September 16, 2012 in Opinion

Editorial: Affirm R-74 because state has no role in personal choice

 

In the name of God, governments have committed some seriously cruel acts. Consider this statement from a Virginia judge in 1959 as he upheld that state’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

State laws against mixed-race marriages survived until 1967, when they were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, which called marriage “one of the basic civil rights of man.” Had the decision been left to voters, these horribly intrusive and discriminatory laws would’ve survived. Polls at the time showed that Americans were overwhelmingly supportive of state bans on mixed marriages.

Thankfully, society has progressed. Mixed-race marriages just aren’t a big deal anymore. But there is a marriage issue on the ballot in Washington state because enough people hold a religious belief that same-sex marriage should be banned.

It’s not appropriate for citizens to vote on basic civil rights, but since the question is on the ballot, we hope Washingtonians will affirm the courageous and compassionate law adopted by the Legislature last spring.

Quite simply, there is no government interest in limiting marriage to a man and a woman. Some critics say this special right is justified because government needs to promote the production of children. Yet, such couples can get married whether they have kids or not. Many same-sex couples do raise children.

Critics say that such a law would damage the sanctity of marriage. But traditional couples marry and separate willy-nilly without government interference. One look at the divorce rate reveals many opportunities for the purported corrosive influence on good marriages. Yet, we don’t ban divorce.

Ultimately, marriage is a personal decision and should be treated as such. The reasons couples make the leap are varied and nobody else’s business. During the legislative debate, it was a Republican, Rep. Maureen Walsh, who perhaps put it best:

“My daughter came out of the closet a couple of years ago. And you know what? I thought I was going to agonize about that. Nothing’s different. She’s still a fabulous human being, and she’s met a person who she loves very much. Someday, by God, I want to throw a wedding for that kid. And I hope that’s exactly what I can do. I hope she will not feel like a second-class citizen involved in something called a domestic partnership, which frankly sounds like a Merry Maids franchise to me.”

Her fears were unwarranted. Now, like many parents, she’d like to celebrate her daughter’s decision. What the opponents of gay marriage have failed to show – because they can’t – is why government should favor their concerns over that of a loving mother.

Vote yes on Referendum 74. It will not only affirm a commitment to equal rights, it will put the state on the right side of history.

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