Marriage Equality Begins in Massachusetts
Cultural change is always slower. Fred Phelps and his small crew of hatemongers held their classic God Hates Fags signs, this time with pictures of two dogs getting married. Lesbians were portrayed as pigs.
Later in the day, George W. Bush joined them by issuing a statement reiterating his call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Ironically, he was in Kansas marking the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. the Board of Education that ended racial segregation in the United States.
Parallels in the cases are unescapable. Massachusetts opponents lobbying to ban same-sex marriages are offering the alternative of "separate, but equal" civil unions, in much the same spirit that segregationists offered separate, but not quite equal schools.
Gay segregation was dismissed by the state's largely Republican State Supreme Court in November when they ruled 4-3 that lesbians and gay men have equal legal rights under the state constitution, including the right to marry, and that anything less was unconstitutional.
To reduce the impact of the decision, Massachusetts Governor Romney has resurrected a 1913 state law intended to prevent interracial marriage. It bars nonresident couples from marrying in Massachusetts if the union would be illegal in their home state.
Some town and city clerks have said they won't ask same-sex couples for documentation about residency. Others have said they just won't ask about residency at all.
Untroubled by echoes of discrimination, a group of African-American pastors joined the Traditional Values Coalition to hold a press conference in Washington D.C. denouncing gay marriage and calling for the Congressional Black Caucus to support Bush's antigay amendment.
Keith Boykin, president of the lesbian and gay National Black Justice Coalition, cast doubt on the long-term viability of that unlikely alliance, noting that the co-sponsors of the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) have "the worst civil rights records in Congress" when it comes to issues important to the African-American community.
The NAACP is also a strong opponent of antigay legislation on both the state and federal levels. In a letter to Louisiana's Legislative Black Caucus, Julian Bond, chairman of the national NAACP, urged them to vote against a state amendment banning same-sex marriage. "Discrimination is wrong no matter who the victim is."