Monday, March 18, 2013

Gay Marriage, Civil Unions, Colorado & a Picture

The state which I now call home has a long and controversial history in the area of gay rights.  All the way back in the early 90's, Amendment 2 was passed, which basically prohibited the LGBT community from asserting that their orientation could be grounds for discrimination.

Even all those years ago, most people knew that such a law was preposterous, as there are very real and legitimate claims to discrimination against people within those communities.  The challenge of that law went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was found unconstitutional as a violation of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause in Romer v. Evans.

I remember when the amendment was passed, and I remember thinking that the people of Colorado weren't just in denial, but that they were cruel and uncaring in the level of disdain shown to this population.  After all, back then, I lived in of the most liberal places in the country, right?


I underestimated the power of conservative churches to influence the outcome of elections where measures pertaining to gay marriage were on the ballot.  I was sickened to see pictures of children holding signs on street corners proclaiming gay marriage to be a sin back when Proposition 8 was on the ballot in California in 2008.

Here, when Amendment 43 was on the ballot in 2006, the same war was waged, largely at the hands of conservative churches.

Both California, the otherwise ultra liberal state, and Colorado, the place I call home now, have the state Constitution amended to define marriage as only between one man and one woman.

The legal case challenging Proposition 8, Hollingsworth v. Perry, was granted certiorari and will be decided by the United States Supreme Court this year.  This case will inevitably affect all states, like Colorado, that have enacted similar laws.  Arguments are scheduled to take place next week.

There is also a case pending at the Supreme Court challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act under the 5th Amendment's equal protection clause, as the law refuses to recognize marriages deemed legal by states that have allowed gay marriage.

In light of all the uncertainty surrounding the legal definition of marriage, and what a state may or may not be allowed to legislate in terms of it, Colorado quietly passed a law last week granting the right to establish civil unions to gay couples.  

Colorado, the state that tried to tell LGBT people that they had no grounds for discrimination, the state that went to the extreme of amending the state constitution to ensure they would never be allowed to marry, just passed a law allowing civil unions.

There is a large and growing percentage of people here in Colorado, and across the nation, who believe that gay marriage is an inevitability.  Of note, 54% of Catholics are in favor of gay marriage, in direct contradiction to church teachings.

There are those who hold strong to the idea that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman only, and that everything but that is acceptable.  Those who seem to believe that the word marriage is deserving of a special category granted only to relationships they decide are worthy of it.

Some claim it's purely a semantic argument, at least in the states where civil unions are allowed, because all the same legal rights and responsibilities exist within the civil unions as with marriage.

I go further, though, and I say it's not just a semantic argument.  Civil unions aren't enough.  Marriage is marriage is marriage.  Anything less cannot be the same.

Trying to say that a civil union is just as good as marriage even though we define them completely differently is akin to that infamous phrasing used back in the days when people fought against school integration.

Separate but equal.

Separate but equal is a fallacy.  The court knew it then, the court will see it now.  I have confidence in that truth.

Here, in Colorado, the state legislature did the most they could.  They passed civil unions.  Under the existing state constitution, they couldn't legalize marriage.  After the Supreme Court issues opinions, I suspect that will change.

The Speaker of the House here in Colorado, Mark Ferrandino, is gay. The first openly gay Speaker here in the state.  He said that this bill is about family, love and equality.

Which is exactly what this is about.  Gay rights aren't just gay rights.  They are human rights.  Basic human rights.  Singling out people based on their race or ethnicity was wrong, but was something done legally for years in this country.  Limiting rights of women was legal too.  The time has come to recognize that restricting rights based on sexual orientation falls into the same category.

They are all antiquated, outdated notions of discrimination.

The Constitution protects everyone, equally.

When the story ran in the Denver Post last week about the passage of the law, a picture accompanied it.  This picture.

Colorado Speaker Mark Ferrandino and his partner Greg Wertsch,
courtesy of the Denver Post
I see a successful leader and the love of his life, celebrating a moment of happiness.  Joy.

Other people are disgusted.  Sickened by the fact that a baby bottle sits on the desk.  Repulsed by the image, asserting that public displays of affection are wrong.  The opinion section of the paper yesterday was full of outrage.

For this.

Until we can look at a picture like this and see it no differently than a picture of a man and a woman sharing a very simple gesture of affection, we've got work to do.

Change doesn't come quickly or easily, and there will always be opposition to it, but change is gonna come.


  1. Once again, you are right on the money !! bz

  2. The thought that people were especially sickened that there was a baby bottle in the photo brought tears to my eyes.

    That, to me, is what makes this photo beautiful. Family.

    How can anyone hate love?

  3. The people dragging their feet in the primordial mud won't look up long enough from whatever they might be reading ;) to see the change is most absolutely going to come. Great post, Kelly.

  4. I can't even put into words all of my feelings about all this without it turning into The Great American Novel Comment. But I don't understand why anyone in the year 2013 is still holding on to antiquated belief structures while AT THE SAME TIME disregarding other parts of their belief structures because it's hard or they don't wanna. I don't know how many people I've wanted to slap for saying they're against gay marriage and yet...they wear pants (women), cut their hair, eat shellfish, shave, wear makeup, their father's haven't paid a dowry, etc...etc...etc. I will always at least in part, self identify as Catholic. I grew up that way. I don't necessarily agree with all of the church's teachings, but I respect it's message and it's traditions are like a comfort. So even though I'm pretty sure I don't qualify as a "real" Catholic, I'm definitely one of those 54% that you cited. And now. I turned it into the Great American Novel Comment anyway...dangit.

  5. I couldn't agree more. I'm sorry honesty scares folks and they're leaving your page. I have a feeling those who've found it by sharing (as I'm going to shortly) will more than make up for the negative Nancies.

  6. Until gay people are given the same social, political, economic and emotional rights of a marriage that heterosexual people enjoy, it is never the same thing!

  7. Hi I am Abbie Gale at and I have to share.
    I wrote about the same thing and I had a great response from readers and I figured, my readers are your readers. Please feel free to come by and share your post in mine. I also updated my post at the end with what has happened here where I live and in the Bible belt. It brought tears to my eyes and has restored my faith in humanity. :) Thanks for sharing.


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