I'm very happy to report that the Massachusetts House this afternoon followed the lead of the Senate and voted to repeal a 1913 law that had been used to bar out-of-state gay couples from marrying in the state. Gov. Deval Patrick has said he'll sign the measure.
The 1913 law was originally intended to prevent interracial couples from getting married in Massachusetts if the marriage was illegal in their home states. It was passed at the height of the scandal over black heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson's interracial marriages.
A spokesman for Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi told The Boston Globe: "This, like the protection of same-sex marriage before it, is a matter of basic civil rights and fairness and one the speaker felt was important to get done before formal sessions end."
I know that some opponents say that they're against "redefining" marriage to include gay couples. Well, if you look at the history of the United States over the past century, it's all about "redefinition." We've extended equal protection to people who have been historically disenfranchised, who were once thought undeserving of those rights solely because of the circumstances of their birth.
Two centuries ago women couldn't vote and black people were property in this country. Restrictive covenants that barred Jews from moving into certain neighborhoods were perfectly legal. Who would even have thought that a black person could be a citizen, much less a presidential candidate? The history of this country is about inclusion, about expanding civil rights for everyone. And marriage equality is just as much a civil-rights struggle.
I don't see how allowing gay and lesbian couples to get married threatens anyone. If anything, same-sex marriage strengthens the family simply by creating more, stable families, which adds to the social fabric. That's what we need - more examples of two people who love each other, are committed to each other, care for each other through thick and thin.
As I wrote when the Senate approved the repeal, I'm glad Massachusetts lawmakers, and the general public, realize that the sky hasn't fallen since gay marriage was made legal in 2004. Giving gay and lesbian couples their rights as Americans hasn't taken away rights from anyone else. I believe that the opposite is true - a more just society benefits everyone.
And these are not abstractions we're talking about. These are our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, our loved ones. They're in loving, committed relationships, and they are entitled to the same rights as any other American citizens. Today, Massachusetts took another step toward ensuring those rights.