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Same-Sex Marriage an Eventuality
Published on Friday, November 21, 2003 by the Denver Post
Same-Sex Marriage an Eventuality
by Reggie Rivers

The Massachusetts Supreme Court this week struck down a state law banning same-sex marriage, more proof that gay marriage eventually will be legal. The state of Colorado is going to have accept this reality and figure out how to deal with it rather than trying to fight it.

I know many people will accuse this court of activism, and that's a popular charge any time a court ruling goes against the will of the majority.

One of the truths of our system is that if you're part of a powerful majority group - either in sheer numbers or in the volume of your political contributions - then you generally want to keep your fight in the legislature, where your majority status carries a lot of weight.

But if you're part of a disenfranchised minority group, you generally want to keep your fight in the courts, where the will of the majority is less important and the facts and equity of your particular situation are weighed.

So any time the courts side with the minority, opponents will quickly claim that the judges are activists who have no business overturning legislation that represents the majority of the people.

To be sure, the legislature plays a vital role in the creation of laws, but I believe the courts play a more critical role in defending people who are hurt by those laws, because small groups who are targets of this type of abuse have no real voice in the legislature.

In this instance, homosexuals are being denied access to the protections, benefits and responsibilities of marriage even though they pay taxes to support all of the special laws surrounding marriage.

Telling a gay person that he can qualify for a marriage license only if he weds someone of the opposite sex is like saying you can get a driver's license only if you buy an American-made SUV.

The government simply should not tell us what type of car to drive or whom to marry.

The Massachusetts ruling is just the latest example of courts finding that there is no legitimate reason to continue to discriminate against gays. A couple of years ago, Vermont created legal recognition for same-sex couples; last summer, Canadian courts legalized gay marriage; the U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned a ban on homosexual sex; and it seems certain that more laws will fall in the coming years.

Opponents will argue that there's a pressing need for a federal marriage amendment to stop this wave before it washes too far inland, but we should pause for a moment and consider the simple facts:

Choosing the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life is an extremely personal decision. You might marry someone who is of another race, has a different religion, is significantly older than you, lives in a different state, has been married three times, has kids from a previous marriage, is unable to have kids, has a communicable disease, is incarcerated, has poor grooming habits, is unemployed, is incredibly stupid, is addicted to drugs, hates having sex or possesses any number of other qualities.

The person you're choosing could be the worst possible marriage candidate in the state, but the government has no right to tell you that you can't marry him or her. So why should the government draw a line in the sand about the sexes of the two people getting married?

It's fairly predictable that our state legislators will scramble to find a way to keep the gay marriage from becoming the law in Colorado. The nature of politics dictates that they won't try to deal in fairness, equity or fact; instead, they try to pander to the majority.

But we should really think about gay marriage and decide whether we want to continue to support this brand of discrimination.

Former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers is the host of "Drawing the Line" Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on KBDI Channel 12 in Denver.

Copyright © 2003 The Denver Post


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