How history will tell the story of same-sex marriage.
Last year at this time I was fumbling my way through my first congressional campaign
as an Independent candidate. During this time, President Obama made history by becoming the first sitting president ever to endorse same-sex marriage. A few days earlier he'd been preempted by Vice President Joe Biden in essence forcing his hand to go public. Also during this time the governor of my home state of Maryland, Martin O'Malley, signed House Bill 438 authorizing same-sex marriage. Two weeks later, opponents of same-sex marriage announced the launch of the petition drive for the referendum to repeal the Civil Marriage Protection Act. That referendum was soundly defeated more than 52 percent of the popular vote.
As one could imagine, with all of the national attention thanks to the president, and the local attention due to the legislation in Maryland, this was a very hot topic as I pounded the pavement, shaking hands and kissing babies was ' "What's your stance on same-sex marriage?" The questions was so prevalent that my public relations director, Jessica Winn, did a short question and answer session with me and published a press release with my official stance on the topic. The statement read as follows:
With the recent statement of President Barack Obama affirming his personal opinion that gay and lesbian citizens should be allowed to marry, the inquiries to the Friends of Jeremy Stinson for Congress in regards to Jeremy's stance on the topic have increased dramatically. Below is an official statement from Jeremy Stinson outlining his stance on same-sex marriage and what that means to the residents of Maryland's 5th district.
"I will start by saying that it is my view that legislation and policy regarding same-sex marriage is a state's rights issue and should be dealt with on the state level. If elected to represent the 5th district, I will oppose any legislation, in favor or in opposition, to same-sex marriage. Reason being the federal government should not be involved in the issue. I do not support anything resembling the overreach of the federal government in citizen's lives, i.e., a constitutional amendment or DOMA.
Secondly I will say that my personal belief is that marriage is an institution ordained by God and by definition is between a man and a woman. God's perfect plan is: Christ, Man, Woman, Child. It is not the place of the government, or mankind for that matter, to "redefine" what is set forth by God.
That said, I will never cast a vote to deny any human being their God given right to be happy. Gay and lesbian couples are entitled to the same rights and privileges afforded to my wife and me, such as visitation rights in the hospital, tax incentives, benefits, etc. These items can be legislated on, protected, and ensured by the government. I will fight to ensure those rights are protected under civil unions, which should be determined by the state.
I have friends and associates who are currently in same-sex unions and I don't begrudge them for it. I wish them all the happiness and success that I wish for my heterosexual married friends and associates. It's not a matter of judging one's lifestyle, personal choices, or inclinations. It's just a matter of me being true to my values and beliefs.
I know my view could be seen as esoteric by some, but my views are shaped by my Christian beliefs and are not determined or shaped by the government."
Follow up questions:
"So Mr. Stinson - in your opinion, what is the difference between marriage and civil unions?"
"Marriage was created by God with clear intentions of procreation and cannot be redefined by man. Civil unions are created and defined by man and provide equal opportunity for gay and lesbian couples to achieve the happiness they seek with the same rights afforded heterosexual couples."
"So what do you say to those who may be opposed to your stance on this issue?"
"I guess I would simply ask them to trust and believe that I would never impose upon anyone's God given rights. At the end of the day, I can't please everyone. But I can take solace in the fact that I'm sticking to my convictions."
I received blowback from everyone for my views. Liberals who advocated for same-sex marriage called me bigoted and short-sighted because of my personal beliefs. "You of all people should be FOR same-sex marriage!" They were intimating that as a black man in America, I shouldn't be an advocate of denying civil rights to anyone. If they really paid attention to my statement, then they would know that this wasn't the case. I'm very clear in stating that I will not infringe upon anyone's rights, whether I'm an elected official or private citizen.
I was called a heathen by religious conservatives who felt that I was being too tolerant in my position that homosexual couples deserved the same basic human rights as anyone else. One of the most surprising views I ran into was that because of their "immorality", that they shouldn't be afforded the basic human right to be happy.
Of course I also received criticism from those who felt that I was equivocating to better my chances of getting elected. Who would've thought that a person could have a religious belief without holding the rest of the world to their beliefs? Go figure.
Fast forward to present day and my views haven't change, although I've spent a great deal of time thinking about the issue. I've come to the conclusion that me and others like me will end up on the wrong side of history. I'm ok with that. My personal opinion is just that ' my personal opinion. My stance is based solely on my religious beliefs and I understand that I can't hold anyone accountable to my God. On the converse, a supporter cannot redefine the tenets of my religion to suit them.
The sea change in America that has been many years in the making has gathered a head of steam and is in full effect, more so than I suspect anyone would've have expected or predicted. In May 2012, just months after the president announced his support for same-sex marriage, a slight majority of Americans said it should not be legal for same-sex couples to marry. Now, 53 percent of all Americans are in favor. According to a CBS News poll, 33 percent of people who now support same-sex marriage once held the opposite view. Since 2004, nine states have legalized same-sex marriage. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both taken official stances in favor of same-sex marriage. I think it's safe to say that any Democrat with aspirations of being elected to any political office in the U.S. from now to eternity had damn-well better be a proponent of same-sex marriage. The same might be true for Republicans.
Recently, prominent Republican senator, Rob Portman, announced that he was now for same-sex marriage, after years of staunch opposition. Portman co-sponsored a federal ban on same-sex marriage - the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as a member of the U.S. House in 1996. In 1999, Portman voted for a measure prohibiting same-sex couples in Washington state from adopting children. His change of heart and mind were attributed to the revelation of his gay son two years ago. At the same time, attendants at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) were conspicuously quiet on the issue, but spoke volumes by their actions. Several news outlets showed empty breakout rooms for speakers in opposition to same-sex marriage and standing-room-only crowds in the rooms of advocates of the issue.
Now, as the Supreme Court weighs in on a topic that has all but been decided in the court of public opinion, it seems inevitable that same-sex marriage will become yet another secular social norm. The Justices find themselves in a position where they must consider the historical implications of the issue without taking into account the current political implications of ruling one way or the other. Most importantly, they must judge the constitutionality of DOMA without acting on a moral imperative. The early reports of the first rounds of arguments are illustrative of the difficulty encountered in sussing out of the details of the case. ABC News reports that "the Justices seemed reluctant to embrace sweeping same-sex marriage right". "This was a deeply divided Supreme Court, and a court that seemed almost to be groping for an answer here," said CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
History will tell the story of the throngs of protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court of the United States, both hoping to sway the court one way and the other. History will also show those in opposition to same-sex marriage as intolerant extremist, much like the bigoted racists of the Civil Rights movement of the 60's. But to me, it's more complex than that and I hope it's taken into account that it wasn't as cut and dry as time may make it seem.