Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

Currently: 73° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Jon Ralston:

History is made on same-sex marriage

I’m not often stunned or uplifted anymore, but I was both this week when the leader of a branch of the United States government actually spoke from his heart about gay marriage.

I speak, of course, of Sen. Harry Reid.

Shortly after President Barack Obama’s choreographed and yet awkward embrace of same-sex marriage — coming after Vice President Joe Biden stole his thunder and preceding all manner of whispered post-spin about how POTUS was planning on saying it before the convention — Reid put out a stunning statement:

“My personal belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman. But in a civil society, I believe that people should be able to marry whomever they want, and it’s no business of mine if two men or two women want to get married. The idea that allowing two loving, committed people to marry would have any impact on my life, or on my family’s life, always struck me as absurd.

“In talking with my children and grandchildren, it has become clear to me they take marriage equality as a given. I have no doubt that their view will carry the future.”

I haven’t seen such a sincere effusion from Harry Reid since about a year ago when he thanked God for giving him Sharron Angle out of the Republican primary.

After the president’s “I’m for gay marriage, but let the states decide” pronouncement, Reid’s statement, followed Thursday by his declaration that he would vote to repeal the ban in Nevada, was positively scintillating.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been that surprised. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent had reported in 2010 of how that the majority leader spoke at the wedding of an openly gay staff member. “According to a source who was present, Reid spoke powerfully in favor of equality for gay and lesbian Americans,” Sargent wrote.

But the words this week from the second most famous Mormon politician in America still strike me as remarkable for their expansiveness and — I don’t use this word often anymore, either — genuineness.

Reid could have simply echoed the president. But he went much further.

People should be able to marry whomever they want and it’s no business of mine. There is no more concise and eloquent way to say it. And it came out of the mouth of Harry Reid, hardly known as a progressive Democrat, a man who has struggled with his pro-life views in a party not very welcoming to that position and who has to constantly justify himself to the left.

“The idea that allowing two loving, committed people to marry would have any impact on my life, or on my family’s life, always struck me as absurd.” Note the use of the word “always,” thus suggesting no evolution on Reid’s part.

“In talking with my children and grandchildren, it has become clear to me they take marriage equality as a given. I have no doubt that their view will carry the future.” I could almost hear him singing Whitney Houston — the children are our future, Reid was saying, and they will lead the way on this issue.

Yes, I understand the difference between Reid and Obama when it comes to political risks. Reid is not up again — if he even runs — until 2016. By then, the future may be now.

Obama went much more out on a limb with this gambit, coming right after a swing state (North Carolina) banned gay marriage in a landslide. Other swing states, including Nevada, either have done so, or have polling that indicates Obama’s newfound embrace of same-sex marriage is not a winner.

I find it comical that Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, pointing out that it was 10 years ago that Nevadans voted 2-to-1 to outlaw gay marriage, might be ready to vote for it, perhaps reflecting national polls indicating slight majority support. Really? I don’t think so, although I believe that Reid would vote for it, as he said he would.

The majority leader’s statement provided a rare glimpse behind his political mask, surely infuriating some members of his church and reinforcing for many conservatives why he is a bête noire. The senator’s rare openness induces me to reveal my own views on this subject, which are colored, but not determined, by one of my brothers being in a same-sex marriage.

While I respect the right of anyone who says their religion tells them marriage “is between a man and a woman,” as the formulation goes, and I respect the public’s right to vote how it wants to define marriage, I can’t get beyond what Reid said: It’s no business of mine. Or anyone else’s.

Those who believe otherwise truly are on the wrong side of history. Or, as Harry Reid, my brother and countless same-sex couples will tell you, history has passed them by.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 12 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. "Obama went much more out on a limb", yeah, right before he went collecting campaign money from Hollywood. He and Reid are just pandering for the gay/lesbian vote.

  2. Gosh Jon, I was there in the 80's when we were just trying to get some help and some hospital beds, still had to be through a "fundraiser" to get congressional support. I was there for the over-turn of this state's antiquated sodomy law, still fundraisers were required. I was there as the Mormon Church funded almost the entire campaign against marriage, this man did not speak up then. Yes, I have been here now to see that this man is not a leader, but a follower. More fundraisers to come. I felt the "tingle" in your leg as you repeated his words..My God Jon, this man is the Senate Majority Leader with all his roots in Nevada..the Marriage Capital of the World. (Of course, where prostitution is legal in the less populated Counties..see you at the fundraisers.)

  3. Whereas: The word Gay used to mean homosexual is an euphemism that distorts the meaning of the word gay in the English Language.

    Whereas: The word Marriage as used by Western Christian, Muslims, Hindu and Asian Cultures means the union of man and woman, in both singular and plural (polygamy) marriages, but never means homosexual civil unions.

    Whereas: The term Marriage under the law represents a type of Civil Union recognized by the law of a relationship that was historically Of the people and sanctioned historically by Religious Institutions.

    Whereas: Major Religions consider Homosexual relations to be a sin, and the use of the word marriage to describe a homosexual relationship to be an abomination.

    Whereas: The Constitution prohibits the government from interfering in the Right of Association of its citizens in the private sector.

    Whereas: The Right of Association allows the private sector citizen to individually discriminate based on their Moral and Ethical value system.

    Whereas: The Constitution prohibits the government from declaring any religion as being its own, as England had done with the Protestant Religion.

    Whereas: The Constitution dictates that government must treat all persons equally under the law . . . no exception.

    Whereas: As the Constitution of the United States recognizes that the people are "Equal under the law", any civil union legal rights afforded to a married couple must also be afforded to a homosexual couple, or for that matter any civil union entered into between persons.

    Whereas: The government did first regulate marriage in part for bigoted reasons.

    I make the motion, to the body of the people: That government be prohibited from using the word Marriage to describe any Civil Unions between people. That government be prohibited from regulating the nature of any Civil Unions, which represent a simple private contract between persons.

    I make the motion, to the body of the people: That government be prohibited from using the word Gay, to describe a homosexual Civil Union. That the meaning of the word Gay be reestablished to its rightful meaning of a "general happy feeling".

    And to finish:

    I claim to be in a prosperous gay (hetero) marriage with my wife for the past 34 years, and that I am tired of politicians (Reid, Obama) floating RED HERRINGS meant to distract the people from the important economic problems, caused by our Government, that deserve one hundred percent of the time of Congress, and the President to understand and correct.

  4. What a pathetic joke, the Democratic parties, and the major media outlets coordination of having Mitt declared a bully of homosexuals and the left the defenders of homosexuals in the same news cycle. Anyone who thinks the people are not being gamed by our politicians are the biggest fools of all. I say, ignore this nonsense. Let's talk about what matters to our country.

  5. Equality under the law is what we're talking about here for legal civil marriages. This is an equal rights issue and equality only exits if it applies to everyone. Connecticut, District of Columbia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington have legalized same-sex marriages. So have the countries of Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden. In some cases, it has been legalized by legislation and in other cases by court rulings. The U.S. Supreme Court will eventually strike down anti-gay marriage laws -- just as it did in 1967 when it struck down the remaining laws in the U.S. banning interracial marriage. Today, interracial marriages are an accepted part of society. Twenty years from now, people will look back on the gay marriage issue and say "What was the big deal?"

  6. "Equality under the law is what we're talking about here for legal civil marriages."

    I agree, as long as the term legal civil marriages is replaced by the term legal civil unions.

    The root of the problem, is the use of the word marriage, as that word has a religious meaning that must not be changed.

    I say, get government out of anything that has to do with marriage, and the problem is solved.

  7. In the United States, marriage licenses are issued by State governments. They are not issued by religions or churches. To be legally married in the State of Nevada, you must purchase a marriage license and have a marriage ceremony performed. The marriage ceremony can be simple or elaborate. Some people get married at a little chapel, some with a fancy wedding at a wedding hall and some with a religious ceremony at a church. Religions and churches don't own the word "marriage" -- it is also a legal term. Legalization of same-sex marriages does not force religions or churches to conduct same-sex marriage/wedding ceremonies. Religions and churches would still set their own policies regarding their ceremonies. Some churches already conduct same-sex ceremonies, but most still do not. Most wedding chapels in Las Vegas conduct same-sex ceremonies even without the couple having a legal marriage license.

  8. Harry the Red: "Flip-flopper!"

  9. Rotflmao, Good ole Barney Frank going to wed his buddy, enjoy the honeymoon! Isn't this sweet, two little love birds! I hear him now; come to DADDY, Daddies home!

  10. Religions and churches don't own the word "marriage" -- it is also a legal term.

    The people and the English Language own the word marriage, and the state does not have the right to change its meaning. The word marriage was taken and placed into law when the state chose to regulate that civil union. The fact that others want to be equal in that type of civil union does not change the meaning of the word marriage, and the people will not allow the meaning of the word marriage to be changed for the sake of political correctness. Those who want to change the meaning of the word marriage are simply going to run into a dead end, not because all civil unions must be equal under the law, but because, it is simply wrong to change the meaning of what is commonly understood to be a type of civil union that is only between an man and a woman.

  11. We are living in Alice In Wonderland times..Nothing will shock me any more..I guess I'm the one whose nuts..Of course it's OK for two men to slobber over each other and get married..Why should anyone object? And then they should adopt some children and teach them how to do what they do..I know a guy who loves his horse, why not let them get married too? I am glad I'm getting old and will get out of this sewer soon..I find it hard to take..

  12. Jim..A rubber doll is a step up..At least you can't get AIDS from a baloon..these (guys) would prefer a male rubber doll I think..