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Sea change / August 28, 2014
On our website this week, there’s been an outbreak of commentary — consisting of equal parts vitriol and virtue — on the subject of gay marriage. The precipitating event? The News & Record’s story on Monday, headlined “Temporary Setback.”

The article relates the story of a Chatham couple, two men, who are looking forward to the day when they can legally marry in Virginia. Interestingly, they don’t seem to doubt the ultimate direction that society will take on the issue of same-sex marriage, even after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay last week that delays a lower court ruling that overturns Virginia’s ban.

Temporary setback, indeed. We’ll see what the Supremos do next year when the issue comes before the high court, but in the meantime it’s been fascinating to witness the sea change in social attitudes on the issue. Just for the record, when Virginia held its marriage referendum in 2006, I wrote a column that observed that opposition to gay marriage would someday end up in history’s dustbin. I just never imagined it would happen so soon.

Further adding to the Will-Miracles-Never-Cease category, the Danville Register & Bee — historically a very conservative-minded Southside daily newspaper — came out recently with a most excellent editorial in support of gay marriage. Here’s the key part:

For many people, marriage is deeply intertwined with their faith, and they build their marriages on a foundation that is heavily informed by their religious beliefs about what the Bible says.

But when they get a marriage license, they apply at a state government office. That one state-issued document then allows for all kinds of benefits conferred on married couples — insurance offered by employers, financial and estate planning, elder care and tax benefits.

That led to the basic argument that one group of people who wanted to get married had all kinds of doors opened for them while another group had those doors slammed in their face. That left the courts to view gay marriage not as part of a sinful lifestyle that was objectionable to large number of people of faith, but a question of equal protection under the law.

As a moral and religious argument, people can and probably will debate this issue for a long, long time. As a question of equal protection under the secular law of our land, there is no doubt about what’s going to happen next.

There are always going to be people who, in their heart of hearts, cannot reconcile their personal and religious beliefs with same-sex couples.

But there are also people who, in their heart of hearts, still cannot reconcile their personal and religious beliefs with mixed-race couples — at that was decided by the Supreme Court 47 years ago.

Virginia’s marriage amendment got 1.32 million votes eight years ago. Today, it wouldn’t get half that number — nor should it.

On our website,, I was also fascinated to read this comment by Logan Anderson, an old friend from Halifax who has gone on to a successful career in journalism. (He is also a member of the prominent family that includes longtime State Senator Howard Anderson.) Things have certainly changed since the senator’s day:

Writes Logan:

In reply to “Hooray for public education” who replied to my comment yesterday, I have just this to say: America is, IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER, a “Christian” nation. Did the Christian faith of some of the founders inform their input to the forming of America? Absolutely. But so did the deism of others, the rationalism of still others and, yes, the outright atheism of some. This canard that America is a Christian nation that must uphold biblical standards to “remain in God’s good graces” is just hogwash.

The Bible was used to justify chattel slavery, upon which the economy of the entire South was based. The Bible was used to justify denying women the right to vote. The Bible was used to justify the apartheid that reigned supreme in the South, INCLUDING HALIFAX COUNTY. The Bible was used to justify forbidding a black person from marrying a white person. One way or the other, though, all those barriers fell.

Which brings us back to the matter or marriage equality. The founding principle of this nation is that every ... EVERY ... individual is equal before the law and is entitled to due process. As long as gay and lesbian Americans can not marry and enjoy ALL the state and federal benefits of marriage, we are failing to live up our founding principles.

It is time for the Constitution to assert itself in this matter: Marriage equality will be the law of the land, sooner rather than later. And it can’t come a moment too soon. And on a personal note, I find it sad but telling that I’m the only person using his real name in this comments, posters either in favor of or opposed to marriage equality. Sadly, that says to me that Halifax really hasn’t changed much at all over the years.

I’m not sure I agree with all of the above, but I admire the courage to say it. But all of a sudden courage has become coin in realm in people’s willingness to state the point plainly: gays should have the same marital rights as the rest of us. The times, they are a’changing.

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