It's one thing for a state to have always been against the concept of same-sex marriage; Virginia has never allowed homosexual couples to marry, even going so far as to add an amendment to the state constitution in 2006 defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
It's another thing entirely when people vote to take away a state's legally-granted rights when it comes to same-sex marriage. We saw this last November when California voted in favor of Prop 8, which removed the state's right to grant same-sex marriages. Over the summer, Maine's legislature and governor passed a law making same-sex marriage legal -- which meant every state in New England outside of Rhode Island legalized same-sex marriage.
At least, until the same group that funded the Prop 8 campaign in California last year came to Maine looking to have a referendum put on this year's ballot asking voters to repeal the law. They had the signatures necessary to have the referendum put to a popular vote, and an intense, well-funded debate ensued.
Heading into Tuesday night, 30 states have put the issue of gay marriage up to a popular vote; all 30 times, the electorate voted against same-sex marriage. Many thought Maine, thanks to its independent electorate, might change that. But once the returns came in, it became clear that Maine would do the same as every other state, and deny homosexuals the right to marry.
Not just deny them the right -- taking away the right Maine's government had already granted its citizens. The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s was about giving African-Americans rights they didn't already have. In some ways, the fight for equal rights for homosexuals -- including marriage -- is about the same thing: giving homosexuals the same rights heterosexuals already enjoy.
But it's also about making sure the states that have granted homosexuals the right to marry don't turn around and take it away. Five states -- New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa -- grant same-sex marriage rights, and to my knowledge, there are no efforts to remove those rights in those states. Which makes me wonder -- why take away the rights granted in California and Maine, but not in the other states?
Are California and Maine somehow more important?
Since Massachusetts instituted same-sex marriage in 2004, divorce rates have plummeted. Iowa voters have said, by a margin of 92 percent to eight, that same-sex marriages have had no effect on their lives. The numbers back up equal rights advocates in their claims that homosexuals are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals and yet opponents, with their deep pockets and passionate supporters, have repeatedly succeeded in denying homosexuals those rights.
Equal rights advocates have experienced one win this year, when President Obama signed into law a defense appropriations bill that included an amendment extending hate crime protection on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or diability. There is a bill in the House of Representatives that would repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the Senate will soon be holding hearings on the controversial law.
Even though the Department of Justice has defended the Defense of Marriage Act, President Obama has repeatedly declared that he would like to repeal the law. Inroads are being made in the civil rights battle of our generation, though even I will admit how frustrating it is to see how long this fight is taking -- and even more infuriating when I see progress snuffed out by a bigoted opposition taking advantage of an easily-scared electorate.
To deny anyone in this country equal rights on the basis of who they are or who they love is not only unseemly and unconstitutional, it's downright unpatriotic. How can you call yourself a proud American if you vote to deny your fellow citizens the same rights you enjoy? The men and women of our military shedding their own blood and giving their own lives for our freedoms are not doing so in order for us to arbitrarily decide who has access to those rights and who doesn't.
This is an example of the right-wing, Bible-thumping influence that has intoxicated our political discourse over the last decade (at least); bigots are using the Bible as a crutch to justify their senseless hatred, and someone needs to stand up and call them on it. It is unpatriotic and un-Christian to deny homosexuals the right to love as they see fit; hate and denial of rights flies in the face of everything this country stands for, and it makes me sick to know people still exist who let such hate permeate their minds.
How dare we deny other Americans basic equal rights. How dare we treat homosexuals as second-class Americans simply because of who they love. Have we learned nothing from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s? Have we learned nothing from the efforts of people like Martin Luther King and Harvey Milk?
Why the hate? What is so goddamn horrible about a same-sex couple getting married?
If an 86-year old Republican in Maine, who fought in World War II, can find it in his heart to understand the importance of granting equal rights to ALL Americans, then what does that say about the selfish mouth-breathers who scream about the government interfering in their lives, while simultaneously asking the government to interfere in the lives of others?
Shame on you, California. Shame on you, Maine. And shame on every unpatriotic person who would dare deny a fellow American the right to marry. If defending equal rights for all makes me a bleeding-heart liberal, then I'm a damn liberal. I'll proudly wear that label.
I've had it with you hate-mongers. Have fun in Hell, where you belong.