The issue of Marriage Equality or Same Sex marriage is generating a large number of e-mails and phone calls to me this session. I want to make clear the reasons that I have long supported same sex couples having the same rights to marriage as heterosexual couples.
Many who contact me state that this would be redefining marriage. My belief is that what constitutes or has constituted marriage has evolved and changed many times over the centuries.
Marriage was once a financial arrangement between two families – often when the children were very young. Marriage has been a contract by which a young girl was promised by her father to a much older man to be his wife. The girl had no say in the matter. And later when a girl had more of an opportunity to choose who her would be husband, she had no rights and was little more than chattel.
Today the vast majority of marriages are by mutual agreement with each partner acknowledging responsibilities and making pledges to the other partner.
Over the centuries marriages between people of different social status, different religions, or different races have been illegal or not accepted by society. Interracial marriage was illegal in parts of our country until 1967. When my husband, who is Filipino, and I were married in 1968, many warned us about the terrible consequences of our marriage.
The fact of the matter is we have faced challenges and struggles over the past 43 years. But there have been no terrible consequences to us or to society. Our commitment to each other has remained strong and we have stayed together through better or worse, through richness and poverty, and through sickness and health. We have always been each other’s support, mentor, confidant, and friend.
I believe that is the foundation of marriage and every couple should have the right and privilege to make the same public commitment that my husband and I made to each other. This can be done in either a civil or religious context. Legalizing same sex marriage does not threaten mine. Nor would it threaten any other religiously based marriage.
Churches would not be required to perform same sex marriages. Churches have always had to ability to refuse to provide a marriage ceremony for any number of reasons and that would continue.
Many people insist that marriage is about bringing children into the world and same sex marriage would undermine this purpose. Yet, I know that most churches sanctify marriages for couples who are well beyond the child-bearing age or who for some physical reason are unable to bring children into the world, or who simply choose not to bring children into the world. Some of these couples will adopt children providing them a safe secure nurturing environment in which to grow into adulthood. Many same sex couples are doing the exact same thing. Why should the parents of these children be denied the right to a marriage that is equal to the marriage of other children who have been adopted?
Today I believe that most people view the foundational premise of marriage as the mutual pledge of a personal lifelong commitment to a loving supportive relationship. A few years ago, my granddaughter expressed to me her desire that I would live long enough to be present at her ‘marriage day’. Her definition of marriage was finding someone to spend her life with. To me that is a wonderful vision for her to have for her future.
I believe that a person’s sexual orientation is determined when they are born. If we deny marriage to same sex couples then we are denying that vision to many young people in our community. How is that a benefit for their future or in the public interest?
I am proud to be one of the 23 co-sponsors of Senate bill 6239 – concerning civil marriage and domestic partnerships – which would make it possible for every couple to marry on equal terms and publically pledge to each other a mutual lifelong commitment of love and support and to have the same rights and privileges that heterosexual couples are given.