Lead editorial in today's San Diego Union-Tribune ... a paper not historically notable as a champion of progressive values.
Gay marriage right should not be repealed
September 18, 2008
The right of gay and lesbian couples to wed on an equal legal basis with heterosexual couples has long stirred opposition not only among social conservatives but also among a much broader swath of society. But in the four short months since a landmark California Supreme Court ruling legalized gay marriage, a significant social shift seems to have occurred.
As gay couples have gone to the courthouse and entered into matrimony, usually surrounded by champagne, family and friends, the worst fears of gay marriage opponents suddenly seem greatly inflated. For instance, Christian conservatives have asserted for years that allowing gays to marry would undermine heterosexual unions – hence, such laws as the Defense of Marriage Act. In truth, however, there has been no discernible impact on traditional marriage between a man and a woman now that gay couples in California have the same right.
With gay marriage a fait accompli, society has not crumbled. The long-standing institution of marriage is not in crisis. Californians have taken this change in stride. Indeed, there appears to be a marked shift in public opinion toward acceptance of gay marriage.
Consider that in 2000, when California voters last weighed the issue, fully 61 percent supported a ban on gay marriage. Today, with Proposition 8 on the Nov. 4 ballot, polls show that Californians support gay marriage by a margin of 54 percent to 40 percent, with 6 percent offering no opinion. The trend suggests that, by Election Day, a solid majority of Californians will register their approval of gay marriage.
Proposition 8 would repeal the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. It stipulates, by a one-sentence amendment to the state constitution, that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Our guess is that even voters who may have reservations about gay marriage will be reluctant to repeal a right that now exists as a matter of law. To do so would smack of singling out a particular group for discrimination, a move that offends many Californians' sense of fairness.
Supporters of Proposition 8 make two arguments. The first is that, for thousands of years, marriage has been defined as between a man and a woman exclusively. Considering how Californians historically have been wide open to change, this appeal is not likely to carry much force.
The second argument made by supporters is that children should be raised solely by a father and a mother, not by two fathers or two mothers. Yet the debate over child-rearing is entirely beside the point, because Proposition 8 is about marriage only. It would do nothing to prevent gay couples from adopting children or from having children through artificial means. Indeed, all Proposition 8 would do is ensure that the children of gay couples would be raised in households where the parents were unmarried. Would that be a healthier situation for children?
In the past, this page has advocated civil unions for gay couples rather than marriage. But our thinking has changed, along with that of many other Californians. Gay and lesbian couples deserve the same dignity and respect in marriage that heterosexual couples have long enjoyed. We urge a No vote on Proposition 8.