On Monday, May 19, Oregon became the latest state to legalize gay marriage when a federal judge ruled that a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael McShane ended 10 years of unequal treatment since Oregon voters passed Measure 36, an initiative that defined marriage as between one man and one woman and left families like ours on the outside looking in.
As The Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes reported, Monday’s ruling made Oregon the seventh state where a federal judge has struck down a ban on gay marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated key sections of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have already legalized same-sex marriage.
Given the incremental change we’ve seen as one state after another has seen fit to allow gay marriage – through court rulings, legislative action or voter approval – the landmark ruling in Oregon was widely expected. And it was immediately celebrated with more than 100 weddings performed in Multnomah County, where we live.
As a result of McShane’s ruling, representatives of Basic Rights Oregon said they would drop plans to place an initiative permitting gay marriage on the November ballot. It’s always struck me as absurd that such a fundamental issue of civil rights would be subject to a popular vote, rather than permitted outright as a matter of fairness and equality. Nevertheless, I signed a petition last year and was prepared to vote for a measure in in the fall.
Had the issue gone to the ballot, I’m confident it would have passed. We’ve seen a remarkable change in attitudes among Americans in the past decade or so in terms of supporting same-sex marriage, one that I think has been fueled by two factors: the growing presence of gay characters on television shows and in movies; and the realization that gays are everywhere in society – the workplace, sports, politics, the arts, etc.
There’s no question that younger generations have been more accepting than older folks in accepting same-sex relationships. We’ve seen that in our own family as our two sons, 34 and 26, and their partners have joined us in supporting our daughter, 31, and the woman she is going to marry. They’ve been together for seven years (as stable as any heterosexual couple) and have been engaged since November 2012, right around the time Washington state’s voter-approved law took effect permitting gay marriage.
Simone and her partner, Kyndall, would have liked to get married in Oregon. But because it wasn’t allowed, they long ago made plans to have the wedding and reception on Washington’s Orcas Island, where we have a cabin. The ceremony will take place in August and we will at last be able to welcome Kyndall into the Rede household as our second daughter-in-law.
It so happened that Simone came over for dinner Sunday night, as Kyndall is back east for work for a few days. We talked about what a special day Monday would be, a day of celebration and historic importance, and shared Simone’s disappointment that her love would not be able to share it with her. I think I can safely say, however, that the joy and euphoria that greeted Monday’s ruling in Oregon stretched as far as Pennsylvania and buoyed Kyndall’s spirits.
Finally, two things.
1. It was 17 months ago that I wrote a blog post – “Love the one you wish” – shortly after Simone and Kyndall became engaged.
“I have come to see – through simply being around Kyndall and Simone and their many, many friends and my many, many neighbors and co-workers who are gay or lesbian – that there’s only one thing that counts: whom you love,” I wrote then. “Simone and Kyndall are as happy and as committed a couple as a parent would want – and I love ‘em both to death. How nice that we are living in a time when we are seeing public and private attitudes shift and institutions change.”
2. I was impressed by Judge McShane’s eloquence in acknowledging many people have been raised with a traditional view of marriage that makes them uncertain about the future.
“I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries,” he said in his opinion. “To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other … and rise.”