Is Equal Marriage Really So Difficult to Decide?

In 2004, after Massachusetts had become the first state in the nation to recognize that all people should have equal rights to marry, we wrote this op-ed that was published in Boston. On the eve of the U.S. Supreme Court considering the same issues under the U.S. Constitution, it seems worth sharing. A decade plus after same-sex couples began marrying in Massachusetts, nothing that opponents have claimed about the evils of gay marriage has materialized. Is it really such a complicated topic?

P.S. -- Thanks to the oldest supreme court in the nation and our legislature, our same-sex friends have married. And our daughters are still fabulous.


There is a girl in our daughter's class who shares her first name. The two children have been fast friends since kindergarten. They've had sleepovers, played dress-up with each other's costumes, ran through the sprinkler and managed lemonade stands on hot days.

Each girl spends a lot of time with the other's family. We take their girl along to the pool in the summer; they take our girl along to the Chinese class that is part of their preparation for a major family trip this summer. Both households do a pretty nice family dinner. Our daughter is as comfortable at her friend's house as she is at her own.

One thing is different. Our child's parents are married. Her friend's parents are not. They want to be, but, up until now, they could not be. Our daughter's friend has two moms.

With comment on the Supreme Judicial Court's Goodridge decision all about us, our girl has noticed that gayness is in the news. Another third-grade friend told her that it used to be illegal to be gay, but now it is not.

Obvious misinformation is easy to correct. But what would all the outraged, morally certain denouncers of the court's ruling want us to tell our 8-year-old? She asks pretty good questions, so it would be a little challenging to try to explain some of their claims to her: "It cheapens marriage." Is that supposed to mean that mom and dad's marriage is worth less, just because her friend's parents can now make the same legal commitments to one another?

"It is harmful to the children." In what way should we say her friend has been harmed? By her parents spending hard-earned sums and traveling halfway across the world to adopt her? By being part of loving, extended families on both sides? By the piano lessons, karate club, theater classes? Maybe it's her mothers' careful choice of summer camps, or their volunteering at her elementary school. It must be one of these things, right?

"Marriage is about creating new life." Maybe the critics would like to show they really mean it. Will they propose a constitutional amendment making a fertility test mandatory for obtaining a marriage license? Or ban marriage by women beyond childbearing age?

"It must be wrong because it's been this way for a long time." But blacks could not marry whites for hundreds of years in most parts of the United States. And slavery, thousands of years old, was common in the days of the Bible. Do we teach our daughter that wrongs become right just because they have gone on long enough?

"It is against the word of the Bible." Maybe. But in Sunday school, didn't we also study parts of the Bible that required punishment of people who mixed together the wrong fibers? Is that next on the legislative agenda? How about death for adultery? Who is picking and choosing which parts of which holy book to make the law of the land these days?

"Where does it all end -- humans and beasts?" Our daughter likes animals, so she might have a tough time with this one. But like most 8-year-olds, she can figure out that letting unrelated grown-ups marry equally doesn't exactly mean we are saying that men and goats should be allowed to file their taxes jointly.

So as we've pondered explaining to our daughter all the fire and brimstone that has been spewed forth lately on the airwaves, we thought we would just take an approach she has already learned. This girl's parents are no better and no worse than that girl's parents. We treat all people fairly and with dignity. It really is just about that simple.

Co-authored by David Abromowitz and Joan Ruttenberg