Saturday, February 2, 2008


As a result of a federal judge’s ruling on Friday, same-sex couples may begin registering as domestic partners in Oregon, obtaining some of benefits comparable to marriage. County clerks across the state expect a rush of applicants on Monday morning.

The law was initially scheduled to go into effect on January 2, but a group opposed to the law wanted to force a referendum vote and on December 28
got an injunction to block the new domestic partnership law.

The judge’s decision was a major victory for gay-rights advocates, who have fought for years to gain the rights and protections that married couples enjoy, including the ability to file joint state tax returns, to automatically inherit a partner’s property, to adopt and jointly parent children, and to visit family members in the hospital.

The law stops short of full-fledged marriage and offers none of the rights guaranteed to married spouses under federal law.

We’ve a long way to go before we accord truly equal rights to same-sex couples, but we celebrate this victory on the way to that goal.

Looking Back: At one point, 40 states in this country forbade the marriage of a white person to a person of color. Marriages between whites and persons of color were decried as “immoral” and “unnatural”. A Virginia judge upheld that state’s ban on interracial marriages saying, in language with the same tone as that being used in opposition to gay marriages today:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

In 1948, the California Supreme Court led the way in challenging racial discrimination in marriage and became the fist state high court to declare unconstitutional a ban on interracial marriage. The court pointed out that races don’t marry each other, people do. Restricting who can marry whom on that characteristic alone was therefore race discrimination. It took another 19 years for the U.S. Supreme Court to make the same ruling. Until 1967, in many states, a couple of mixed race could not get a marriage license, and if they went to another state and were married, when they returned home they could be arrested.

The same logic that banned interracial marriages has been used to ban same-sex marriage. In both cases, the appeal is religious. God help us!

- Milo

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