While I believe the U.S. Supreme Court got it right in Lawrence v. Texas when they overturned the Lone Star State’s sodomy laws (though I disagree with the court’s rationale, believing the majority should have used the Ninth Amendment), I think those state Supreme Courts (Massachusetts, California and Connecticut) mandating gay marriage got it wrong.
And the difference, as I see it, is between a liberty interest and a state benefit.
Those who read this blog carefully note that I repeatedly refer to state recognition of marriage as a benefit, not a right. If marriage is a right, we already have it. A right simply means the freedom to do something. Gay people remain free to marry same-sex partners even if the state does not recognize our unions as such.
Even after Tuesday’s vote, couples who got married when the state recognized their unions will not be incarcerated or forced to leave the state should they continue to call their partnerships marriages.
Hence, the distinction between Lawrence and the various marriage cases.
Under Texas law (and that of a number of other states), before the decision was handed down, you could be arrested for engaging in consensual sex (as were the plaintiffs in that case).
With marriage, however, the issue is state recognition of the unions. Voters of California did not strip gay people of a right, as some activists claim. They merely voted to deny us the privilege of having the state call our unions “marriages.” But, we remain free to call them whatever we want.
In the coming days, despite this vote, I will continue to call my gay and lesbian friends married if that is how they choose to define their unions. And I highly doubt government officials will attempt to prosecute me for so speaking my mind.
The issue now is to make our case to California citizens why the state should call our unions marriages.Â And angry protests demonizing various churches will do little to accomplish that goal.
As I’ve said repeatedly on this blog, state recognition of same-sex marriage represents a huge social change. And social change can be a good thing. It’s time to show why that is so.
The burden falls on those pushing the change.