Like many of you, I celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling that same-gender couples are entitled to the benefits of marriage. As a straight man in a heterosexual marriage I don’t feel my relationship has been put at risk by others marrying the person they love, and I’m happy to bid a not-so-fond farewell to DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act which supposedly “protected” my marriage up to this point.
But I caution everyone who is painting rainbows on their flags, fences and Facebook pages that the battle may not yet be won. Take a look at abortion rights for a sad lesson in what can happen when we celebrate too early and let down our guard prematurely.
In 1973, the Court ruled that abortion was a right, based on a woman’s right to privacy. It said that legislators had no business telling a woman what she could and could not do with her own body. The takeaway was that up to the point of “fetal viability,” a woman could end a pregnancy if she chose to do so.
The pre-1973 horror stories abound; you can search for them online, or I can provide you with hundreds which were collected by NARAL, then the National Abortion Rights Action League. Deaths, abuse, jobs lost, expulsion from schools… sound at familiar, gay rights activists? But with Roe v. Wade, that was all in the past.
Except, it wasn’t.
People on the “religious right” never gave up. First they tried to overturn Roe, but that didn’t work. Then they turned to state legislatures where they slowly chipped away at this right until it is barely hanging on by its fingertips. From waiting periods created to make sure the woman really wants to do this (a rule applied to NO other procedure in the medical world) to requirements to view an ultrasound of the fetus before abortion, to licensing requirements which make no sense but are for the “protection of women,” it has become harder and harder, and more and more expensive, for a woman to choose to have an abortion in the United States. And just this week, Senator Marco Rubio called Roe an “egregiously flawed” decision (NY Times, 7/11/15, page A14.)
How does this apply to same-gender marriage? I really hope I’m wrong, but there are many – and many of the same – religious groups who have vowed to fight the SCOTUS ruling on marriage. And the abortion rights struggle has given them a roadmap for their efforts.
Wouldn’t it be to everyone’s benefit if gays have a waiting period before making such a major, life-changing decision as to marry another person of the same gender? Wouldn’t it be helpful to them to watch “informational videos” about the advantages of heterosexual marriage (I’m thinking a Donna Reed Show marathon, but that would put EVERYONE off from marriage) before committing? And for THEIR SAFETY – given the many people who find what they are doing to be offensive – maybe we should establish ONE location per state where gay marriages may be performed with proper police protection?
I know, these ideas are absurd. Yet every one of them is now in place to defer, dissuade and deny abortions to women who want them. It can happen to you, too, “Adam and Steve.”
Let’s enjoy our celebration that love has conquered. Then let’s remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, himself a paragon of marital fidelity: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”