Last Friday we attended the evening service at our local suburban synagogue. (By the way, it was the same synagogue that we were married in full Reform Jewish ceremony by the head rabbi and cantor.) Assemblyman Mark Leno was the guest speaker. Mr. Leno, one of the first gay men elected to the California Assembly, spoke to a predominantly straight audience on "Why Marriage Equality is Inevitable." He shared his thoughts on the future of marriage equality and how our community can work together to end marriage discrimination and achieve equal rights for same sex couples. Mr. Leno was the author of AB 849, the nation's historic marriage equality legislation that was passed by the CA legislature but then vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. The bill, called "Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Protection Act" would define marriage as a civil contract between two persons, a definition that was in effect prior to 1977. It would also reaffirm that no religious entity is required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to its religious tenets. He plans to re-introduce the bill again next session.
One of the points Mr. Leno makes is that for the last 150 years or so, the American democratic process has changed and reshaped marriage. Despite what the Republicans and religious bigots say, marriage has constantly gone through and survived many activists' attacks and come out just fine.
Up until the 1860's in America, women were considered property of their husbands. They could not own property or sign contracts. Their work, income, and creations belonged to their husbands. Changing this was against many religious beliefs and cherished social values. The Bible says a woman should be subject to her husband. It was all so wrong. These changes were going against God, the Bible and the sacred institution of marriage. And then women wanted the right to vote and then divorce. More hell broke out in the 60's when women had access to contraception and the right to choose. Marriage and the values of the American family was under an attack it might not survive said the conservatives and religious intolerant.
In 1948, California was the first state to effectively repeal the anti-miscegenation statutes. A poll taken at the time showed that less then 5% of the public were in favor of the decision. Nineteen years later, 1967, the activist judges of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously the state laws prohibiting interethnic marriage were unconstitutional. It took until year 2000 for the last state, Alabama, to change it's constitution. Even then 40% of the voters were against it. It has always been challenged that racial intermarriage would be a threat to the holy and scared institution of marriage. A judge in 1965 said "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."
I suppose it should not be surprising that the same conservative and religious assholes are still around using the same arguements today. In time same-sex marriage will just be latest evolution of the institution.