Usually when there's a surprise in the News, it's of the unpleasant variety. However, in the past week I was happy to see the Iowa supreme court strike down the state's ban on same-sex marriages.
While Iowa is considered a swing state, politically, and leans conservative on many issues, it has been ahead of the curve in civil rights issues since at least 1839, when, in the re the Matter of Ralph, the state supreme court's first case, it declared "no man in this territory can be reduced to slavery." Iowa also had integrated schools and female attorney's long before the fashion caught on in most other states.
So it's not out of character for Iowa to strike an early blow for marriage equality. Perhaps the birthplace of Ann Landers and Dear Abby figured it was, after all, just good manners.
I was a little more surprised that Vermont waited till after Iowa (and Connecticut and Massachusetts, for god's sake), to declare that it was cool with gay marriage too. Vermont, after all, was a pioneer in the "hey, it's better than nothing" institution of civil unions. The Green Mountain State has a long tradition of going its own liberal-libertarian way on these things. Oh well, better late than never (you hear that New Jersey? Get a move on!).
Personally, speaking as a straight, white male, I find the brouhaha over same-sex marriage hard to comprehend. Why are some people so dead-set against it? The argument that it will lead to bestiality (since when can sheep sign marriage licenses?) and polygamy (although you'd think divorce lawyers would be salivating over the potential income from sorting out that kind of contract) are pretty hollow.
How about the argument that allowing two men or two women to marry is a threat to traditional marriages? For the life of me, I can't figure out how.
And then there's the religious objection. I'm a somewhat lapsed Roman Catholic, and I am not really much of a theologian, but let me try to explain my point of view on this.
Apparently homosexuality is declared an abomination in the Old Testament, along with things like eating shellfish and lending money at interest. Oddly enough, though, you don't see massive religious protests against credit card companies or the opening of a new Red Lobster. It's possible, by the way, that the prohibition against sodomy was actually a prohibition against married men and women pursuing relations outside of their marriages.
If God hates gay people, why'd he make so many damn many of 'em?
Seriously, though, I'm inclined to accept the evidence that sexual preference is hard-wired into our heads, we're made the way we are. I'm straight, my buddy may not be. I'm not going to talk him out of being gay any more than he'll talk me out of liking women (and I wouldn't want to, anyway, my hypothetical buddy may be better looking than me, and I don't need the competition!).
So, by that argument, God made us who we are, and it's up to us to make the best of that. We are inherently social beings, we make friends and alliances, we interact and, if all goes well, we pair up and share some sort of Grace.
Part of that Grace, that bond, is sexual in nature. Yes, my friends, God gave us the gift of Good Sex. Not just wild and exciting sex, or incredibly fun sex but the chance for a transcendent experience, where two people connect and give each other the gift of themselves. It's tricky, and complicated, often ridiculous and more than a little scary, but there's a chance, when you have that kind of commitment and connection to each other, to find what the Archbishop of Canterbury called The Body's Grace.
So, if this experience is something of the divine, a gift from God, and if God made some men to love men and some women to love women, who are we to tell God that his children are not allowed to share in his gifts? Rather than railing against the idea, the truly Devout should be cheering their homosexual brethren on and encouraging them to pursue that Grace.
Again, I'm not a biblical scholar, but it seems to me that Jesus was never one for oppressing the minority. Quite the opposite, if I remember correctly.
So, I ask you, isn't it time to throw out the prejudices and lay out the welcome mat? Why not? The economy, war, pollution... there are a million real problems facing us today, why should we wallow in the mire of pointless artificial divisions?