A house divided against itself again: America splits on gay marriage

MarriageFamilySame-Sex MarriageSocial IssuesDavid HorseyAdvice Columns and ColumnistsProposition 8 (California, 2010)

Journalist and gay activist Dan Savage often writes about the urban archipelago -- the American cities that are comfortable, safe islands for gays and lesbians set amid a vast sea of countryside where being openly homosexual remains a chancy, even dangerous, proposition. However, after an election in which three more states approved same-sex marriage and a fourth rejected a constitutional amendment ot ban it, perhaps that sea is receding.

In fact, the map of states that now allow men to marry men and women to marry women is beginning to resemble the now familiar chart of red and blue states. It is in New England, New York, Maryland, the upper Midwest and Washington State where either voters, legislators or the courts have approved the historic shift from marriage being just a boy and girl thing. Those are, of course, generally true blue Democratic strongholds.

Other blue states are likely to follow. If Proposition 8, California's ban on same sex marriage, is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Golden State could be the next in line. A confederacy of gay-friendly states is taking shape. It will create a major divide in the United States, a divide that could last a long time, given that the red states -- places like Alabama and Utah and South Carolina -- are about as likely to give up on "traditional marriage" as they are likely to turn all their churches into medical marijuana dispensaries.

The turn toward approval of same sex marriage in several regions of the country is so sudden and so unexpected that Americans have not really begun to ponder what the ramifications of this new national divide may be. Canada legalized same sex marriage nationwide in 2005 and, thus far, straight marriages among Canadians have not been sundered and God has not brought down his wrath on the land of maple leaves and Mounties. But in the United States, a national law is not in the cards.

On this issue, states will continue to decide for themselves and take separate paths. So the question is, can a house divided against itself stand? Can a nation endure that is half slave to tradition and half free to marry?

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.

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