Laura Bush made news - and generated some heat - when she recently told CNN's Larry King that she favors the right of gays and lesbians to marry.
“There are a lot of people who have trouble coming to terms with that because they see marriage as traditionally between a man and a woman,” the former first lady said. “But I also know that, you know, when couples are committed to each other and love each other, that they ought to have, I think, the same sort of rights that everyone has.”
She acknowledged that her position differs from her husband’s, but she believes Americans eventually will accept gay marriage.
It’s a safe bet she won’t be invited anytime soon to address a Focus on the Family gathering, but she’s right.
I say that as someone who as recently as a couple of years ago wasn’t ready to sign onto same-sex marriages.
I wrote then that I was relieved that I had to stay home and take care of the kids when my wife and I were invited to a ceremony where gay friends were celebrating their vows. I just didn’t know how to respond.
I still don’t fully know how to react, but my response to how gays and lesbians relate to each other isn’t the issue. What’s at stake is whether it’s fair to deny them the same rights as heterosexual couples.
To me, it’s not fair. And my opinion has been formed more viscerally and anecdotally than through a breakthrough in legal thinking.
What finally pushed me over the edge was standing at a small family wedding in California last fall when the person officiating asked us to take a moment to remember our own vows. Next to me was a relative who, like me, is in his 50s, and, like me, has been in a committed relationship for some time. Except his commitment is to another man, who was standing beside him.
It felt odd in that moment, knowing they had to basically shuffle their feet. More than odd, it felt unfair. They lived like any married straight couple in their 50s. They worry about their jobs, medical care and elderly family.
I realized then that I had run out of reasons to not stick my neck out in favor of gay marriage.
But Laura Bush has it right: Change is coming.
Of course, there are theological issues to consider. Some consider homosexuality a sin. But the New Testament also talks about there being neither Jew nor Greek in God’s Kingdom. We are all his creatures.
Likewise, there are legal issues to resolve.
Should states or the feds decide this? Same-sex marriages or civil unions? But it would be a shame if the debate got sidetracked by legalities, as important as they are.
What matters more is the concept of fairness.
That is what Laura Bush seemed to be getting at in saying loving and committed gay couples deserve the same legal rights as anyone else. It’s understandable why society is taking its time, but in the end it should be about being fair.
William McKenzie, an editorial columnist for The Dallas Morning News, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.