Heather and I were married in 1996 in Stillwater, Minnesota. At that time, we had just moved to South Carolina. And at that time, in South Carolina, interracial marriage was illegal. Our marriage, our family, was considered an abomination, a threat to real marriage, and dangerous by the state in which we lived. The only thing stopping the government from prosecuting us was a 1967 ruling by the US Supreme Court in Virginia-v-Loving, which held that miscegenation laws violated the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Pretty thin paper to be hanging our whole lives on.
It wasn’t until 1998 that the voters of our state agreed that the Constitution should be changed and ban should be lifted. The vote was 62% to 38%. I should have been happy. But that 38% who thought of my family, my marriage, my children as an abomination was like a punch in the gut. Four out of ten of the people I met every day, the people who taught my children, the people in my church, and the people on the street thought my marriage should have been illegal.
We never set out to destroy marriage. Heather and I love each other and just want to be a family. And forcing the state of South Carolina to recognize our marriage, against the will of 38% of her citizens, didn’t impact their marriages one bit.
Eight years later, in 2006, the citizens of South Carolina voted to change their Constitution again. This time to enshrine a ban on gay marriage. All the same arguments were used: That if we redefine what marriage means, then marriage would cease to mean anything; That it was a slippery slope, and if we allowed the gays to marry, it would lead to legalization of incest, bestiality, and polygamy; That it was “unnatural” and an “affront to God”. It’s the same old story from the same sad people.
So I feel pretty strongly about gay marriage. They’re fighting for the same thing I fought for. They’re fighting for something I believe in. Marriage is important. Family is important. And a government is well served by recognizing and protecting marriage and families with the force of law. All marriages and all families.