Few of the current debates about social issues generate as much heat and as little light as the one about marriage rights for gay and lesbian Americans. As Maine recently became the fifth state to legalize marriage equality and California was gearing up for a re-match on it's infamous Proposition 8, Governor Patterson of New York and Mayor Bloomberg of NYC also "came out"publicly with their support for marriage equality in New York. As Patterson and Bloomberg both said, marriage equality is a matter of equality before the law.
They're right. Marriage is a legal institution in this country as it is in most countries. It comes with legal rights and responsibilities, special tax status,and other provisions that married people enjoy. If those rights are denied to some people simply because of who they are, that is a denial of one of our most fundamental constitutional rights, namely equal protection under the law. Just as miscegenation laws were invalidated a generation ago, laws against same-sex marriage should be invalidated now because they deny an entire class of people access to the rights and privileges of an institution open to others.
Of course, most of the arguments against marriage equality are religious, not legal. Luckily for those who have a religious objection to marriage equality, the Interfaith Alliance and other groups like us have been fighting to maintain the wall of separation of church and state that protects their right as religious groups and organizations to choose to marry whom they choose according to their beliefs. Marriage equality is about civil rights to marry under civil law, contrary to some of the propaganda put out by some groups opposing marriage equality, no religious organization or clergy person can be forced to perform same sex marriages any more than any of us can be forced to perform any marriage under the current statutes. This is not about forcing anyone to do anything, its about fairness, its about family, its about the pursuit of happiness for everybody. That's about as American as you can get. It's about time.