This week, Massachusetts became the first state to finally catch up with the changing tides of society when its highest court ruled that same-sex marriages are constitutional. This decision, which orders the Massachusetts state legislature to alter legislation in order to make same-sex marriages possible, is clearly a lightning rod of controversy that has polarized people all along the ideological spectrum. Gays and most liberals have understandably hailed the decision as a breakthrough for homosexual rights, while the majority of conservatives and the religious right have fervently denounced it as an affront to the institution of marriage.
This decision, whose implications are extremely wide-ranging and potentially resounding, should serve as a wake-up call to our nation that the society in which we live has been actively changing in recent years. Whether or not a person accepts gays, it cannot be denied that we now live in a culture where homosexuality is commonplace and is openly discussed. This type of open dialogue logically resulted in an atmosphere that gradually became more accepting of homosexuality. The next clear step in this chain is the advancement of gay rights, many of which have already begun to be granted, especially with the United States Supreme Court's recent ruling in the case Lawrence v. Texas that entitled gays to "respect for their private lives." Although this ruling, which struck down Texas' sodomy law as a violation of human rights, does not explicitly address the issue of same-sex marriage, it helped to pave the way for the Massachusetts ruling and for future gay rights legislation as well.
Critics of same-sex marriages, such as President Bush, contend that "marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman" and it is therefore a desecration of this "sacred institution" for two people of the same sex to be wed. Is this to say that two people who are in love do not deserve the right to consummate their love in marriage, as all other Americans can, simply because they are of the same sex? With nearly half of all American marriages ending in divorce, is marriage even the "sacred institution" that conservatives claim it to be anymore? Clearly, any two people deserve the right to legally declare their love and devotion for one another, regardless of their sexes. The only argument that exists against gay marriages is intolerance and fear of change.
Homosexuals have as much choice about their sexual preference as African Americans have about their skin color; they are simply born a certain way and therefore should not be punished for simply existing. Although our society has become more accepting of homosexuality, gays still face persecution at every corner for something over which they do not control. People should be able to express themselves and their sexual preferences openly in our allegedly open, democratic society with expectations of receiving the same rights as all other Americans.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court should be applauded for taking this bold and controversial step. In order truly to facilitate change, such as that which took place during the Civil Rights Movement, our government must continue to issue contentious rulings and laws that face potentially fierce opposition from those who fear change. In America, we have a democracy that guarantees all citizens equal rights under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual preference. We must continue to fight for equality for everyone until this ideal is finally realized, and this day will not come unless our government continues on this revolutionary path towards transformation.