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Will the Federal Government Finally Endorse Same-Sex Marriage?


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02/17/12

Michael J. Klarman, a professor at Harvard Law School and author of the book entitled, “Same-Sex Marriage Litigation and Political Backlash”, recently wrote an opinion education piece for the LA Times, entitled “Why Gay Marriage is Inevitable.”

In a nutshell, same-sex marriage is not recognized by the federal government, but six states currently grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.

At the federal level, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

But has DOMA seen its time come and go?

According to information in Klarman's article, in 2004, public opinion revealed Americans as strongly opposed to same sex marriage by a 2-1 margin. At that time, a Massachusetts court decision declaring a right to gay marriage under the state constitution saw a firestorm of political fallout. As well, thirteen states enacted constitutional bans.

Since then, the pendulum seems to have swung the other way, so to speak. Per Klarman's article, public opinion reveals stronger support for same-sex marriage in recent years. As well, the state supreme courts in California, Connecticut, and Iowa have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, and legislatures in five states have put gay-marriage statutes in place. Klarman puts forth the rationale that if liberal judges on state supreme courts as a rule support gay marriage, liberal justices on the U.S. Supreme Court most probably will follow suit.

Klarman feels that the Supreme Court will no doubt take on a same-sex marriage case at some point, and that the decision will be as influential as Brown vs. The Board of Education in the gay rights movement. He also discusses the make up of the Supreme Court and supposes which justices might swing the vote for, or against.

In addition to the influence of the courts and the justices who preside over them, socially, there has been a major shift regarding same-sex marriage. As more and more people have begun to live their lives as openly gay, more and more people have come out of the closet. Plain and simple, it's become more socially acceptable.

Too, Klarman points to the fact that same-sex marriage may well become a reality because of the sheer numbers of openly gay people, and the chance that you, the reader, probably know someone who is gay, whether he or she is a friend, a sibling, a child, a neighbor or a co-worker. You most likely do not support discrimination against those you care about. So, as a result of a gay person coming out of the closet, he or she adds additional, heterosexual gay supporters to the cause.

Klarman cites the following statistics in support of this: Between 1985 and 2000, the number of Americans who reported knowing someone who was openly gay tripled. A 2004 study revealed that in this population, 65% supported gay marriage or civil unions. But, a mere 35% of those who reported not knowing any gay people supported them.

As well, more and more young people appear to support a ‘live and let live' way of thinking. Klarman cited a 2011 poll, which revealed 70% of those aged 18 to 34 were in support of gay marriage. He reasons that these folks are likely to maintain that attitude as they age. So, in this vein, it can be said in no uncertain terms that our youth is our future.

In recent years, per Klarman's article, even conservatives have begun to acknowledge that same-sex marriage may well become a reality, even as they continue to vehemently oppose it.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on a Christian radio program in March of last year that “it is clear that something like same-sex marriage … is going to become normalized, legalized and recognized in the culture. It's time for Christians to start thinking about how we're going to deal with that.”
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