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A momentous decision on gay marriage

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments in two cases involving same sex marriage.

Tuesday the question was whether California's voter-approved ban on gay marriage (Proposition 8) is discriminatory, while the issue Wednesday was whether the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, is legal.

The decisions by the nine justices could be historic.

They could find that marriage equality is a constitutional right.

Or they could be extremely narrow. For example, the decision on Proposition 8 would impact only California.

But all sides are weighing in and paying close attention because of the belief that something momentous is about to happen, one way or another.

As one who supports marriage equality, I have to wonder if momentous is necessarily a good thing.

As we have been reminded this week, Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion, was a landmark decision, but it didn't settle the issue.  

In fact, it may have galvanized the two sides in a bitter culture war that has lasted for the past 40 years.

Could we have the same result if the justices rule that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right?

Would we still be fighting that cultural battle in 2053?

Perhaps same-sex marriage is not exactly analogous to Roe, except that the losing side will forever believe that nine unelected judges foisted their will upon them.

America's views on homosexuality are evolving rapidly.

Nine states and the District of Columbia now permit same-sex marriage, and demographics suggest more states will soon follow.  

An ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 80 percent of adults under 30 support same-sex marriage.

The shift is understandable because our hearts tell us to want for our loved ones what we want for ourselves - life, liberty and the opportunity to pursue our happiness.

As more gays and lesbians have come out of the closet, we have been able to see them as individuals - sons and daughters, friends and relatives, co-workers and neighbors.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, one of the most influential conservatives of the last half of the 20th century, supports gay marriage.  One of his daughters, Mary Claire Cheney, is a lesbian.

Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman once opposed gay marriage.  However he changed his view this month after his son, Will, came out.   Portman now supports same-sex marriage.

We hear about Cheney and Portman, but many more Americans are choosing a similar path because of personal experience.

A CNN/ORC International survey finds that 57 percent of Americans say they have a family member or a close friend who is gay or lesbian.  

That's 12 points higher than just six years ago.

It's understandable that many gays and lesbians desire a definitive statement of marriage equality from the highest court in the land.  

But no written opinion from nine unelected judges can be as persuasive as a democratic process that empowers people to reach a just conclusion.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.



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