Since the November election, several developments have put marriage equality front and center in the national debate again.  You’ll remember that on election night, 3 states voted to legalize same-sex marriage (Washington, Maine, and Maryland), while one voted to reject a same-sex marriage ban (Minnesota).  The Supreme Court recently said they would not only take up same sex marriage by reviewing California’s 2008 ballot measure Proposition 8 which amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, but will also hear a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”.  Deep, cultural beliefs are slow to change.  What King was saying is that however slow, things always tend to change toward greater justice guided by larger truths that eventually put long held prejudices and fears in check.

The irony of using King’s quote here is not lost on me.  Various sources seem to indicate that MLK was not particularly fond of a gay rights movement and even once counseled a young boy battling his sexuality that he was “already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it”.  I personally like to believe, as does the author linked above, that had King been around in these days he would have evolved to not only embrace rights for our gay and lesbian citizens but to fight for them as he had those of the poor and black.

There are other signs that the arc of justice is bending in favor of full rights for gay citizens.  George Will, a staunch conservative, was recently quoted saying “the opposition to gay marriage is dying“.  Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is about to go into full on freak out mode.

I’ve always been puzzled by the modern day conservative Republican’s opposition to marriage equality.  Given their oft professed love of our founding documents and subsequent amendments, one would think they would line up squarely behind granting such equality.

Our Declaration of Independence is not ambiguous.  A clear reading of it leads one to support marriage rights for gay citizens, unless your intellectual dishonesty is clouding your judgement by protecting your own personal beliefs and projecting them onto the larger citizenry.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is the foundation upon which this country was founded.  There is no getting around it.  Every other document that followed – every other amendment – grew out of this very simple and elegant declaration.

All men (men being the larger humankind) are created equal.  That’s us.  We have the right to pursue our lives, enjoy our liberty, and pursue our happiness.  The founders of what some consider the greatest country on the face of the Earth wrote this down for a reason.  They fully meant this to guide us and keep us from wandering from our ideals.  To ignore that would be…well…un-American.

That brings me to an image I stumbled upon on Facebook that, for me anyway, nearly completely demonstrates our need to forgo our prejudices and our pre-conceived notions fueled by these prejudices of what it means to be a gay American.  I’ll ask you.  Does the following photo depict what you think of when you think “gay couple”?

One month after Washington State voters approved the state’s marriage equality law in Ref. 74, same-sex couples get marriage licenses for the first time on December 6th, 2012. At around 1:30am, Larry Duncan, 56, left, and Randy Shepherd, 48, from North Bend, Wash. got their marriage license. The two plan to wed on December 9th, the first day it is possible for them to wed in Washington State. They have been together for 11 years.
Photo Copyright 2012 Meryl Schenker

Probably not.  When I first looked at this photo I nearly had to cock my head to the side like the RCA dog in wonder that I had developed such preconceived notions of what it means to be gay.  This photo so clearly demonstrates that we don’t really know.  We have been conditioned to think of a certain stereotype because it’s easier to sell fear that way.  Those opposed to marriage equality need us to be scared in order to leverage such fear into laws that protect their own personal prejudices.

The reality is that these couples are just like us.  They live like you and me.  They work like you and me.  They love like you and me.  They are you and me…

…without the rights.