The forces fighting against the rising tide of love and equality are starting to realize this. Yesterday election forecasting wunderkind Nate Silver had a piece in the New York Times that crunched the numbers and came to a conclusion that should give pause to opponents: marriage equality is almost certain to be the law of the land in the United States by 2020.
Knowing that this battle cannot be won leaves opponents of marriage equality with nothing but tactics that will delay the inevitable. Hence today’s press release from Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence Diocese. Tobin knows that society is moving past his medieval views on the subject one way or the other. Nate Silver demonstrates that merely the turnover in population is enough to make the acceptance of gay marriage inevitable as the older generation is replaced with its younger, more tolerant descendants. No one needs to change their minds on the issue for marriage equality to eventually dominate public opinion.
In light of the historic deliberations of the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage, it would be appropriate for the General Assembly of Rhode Island to defer any action on this critical issue for the time being. Any legislative action that is taken now could very well be rendered completely null and void by the decision of the Supreme Court expected this June. It is likely that the Supreme Court will decide this matter for us, one way or another. Let’s wait to see what the highest court of the land says about this issue which is so very important to many Rhode Islanders.
Asking the General Assembly to put the issue off until the Supreme Court decides the case this summer essentially scuttles the bill. If the Supreme Court were to issue a wide ruling making marriage equality the law nationwide, perhaps little would be lost. But the Court might decide to narrowly rule on Prop 8, limiting the decision to California, which effectively delays marriage equality in Rhode Island for another year.
That’s right, another year of State House rallies, all night House and Senate Judiciary Committee meetings rehashing the same arguments from both sides of the issue, and more division and hostility in our state.
Here is the response from Rev. Gene Dyszlewski, chair of the Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality:
With all due respect to His Excellency, neither case before the Supreme Court has any bearing on the decision of the General Assembly to make marriage available to all loving, committed couples in Rhode Island,” said Rev. Dyszlewski. “This is another in a long string of delay tactics — seeking to stall the strong momentum of marriage equality legislation — by those who oppose allowing all families to access the dignity and respect of marriage. The fact is, no decision issued by the Court will render ‘null and void’ any state legislature’s ability to grant the freedom to marry to all its citizens.
“We respect the Senate process, and are appreciative the Judiciary Committee is continuing to consider the testimony from last week’s unprecedented 12-hour long hearing. We are still engaging in thoughtful and productive conversations with all members of the Senate.
“This is a holy week for many Rhode Islanders, as we gather around Seder tables and paschal candles. I, for one, will pray for our elected leaders in the General Assembly, that they may hear God’s call to love one another, as He loves us.”
Tobin made some news a couple of weeks ago when he came out in favor of Senator Ciccone’s bill that would put the issue on the ballot. Once again, Tobin seeks only to delay the inevitable. The bill could not be placed on the ballot until the next election, and even if the bill were to pass, Tobin promises to “vigorously oppose efforts to redefine the institution of marriage in Rhode Island.”
Let’s face it, Tobin won’t change his mind on this issue by popular vote. The vigorous opposition may come in the form of judicial challenges that might delay the implementation of marriage quality for many more years, or with the endless introduction of bills that might seek to impose limits on same-sex marriage.
An honest player in public debate presents his or her case earnestly and forcibly, depending on the process to arrive at the best possible outcome. Gaming the system with last minute bills to place the issue on the ballot or suggesting the issue be tabled pending a Supreme Court decision is simply political theater calculated to stymie and delay the process to the detriment of everyone.
This issue demands a clean up or down vote from the Senate.