with making sexual behavior a matter of basic human rights is destined to open up a "Pandora's Box" of possibilities this country has yet to imagine.
As for the church it will certainly make life more complicated. However, I highly doubt that even if my state legalized such unions and called them marriage, that any would seek a conservative country preacher to comply by forcing him to conduct such services. They would go to those who blessed them willingly. We would simply be further marginalized in society as those who are 'out of step' with where the public will is at.
The more burning question for me is how the state will treat those of us who feel complelled to publicly condemn such behavior as morally wrong from our pulpits. Will 'free speech' protect such acts, or will the state further decide that our right to proclaim the truth as we understand it is damaging to the welfare of others and therefore wrong and punishable by law? The vote is still out on this one.