Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Repealing a shameful law

The Massachusetts Senate today passed a bill to repeal a 1913 law that effectively barred out-of-state gay and lesbian couples from getting married in Massachusetts. The bill already has the support of the House speaker and Governor Deval Patrick.

"There are very few laws on the books that I can say that I'm ashamed that they're on the books," state Sen. Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat, says in a Boston Globe story. He said he opposed the law because of the "immorality of discrimination."

That was the comment that really struck me. I'm glad that someone stated the matter simply and clearly. Discrimination is immoral.

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.

"This is a very simple law, contrived in shame, and it exists in shame and we ought to wipe it off the books," Montigny said.

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.

The road to equal rights for all Americans has been a long and tortuous one and progress doesn't happen nearly fast enough. But we're getting there. And today is one of the good days.

Update: At Media Nation, Dan has a great post that points out just how far we've come in the debate over gay marriage.


Amanda said...

Good for Massachusetts! I wonder what'll happen now if out of state couples get married, then go home to their discriminatory states. Hopefully that'll give way to more lawsuits to eventually get equality for the entire country. I feel like we're living in the dark ages. Texas (where I live) is particularly bad.

Esther said...

Hi Amanda, thanks for the comment!

I'm not sure what will happen. I've read some stories where gay-rights organizations have actually advised couples against filing lawsuits when they get back home, out of fear that the decisions will go against them. So it'll be interesting to see what happens.

It can get depressing to think about the level of homophobia that's out there, but the history of this country over the last century has been about the expansion of equal rights for everyone.

And 15 years ago, I hardly knew anyone who was openly gay. Today, I don't know one straight person who "doesn't" know an openly gay person. These are our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors, our family. And they are entitled to the same rights as all other Americans.