Thursday, May 15, 2008

The changing state of marriage

GuyDads and familyCalifornia Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision to legalize same-sex marriage. “In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.

Celebrating loveMarriage equality is an emotional and political issue for many people. Let us not forget the legal precedent and historical context for it. 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.

Early American settlers brought a variety of marriage traditions. Common-law, civil ceremony and other informal arrangements were more customary among the lower classes because they had little property to protect. Virginia was a colony that stayed with the customs of the church and did not permit anyone to have a civil marriage ceremony as they followed the Church of England. By the end of the eighteenth century both religious and civil marriage ceremonies were legal in America. However slaves, a substantial percentage of the population, were forbidden to marry.

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. Women wanting the same rights as men was wrong. These changes were going against God, the Bible and the sacred institution of marriage according to the majority of the American public. As late as 1940, married women were not allowed to make a legal contract in twelve states.

And then, not satisfied with just a few rights, 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.

Marriage came under attacked on another front in 1948. California was the first state to effectively repeal the anti-miscegenation statutes, allowing blacks and whites to legally marry each other. 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 its 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." (Click here for more information.)

Same-sex Jewish weddingI suppose it should not be surprising that the same conservative and religious extremists are still around using the same arguments today. In time same-sex marriage will just be latest evolution of the institution.

Pictures are from our religious wedding ceremony almost three years go in June.

1 comment:

GDad said...

Woo-hoo! Go, California!

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