Our view: Civil rights are sluggish in America

This editorial is about civil rights. It’s about equality. It’s about compassion.

The Vermont legislature voted yesterday to make gay marriage legal, becoming the fourth state to allow it. Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled it legal Friday, and it was already legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

People are finally coming to their senses. They’re beginning to recognize that denying a United States citizen any right that the rest have is unacceptable. That just four out of 50 states allow a right most of the population takes for granted is a crime. It’s plain discrimination.

What happened to the Enlightenment ideals that shaped the culture of this country? We’re a country of individuals, sure, but like it says on the dollar bill: “Out of many, one.” The United States is where all are created equal. It’s the land of opportunity.

This editorial board is white, middle-class, college-educated and heterosexual. We can pretty much do anything in this country without drawing stares or getting spit on or beat up or not hired. We can love who we want, and, like most people, it’s recognized by the state. The land of opportunity has been good to us.

It has been merciless to others.

Some Americans used to conceive of black people as inhumane servants. They murdered them by hanging. They didn’t give them jobs. They corralled them into specific sections of public areas.

In 1877, a black person and a white person in Ohio could not get married or have sex. The penalty for each person married, including the official who performed the service: a $100 fine, imprisonment up to three months, or both.

It took a little while, but Americans finally realized they were treating their fellow citizens inhumanely. And it took a little while, but now a few states are finally realizing they’re doing the same thing to another segment of the population.

Why is the learning curve so sharp for the other 46 states?

New Hampshire’s state legislature passed gay marriage legislation through the House. Maine and New Jersey are looking seriously into it. Really, offering equal rights to U.S. citizens should be a no-brainer, though we realize there are long-standing beliefs about homosexuality.

Perhaps the most prevalent anti-gay marriage argument is the idea that it cannot be natural because it prevents procreation. That’s understandable. But when you love someone, you love someone. It can’t be anyone else. In a sense, it’s not a person’s choice.

And there are plenty of heterosexuals to continue the human race. We’re not worried.

Let’s give gays and lesbians the same chance to be happy that every person deserves. Yes, they can still love each other without being officially married. But being married is desirable. Weddings have cake and photographers and pretty clothes. It’s a happy time.

How can 46 states deny that for a part of the population who happen to have a minority sexual preference?

This country is too far along to still deny some of its citizens rights. Next time a gay rights vote comes to Ohio, consider what’s equal. Have some compassion.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.