Gay marriage ruling rocks

This week, the first of many happy couples began exercising their right to marriage equality under California’s Constitution. We offer our unreserved good wishes to these citizens, many of whom have waited decades to have their marriages formally recognized with the benefits accorded to them by the state.

Of course, we believe—along with the California Supreme Court—that all adult citizens have the constitutional right to marry the partner of their choice, in spite of prejudice—fostered by tradition—that has kept them from exercising that right. The recent decision by the court simply prevents custom, tradition and individual religious belief from interfering with the basic equality our Constitution grants all citizens.

That is the underlying principal behind every historical expansion of civil rights. In California, for example, we’ve known times when women could not vote, people of Chinese and Japanese ancestry were prohibited from owning property, other people of color were enslaved and marriage between races forbidden. All of these things were considered perfectly legal at the time, by custom, by tradition—and yes, by citing particular religious beliefs.

All of these restrictions on civil rights were wrong. The laws which allowed such discrimination to occur violated the civil rights and denied the humanity of our fellow citizens.

It should also come as no surprise that we urge opposition to the attempt to take the basic, constitutional right of marriage equality away from an entire group of citizens in the name of tradition and religious belief—and we have heard no argument opposing marriage equality that does not rely on either tradition or a particular religious belief.

Remember, it was traditional for a woman to have no legal personage apart from her husband or father. It was traditional to allow no divorce, even under circumstances of abuse, rape or desertion. America once had a tradition of enslaving others and counting them as only three-fifths of a human, too—and yes, we enshrined that tradition in our Constitution—but none of these traditions were right or fair or decent.

Furthermore, those who call for legal recognition only of those marriages which pass their religious “tests” would be appalled if the religious beliefs of any group other than their own became the law of the land. Would Bible-believing Christians want Islamic religious law to be the only recourse for their personal lives? Or perhaps everyone should be subject to the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church where marriage is concerned, which would make divorce unavailable under most circumstances? We reject any argument for basing civil law on religious belief, if only because we hold religious freedom so dearly. It is only by separating civil institutions from religious belief that we are all able to practice our religions in freedom.

So kudos to our newest married citizens. Whether your marriages were conducted in civil ceremonies in the county clerk’s office or solemnized in the religious institution of your choice, we celebrate the full inclusion of all of society in one of our happiest institutions.