February 17, 2011 | by Kevin Naff
A tipping point on marriage

Earlier this week, I debated marriage equality on a radio show in Baltimore. The other guests on the show were Mary Ellen Russell, head of the Maryland Catholic Conference, Derek McCoy, president of the Maryland Family Alliance and the former GOP Senate leader in the state.

It seemed I would be outgunned and outnumbered — a Catholic, a pro-family blowhard and a Republican politician versus the lone gay journalist. But my trepidation about the interview quickly melted away when the Republican turned out to be Sen. Allan Kittleman, who broke with his party and endorsed marriage equality. And when Russell and McCoy spoke, their arguments were so hollow and specious that batting them away was effortless. To make matters even easier, the host and all of the callers had my back.

Russell focused on procreation and the importance of child rearing to the institution of marriage. McCoy adamantly opposes same-sex marriage because it would necessitate teaching schoolchildren about gay relationships.

When I asked Russell if the Catholic Conference advocates for rescinding marriage rights for infertile couples, she fell silent. And I reminded McCoy that same-sex marriage is already being taught in schools because it’s legal in five states and D.C., along with a growing list of foreign countries.

There was no shouting or name calling; no one got emotional. The debate, if you can call it that, was a real let down and a microcosm of what’s happening in communities across the country over the issue of relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

From Maryland, which appears poised to legalize full marriage rights in the coming months, to Hawaii, where the House overwhelmingly approved a civil union bill, the debates are less rancorous, the polls less lopsided and the politicians less fearful of standing up for equality. This week, lawmakers in Washington State introduced a marriage equality bill; Freedom to Marry launched a major national advertising campaign promoting marriage rights; and a new poll in New Hampshire found that 63 percent of voters have no appetite for repealing marriage equality there.

When Kittleman realized his own civil union bill stood no chance of passing, he ditched it and simply endorsed marriage. He said this week that the reaction from Republican friends and constituents was surprisingly low-key, even supportive. And Kittleman isn’t alone among state Republicans. Chrysovalantis P. Kefalas, deputy legal counsel to former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), said he considers marriage equality to be consistent with the Republican principle of limited government.

Make no mistake that opponents of marriage rights remain active and vocal, but they are increasingly shrill and seen as being on the wrong side of history. At a Senate committee hearing in Maryland last week, opponents showed up in significant numbers to testify against marriage rights.

One witness made national headlines when he warned that extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples would open the door to human-robot weddings. Robert Broadus, from Protect Maryland Marriage, said, “If you pass this bill, you will set the groundwork, that one day when artificial intelligence is that advanced, we will be considering whether or not people can marry their androids. … If you say that any two people who love each other can get married, then you set that precedent.” He wasn’t joking. Broadus referenced “Stark Trek’s” Lieutenant Commander Data’s ability to shed tears and added, “You laugh, but it’s true.”

Other witnesses compared same-sex relationships to pedophilia and incest. “Where do we draw the lines? What comes next? If a man loses his wife to a premature death, shouldn’t he be allowed to marry his daughter, or son, or both,” said Gerard Selby.

In response to that ugly, homophobic testimony, Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, who represents a conservative district and had previously declined to reveal his position on the issue, announced he would vote for the marriage bill.

As the Senate inches closer to a vote, the concerns about a protracted, pitched battle have given way to a sense of inevitability. Maryland’s lieutenant governor, attorney general and former Senate minority leader have all spoken publicly about their support for marriage equality. Gov. Martin O’Malley remains a holdout, but pledged in a 2007 interview with the Blade to sign a marriage bill if lawmakers send it to his desk. A public endorsement from O’Malley would be welcome and history’s judgment would be more favorable to him if he spoke out now. But enough elected officials have found the courage to speak out and stand up for justice that O’Malley finds himself on the sidelines in this debate, which is where he is most comfortable. A profile in courage, O’Malley ain’t.

With more and more Americans accepting our relationships, opponents of equality will continue to find themselves outnumbered and relegated to the sidelines. It’s inspiring and surreal to watch. As Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler has repeatedly said, in another 20 years, all 50 states will have marriage equality. It’s inevitable.

Kevin Naff is editor of Washington Blade. He can be reached at knaff@washblade.com.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

6 Comments
  • I am gay, and I oppose both this bill and gay marriage itself. Growing up in Massachusetts has made me well aware of the damage that it causes to society, and frankly, I have to disagree with your notion that same sex marriage is “inevitable.” Nothing is. Maybe you should wait until the people of at least one state vote to allow the practice, since so far, you have lost 31 times and won zero times. The fact that you need to tell yourself gay marriage is “inevitable” to make yourself happy is sad, since anyone with a functioning brain knows very well how the people of this country feel about it.

    That’s nice that you have jumped on the idiot-led, sheepish, far-left “gay rights” bandwagon, but many gay people are not a part of that and never will be. Society doesn’t hear from us as much as you, because we don’t run around flaunting our private sexual life in people’s faces and demanding special treatment under the absurd guise of “equality,” nor do we pretend that we are “victims” who are being discriminated against. Wahh wahh, boo hoo, get over the fact that marriage means a man and a woman and it always will. You don’t speak for gay people; only yourself.

    You also make fun of people who have stated that same sex marriage will open the doors to government recognition of other relationships, such as polygamy, etc. Why? Does it really sound that far fetched to you that people out there in other types of sexual relationships will see gay marriage being legalized and think to themselves, “hey, wait a second, I want my ‘equal rights’ too?” It shouldn’t, and if you really think that it won’t happen, you are a fool.

    I am already treated equally under the law. Marriage is between males and females for good reason, and should I choose to marry a female, I have that right. If I don’t want to, that doesn’t mean I have the right to redefine the institution to suit my own sexual desires. I still have access to other rights and privileges that come along with simply being an American, and I intend to use them in the future.

    Please realize that you do not speak for all gay people, and that your views are deeply rooted in ignorance and selfishness. I doubt this comment will sway you at all, and I don’t think that my correspondence with members of the Maryland Senate will change their minds either. Therefore, I am grateful that this will probably end up on the ballot in 2012. I will be laughing at you when the people of Maryland repeal this bill, assuming it passes, and hopefully that will put a stop to this nonsense for good. Sorry, but the radical gay left’s bullying can only work for so long. In the end, truth wins out. You lose.

    • “I am gay….” On the off chance that you’re not lying, so what?

      (paragraphs of unsupported assertions and already debunked arguments snipped)

      “I doubt this comment will sway you at all….” Do you want to know what will sway me? Logic and evidence will sway me. Have at it.

    • Steven if you don’t want to get married, then don’t. There are others like you, and you and your kind are not the majority in the gay community. You do not speak for me. So, being an American or gay doesn’t mean we all have to have the same opinion. Why must you make me live my life the way you choose to live yours. I am not telling you you must get married just because I am asking for the right to do so. In the end I am working FOR something. You are working AGAINST something. Marriage is right for me and my husband and I will work on this until it happens because it is fair. Please go on living your peaceful quiet uninvolved life and leave me and my quest for civil rights alone. Thank You

    • Steven. You certainly have the right to not want full equality under the law, but standing in the way of the millions who DO want the SAME rights, not “special rights” as you state, is discrimination. You can dress it up as much as you like, but in the end, inequality is inequality. My partner and I have two sons ages 5 and 10-months. We try to teach our kids about fairness. We explain the the world is not a fair place, but it doesn’t mean that we just accept it. Because to do that means that we teach our kids to perpetuate inequity and unfairness. We teach them to treat all people as fairly as possible. And if that makes me “far left,” so be it. And if all parents continued to teach their kids that you should never fight to end discrimination, never fight for a more just society, we would never have become a nation at all. Your comment that it is the “far left” gay community that supports marriage equality only underscores your ingorance. Marriage equality is not a fringe issue anymore. It’s a real, tangible thing that even our heterosexual counterparts can plainly see is necessary. You want to stay hidden in the closet and live with the inequity that you have had all along, fine. But for the millions of the rest of us, gay and straight alike, who strive for a better society where ALL people are treated equally, we will continue to speak up and spread the word.

      In all honesty, I think that “Steven” is actually lying when he says that he is gay. He is more likely a straight person attempting to spread disinformation. Nice try “Steven.”

  • You got Russell to fall silent? That’s pretty good. Typically, when I win an argument against a Catholic, I get one of the following:

    1. “Let’s change the subject.”
    2. “You’re persecuting me.”
    3. “And just what is wrong with circular logic?”

  • If we eliminate the first three words from Steven’s post – “I am gay and,” then you have a perfectly from hate rant from the GOP and the religious right. Another hater, come to post on the Blade.

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