Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Same-sex marriage doesn't make yours any less vailid

Same-sex marriage doesn't make yours any less valid

Chris Kocher

It's pretty much common wisdom now that about half of marriages end in divorce. In fact, moves are afoot in the state Legislature to have no-fault divorces in New York, which would (in theory) make divorce easier and less costly.

So I'm always a little puzzled when people talk about the "sanctity" of marriage. At least half of Americans are not taking the "until death do us part" portion of the wedding vows to heart. Marriage has become just another part of our throwaway culture -- some people even have "starter marriages" in their 20s and settle into the "real thing" the second time around.

Which brings us around to same-sex marriage. I say, let gay couples give it a shot -- at this point, can they screw it up any more than the heterosexuals? Perhaps so, but they should get a chance to have both sides of the coin: happiness and sadness, love and breakup. It seems only fair.

I understand how some people object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds, but we're living in a country with a clear separation of church and state. What one religion believes -- and there's some debate about that, as recent back-and-forth articles on these pages can attest -- should not dictate to everyone. As I recall, about half the country did not want civil rights for blacks in the 1960s (some people still don't), but that became the law of the land because it was the right thing to do.

At the core, I think a lot of people are just uncomfortable with the idea of what being gay entails. Frankly, anything that happens between two consenting adults behind bedroom doors should be private, not something that the government decides is good or bad. The Supreme Court -- highest law in the land -- generally has agreed with this idea. Perhaps a legal challenge from Massachusetts, where gay marriage is now allowed, will clarify matters

Growing up, I didn't know any gay people at all. Well, that's not entirely true: In his mid-20s, my best friend from high school told us about his boyfriend (they're still together); and Jay McCarroll, the flamboyant winner of the reality TV show "Project Runway," was a few grades below me. At the time, though, admitting you were gay at a rural high school probably would not have been well-received. I wonder if it's any different there now.

Since then, I've met gays who were very nice, friendly, open people, and I've met others who were not so nice. But they're humans just like anybody else -- same hopes, same dreams, same need to love and to be loved, and the same right to be legally recognized as a couple regardless of gender.

We've solicited readers' opinions about same-sex marriage for a feature that will run next week, and we've had a number of responses from both sides of the issue. As a preview, I'd like to share a favorite one, from Ronald Kracht of Windsor:

"One of the things I have learned in the past 35 years is that no other relationship, happy or unhappy, married or unmarried, straight or gay, has any impact on the strength or sanctity of my marriage. I don't believe that any 'separate but equal' institution is warranted or appropriate. Any religious body which chooses not to approve of same-sex marriage should be allowed to refuse to perform such marriages."

I could not have said it better myself.

Kocher is the Press & Sun-Bulletin's deputy Community Conversation editor. His column appears Fridays.

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