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Diane Mufson: Same-sex marriage now part of US fabric

Jul. 02, 2013 @ 10:40 PM

Whether we like it or not, the world about us changes continually. Bob Dylan's classic 1964 song, "The Times They Are A-Changin'," is a perpetual reminder.

Only nine years ago in July 2004, I wrote an op-ed for this newspaper, titled, "Gay marriage won't destroy U.S." At that time, friends suggested that I shouldn't state such views publicly because most of our nation and our leaders rejected gay marriage.

In just a few years, Americans' acceptance of same-sex marriage has dramatically increased. While this has been a long-term important issue to those directly affected, last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision means that gay marriage is now part of the American fabric.

The court's 5-4 decision invalidates the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), meaning that all married couples, regardless of gender, are entitled to federal tax, inheritance, Social Security, pension, hospital visitation and other benefits that accrue to heterosexual married couples.

The ruling does not mean that all states have to permit same sex marriages. Additional, but not all, states will do so in the future. The court's decision is also apt to mean that there will be some legal confusion when married gay couples move to states that do not accept such marriages. At this time, 12 states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriages. Back in 2004, same-sex marriage was clearly legal only in Massachusetts.

But the times do change. Witness the anti-miscegenation laws that prohibited interracial marriage in many states through the 20th century. Only in 2000 did Alabama, the last state with such laws on their books, officially vote to allow people of different races to legally tie the marriage knot.

Sometimes attitudinal change is glacial. After all, it took almost 400 years before the Catholic Church publicly admitted that Copernicus' theory that the earth revolved around the sun was not sinful, but actually correct.

Some folks believe that same-sex marriage will destroy the family and that what we need is to return to the days of "Dick, Jane and Spot." As they say in New York, "fuhgedaboudit." Families today are amazingly varied; estimates suggest that currently fewer than 50 percent have the traditional "Leave It To Beaver" composition.

In my 2004 column, I quoted Rick Santorum (remember him from the 2102 Republican primary?) sharing his views on gay marriage. As a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania he said, "The future of the country hangs in the balance because the future of the family hangs in the balance." In other words, gay families would destroy this nation. Some folks worry that when same-sex couples raise children, they will be "turned gay." Think for a minute. Didn't apparently straight parents raise today's gay adults? People are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered because that is their genetic make-up, not because of the environment to which they were exposed. If our nation was really worried about children and traditional family values, we would make sure that no American children languished in long term foster care and work harder to prevent heterosexual couples from abusing and neglecting their children.

The first stanza of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" reads: "Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam, and admit that the waters, around you have grown."

The waters have grown regarding same-sex marriage. More states will eventually sanction gay marriage and one day, like today's interracial marriage, it will not be newsworthy. Same-sex marriage has now become part of the American fabric.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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