The marriage protection amendment that bans same-sex couples from marrying was on the ballot in three states last Tuesday. It passed in Florida by more than 60% and in California by a margin of 52% to 48% with a majority of the precincts counted. In Arizona, a conservative state that once rejected the amendment, it passed by 56% to 44%.
The results came as no surprise, emphasizing once again that the rights of unpopular minorities should never be put to a popular vote.
How many times was the Equal Rights Amendment for women squashed. The first public Woman’s Rights Convention was held in 1848 west of Syracuse, New York.
And African-Americans did not win equal rights by a popular vote. The country vehemently fought against it. Equality for blacks required an act of Congress. So too, should equal rights for gay men and lesbian women be written into law, not restricted by it.
Some might feel gay marriage is not a question of rights, yet the expression of religious values is protected by the first amendment. After all, it is a religious viewpoint that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry. And it is the spiritual viewpoint of gay and lesbian couples (and the mental health community) that homosexuality is a good and valid expression. It is, to be sure, a religious debate as well as one of legal benefits.
One can’t help feeling violated every time there is a gay/lesbian issue on the chopping block. It becomes a lightning rod for the religious right to rally against with their bumper stickers and self-righteous slurs. How many gay and lesbian people feel battered during times like this?
Yet, the struggle for gay rights may be part of a process that has not yet finished. Certainly, the zeitgeist has improved significantly over the years regarding attitudes toward gay/lesbian people. And if it is hard to imagine a time when GLBT people are a part of the American mainstream, remember it was once hard for women and Black Americans to imagine, too.
Gerald Libonati is an award-winning writer in South Florida. He has written for The Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald, The Advocate and various gay/lesbian newspapers. He is the author of the new novel, “Peter Wolf,” the story of a famous gay rock star who goes incognito to find love.