Winners lost when gay marriage bill failed

March 18, 2011
  • Rowland

If there weren't any wild celebrations or wild gnashing of teeth following the defeat of same-sex marriage legislation in Annapolis this session, it's because everyone knows the battle is over — and the winners lost.

Five years from now, gay marriage will be recognized in Maryland. Ten years from now, it will be recognized in a majority of the states. Fifty years from now, it will be recognized everywhere but Mississippi.

Unless, of course, there is a Supreme Court decision outlawing gay-marriage bans, as there was in 1967 outlawing bans against interracial marriage. Sometimes, states need a nudge to keep up with society.

Today, you will still find pockets of people who think the Supreme Court was wrong 44 years ago to allow blacks and whites to marry, and they might be some of the same ones, or maybe their children, who have moved on to oppose gay marriage today.

They do not do themselves proud. Nothing benefited the gay-marriage cause in Annapolis this year more than the people who spoke against it. Lawmakers didn't want to be associated with that type of obnoxious hatred, and at least one switched sides because of it, voting in favor of gay marriage.

In the end, those opposed to gay marriage have a very simple and indefensible position: My religion should trump your rights as an American; my beliefs are more important than your pursuit of happiness.

That's an argument that is on the wrong side of justice and is on the wrong side of history. The sooner we all figure it out, the sooner we will move on and stop causing pain to so many human beings for no good reason.

Imagine that the person you love most in this world is lying in a hospital bed dying. To the disgrace of this county, our resident lawmakers would look you in the eye and say, sorry, you have no right to sit by your loved one's side in his final moments. You have no right to comfort him and no right to say goodbye. You just have to stand by yourself in the lobby. Because my beliefs are more important than your rights.

It would take a pretty small man to make that argument, but then our delegation is populated with small men.

For those who have ever been troubled by the question of why there needs to be a firewall between government and religion, this is it. Religion and beliefs, given an opening, have a way of running roughshod over people in general and minorities in particular. For those who doubt, a quick review of the Salem witch trials might be in order.

And this is a firewall, of course, that cuts both ways. Because government, given an opening, has a way of running roughshod over religion. Those who doubt need only revisit the Third Reich.

There is a cautionary tale here, too, for people, from the president on down, who belittle those who carry guns and believe in Jesus. That, too, is a protected right and a protected and cherished way of life.

In America, we have a lot of freedoms; the freedom to tell other people how to think isn't one of them. The paradox is that some of the people who portend to cherish our freedoms and rights the most are the first to want to tell other people how they should think and act.

Freedom, for them, is a one-way street.

It would be beneficial if the message that came out of the gay marriage debate were bigger than gay marriage itself, and extended in two directions instead of one.

That message would be this: There are other lifestyles in this nation other than our own. Many others. And we, ourselves, do not have exclusivity on the correct way to live. We do what's best for us, believe what's best for us and live in the way that works best for us.

But just because it's our way doesn't make it the right way for everyone. And we should respect the rights and beliefs of others, just as we would ask that our rights and beliefs be respected.

We are free to believe gay marriage is wrong. We are free to believe a proliferation of guns is wrong. We are free to speak our minds on these issues, write letters and engage in public debate.

But we are not free to dictate. We are not free to force our beliefs and our way of living onto others. Because that's when we stop being America and start being something infinitely less desirable.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. Reach him by e-mail at

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