Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

Joe, Bob and Me

“We have all these huge issues, and we’re bogged down in whether Joe can marry Bob.” Gay marriage has gone from an abomination to a diversion.

The charge is not new. Democrats have long accused Republicans of exploiting “social issues” to play to their evangelical base – and so giving the party’s real powers the cover to dismantle the welfare state. Indeed, I have done that myself. Republicans, by contrast, now assail Democrats for playing the gay card to deflect attention from the economy.

But gay marriage is not a tangential matter. It is a defining issue of today’s politics. It is part of the ongoing struggle for America’s soul.

As a country we are at our best when we expand the rights of people. Those efforts have never come without fierce opposition – from the mid-19th century when a tiny group of abolitionists were dismissed as fanatics to the mockery of suffragettes to the murder of civil rights activists. And marriage has long been a focal point. When I was a child, it was a mortal sin for a Catholic to enter a Protestant church, let alone get married in one, and it was not until 1967 that a unanimous Supreme Court declared Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional.

When I ran for Congress in 1996, my position on gay marriage was “evolving.” I knew the right answer. I was just too chicken to give it. It’s a lot easier to stand up now, but it is not too late.

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