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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

In Support of Gay Marriage on National Freedom to Marry Day

Feb. 12 is National Freedom to Marry Day.

For many gay couples, marriage used to seem an impossibility. But the latest portent of change is a recent bill introduced in Montana’s legislature to legalize same-sex marriages. The sponsor is state Rep. Tom Facey, and he knows his bill won’t pass. But merely proposing such a law in my home state of Montana was all but unthinkable just five years ago.

It was only in 1995, after all, that our legislature debated making gays register with the state like sex offenders.

The Montana thaw follows Vermont’s approval of civil unions in 2000. Since then, hundreds of couples have exchanged vows -and Western Civilization has not crumbled.

Fortunately, prejudice is starting to. Polls show 75 percent of Americans think gay marriages will eventually be legal. About a third want it to happen, a third don’t and another third don’t care. (Among college students, three in five think gays should be able to wed.) Another survey shows that a record 60 percent of Americans say they know someone who is gay, which is likely symptomatic not of more gays but of growing tolerance that has allowed more gays to come out of the closet.

The claims against gay marriage are easy to rebut.

Claim 1: “Marriage has always been the way it is; you can’t change it just to fit the times.”

Rebuttal: Gay marriage is perfectly in keeping with the evolving nature of the institution. Once blacks couldn’t marry whites, Jews couldn’t marry Christians and wives were property of husbands. Such features changed as notions of equality did.

Claim 2: “Homosexuality is immoral; the Bible condemns it.”

Rebuttal: In the Bible, the book of Leviticus does say gays should be killed. But the Bible would also have us kill women who have premarital sex and men who masturbate, and it forbids tattoos, working on Sunday, eating shrimp and playing with pigskin (in other words, football). With good reason, America is a democracy not a theocracy.

Claim 3: “Gay marriage doesn’t lead to children, the purpose of marriage.”

Rebuttal: Wrong on both counts. States give marriage licenses to straight couples who don’t or can’t procreate. And like many straight couples, gays raise children thanks to adoption or sperm donors.

Claim 4: “If gays marry, next people will want to marry horses or children.”

Rebuttal: The equine argument is a Montana favorite, as it was for foes of interracial marriage. But marriage, gay or straight, is a contract between two consenting human adults. Nobody proposes changing this.

Claim 5: “Gay sex is disgusting.”

Rebuttal: So are, to many people, some “straight” sex acts. It’s not the state’s job to intrude in the bedrooms of consenting adults.

Claim 6: “You can’t force a church to marry gays.”

Rebuttal: True, but irrelevant. Gays are asking for state-issued licenses. Religions will remain as free to ban gay weddings as they are to ban women ministers.

Claim 7: “Why do gays need to marry anyway?”

Rebuttal: Many basic rights and protections are conferred by marriage, like the rights to visit a hospitalized partner, receive family health benefits and inherit a partner’s property.

As more Americans accept the justice of such arguments, the day when gays and lesbians can tie the knot like everyone else draws nearer — even in Montana.

***The author, Stephen Hendricks sits on the board of directors of PRIDE, Montana’s gay-rights advocacy group.