( – promoted by Christian Avard)
As the “debate” over gay marriage reaches critical mass in Vermont, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of shame.
The shame comes, not from the fact that Vermont is, rightly, taking up the issue and fighting for basic human rights for all, but because there is even a debate at all.
To me gay marriage is one of the great no-brainers of our time: treat people equally. It is civics 101, not to mention a constitutional requirement.
But when Gov. Jim Douglas, despicably, announced he would veto any gay marriage legislation that came to his desk, I was once again reminded, to steal a line from Kurt Vonnegut, “how embarrassing it is to be human.”
It is appalling, both morally and intellectually. When I heard his statement, I thought I was listening to George Wallace defend segregation as the governor of Alabama in 1963, not the governor of Vermont – arguably the most progressive and humane state in the country – in 2009.
Generations from now that fact that this was even debatable will be a monumental embarrassment for Americans, and Vermonters, everywhere.
There once was a time, not very long ago, when our country engaged in “serious debate” over whether or not it should be legal to enslave human beings or allow women to vote. Thankfully, due to the hard work of rational, humane people, these issues are no longer controversial.
And there can be little doubt that the gay marriage issue will run a similar course. It is inevitable they will be recognized in time, just as struggles in the past led to progress on women’s rights, African-American rights, disabled persons rights and so on.
This effort to discriminate against gays is ultimately a losing one. Societal progress almost always takes shape in the form of acceptance, a thankful reminder of our own humanity in the face of the bigotry we are witnessing by Gov. Douglas.
According to very detailed PEW report, young people – described as “Generation Next” – are by far the most tolerant generation ever. When it comes to gay rights, secularism, immigrants, interracial relationships, and even recreational drug use, young people are historically accepting of others compared to older generations, and young people polled generations ago. They are also less pious than any other age group, which is of significant given the Christian opposition to gay rights. About half of Gen Nexters say the growing number of immigrants to the U.S. strengthens the country more than any generation. And they also lead the way in their support for gay marriage and acceptance of interracial dating.
I don’t find this to be terribly surprising. Young people have now grown up around gays to the extent where the behavior seems entirely normal to most. Compare this to how older generations viewed homosexuality–as a social taboo punishable by an eternity in hell.
And by the time today’s young people become the country’s power brokers, gay marriage will likely be accepted in most states, and attempts to discriminate against them will be met with contempt not currently seen.
And those public officials, who tried to reason that gays need their own consolation prize, the civil union, and should be “separate but equal” from their heterosexual brethren, will be remembered through the lens of history as enablers of discrimination.
To be fair, this applies to many Democrats in the federal government, including the President.
But Governor Douglas’ pathetic ruminations on the subject from Wednesday assure himself a very special footnote in this unfortunate element of our history. He is one of the first two governors in U.S. history to openly thwart a democratically-elected body’s decision to give gays the same right to marry as everyone else.
It is a detestable act now; years from now it will come across as bigotry pure and simple – a sad reminder of a time when politicians felt it was OK, even noble, to discriminate against gays.
(NOTE: Made a small correction to reflect the comments about how the gov. of California also vetoed gay marriage legislation)