I write this not in my role as Ethics Commission chair, but as a citizen and member of the public.
Over the past few months, I have had the honor and privilege of attending the weddings of friends that before June 16, 2008, were not allowed to get married in 49 states. All of these couples had been in committed relationships for over ten years; some are raising children together. I left each ceremony with a profound sense of awe for the power and majesty of love and a bit of anger that anyone would want to take these marriages away from any of these couples.
I am Catholic and was educated in the law by Jesuits. I recognize that my church’s position on this issue is contrary to mine, but I humbly think my church is wrong. My understanding of Jesus and his teachings are that he believed in love above all else and preached tolerance, forgiveness and understanding. Nothing in the gospels I was taught as a child compels me to believe that we should stop committed adults that are in love from getting married. In my opinion it is antithetical to everything Jesus taught us. Just one example, when asked which of the commandments was most important, after talking about the commandment that says “Love your God with all of your heart,” Jesus said the second most important commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:28-31) What about this suggests to anyone that Christ would say two committed and in love adults cannot marry and share their lives together? I realize this is a controversial statement for some, but it is my personal opinion based on my faith and my understanding of its origins.
I also do not believe that allowing these loving, committed adults the right to marry in any way undermines the sanctity of marriage. Preliminarily, it in no way affects my marriage or family. To the contrary, I actually think it strengthens it because it is another example of a cohesive family unit that is committed to itself. And perhaps more to the point, straight couples are as capable as anyone of undermining the seriousness and sanctity of marriage — I am thinking of Vegas weddings by an Elvis impersonator that last a few days. The fact is, the sanctity of marriage is what each individual couple makes it. Allowing more loving and committed couples to marry only strengthens this institution and families.
54 years ago (almost to the day as the California Supreme Court’s decision regarding gay marriage), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the legal fiction of separate but equal when it came to race. The Supreme Court recognized that separate but equal was inherently unequal. Today, this seems like such an obvious statement. Interestingly, most people agree that committed gay couples should have the same rights and benefits as married couples (all the presidential and vice presidential candidates agree on this as well) — many just don’t want to call it marriage. To me, this is nothing more than clinging to the antiquated notion of separate but equal. On November 4, the people of California will have the opportunity bury this 19th century legal concept once and for all. I sincerely hope they do.