Sunday, September 27, 2009

He takes a stand for marriage equality, now?

Former President Bill Clinton recently told Anderson Cooper in an interview on CNN that he has changed his mind on same-sex marriage. While he says he always opposed an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, he used to believe that "marriage" should be reserved only for a man and woman. Now he says that if same-sex couples want to make such a commitment that they should be allowed. He also stated that in spite of this he still believes that the issue is best decided by the states.

While his change of heart is appreciated, it comes a bit late, for one. It was, afterall, on his watch that the discriminatory 'Defense of Marriage Act' was passed. Of course, it would have also been nice had he been enlightened to this more tolerant perspective years ago. One wonders just why it took him so damn long.

Mr. Clinton claims that he was "hung up" on the word. That word being "marriage". Frankly I have to wonder if what changed for Clinton was not just an epiphany as to how unreasonable it is to deny the right of marriage to people based on their sexual-orientation, but rather that society is more approving now and therefore it is less a controversial stance.

Regardless, Mr. Clinton should go one step further toward an actual egalitarian attitude toward legal marriage and endorse making it legal at the national level. Afterall, if it's unfair in principle in one state then wouldn't it be everywhere else? When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bigoted anti-miscegenation laws they didn't just apply it to Virginia. Would it have been just if the state of Virginia, as some other states (like California) had, simply permitted interracial marriages? Or should such discriminatory laws have been overturned entirely across the entire nation? I think so.

Marriage conditions based on race was grossly unfair and unconstitutional on its face. This was as true for the Lovings in Virginia, as it was for couples in Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee or Florida. The same is true today for conditions based on the gender of spouses. The most striking example is slavery. Some issues simply should
never be left to the states to decide.

In the end I can't imagine how much having Bill Clinton support same-sex marriage will actually help efforts toward equality for same-sex couples. Folks who are anywhere right-of-center seem to have little respect for the man. Given his failings in marriage, as they would be quick to point out, he's not really much of one to speak from a perspective of moral standing.

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