Guest views: Ruling doesn't affect most of our lives

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Like it or not, the recent decision by federal Judge Barbara Crabb legalizing gay marriage in Wisconsin represents a huge cultural shift in our state that could result in debate that will make the Act 10 donnybrook look like a day at the beach.

Let's hope not.

First is the obvious fact that nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin adults disagreed with the decision when they voted in 2006 to amend the Wisconsin Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Recent polls suggest sentiment has shifted.

But the debate yet to flare will be more about what is best for our culture and the preferred environment to raise children than what a judge or group of judges says is legal. This is the difference of opinion that may get heated; hopefully, as we navigate the new reality of marriage, those differences will remain civil.

Supporters of “traditional marriage” now are concerned about what lies ahead. Will they be dismissed as homophobes for holding to their beliefs? Will companies be required to provide family health benefits to gay and lesbian married couples, regardless of the beliefs of the company's owners? Will the periodic battles over school textbooks that portray gay couples raising children just as normal as children raised by moms and dads intensify?

This ruling also will accelerate the debate into the churches, where young people who polls show are much more supportive of same-sex marriage may prompt the church hierarchy of various denominations to confront this issue in greater frequency and intensity.

That is the hardest thing for many people—especially older people—to accept. More Americans are OK with the idea of same-sex couples having the same legal rights to hospital visitation, company benefits, etc., as heterosexual married couples. This essentially is the “civil union” concept that has been part of this debate.

But many draw the line when the word “marriage” becomes part of the conversation. To them, marriage is a sacred bond between and only between a man and a woman. It's an understanding that done right there are distinctive responsibilities for both the father and mother to raise well-rounded children who themselves grow up and raise the next generation of children. Of course, the fact that about 41 percent of first marriages and more than half of all marriages end in divorce indicates even “sacred” vows often don't pan out.

Figuring this ruling stands—given the attitudes on this subject by younger adults, it most likely will—the best approach by those troubled by it is to answer the following question: How does legalizing same-sex marriage impact my ability to manage my life and raise my children? In that context, the decision seems less traumatic than some people believe.

Or as more than one person has said, “I was against gay marriage until I found out it wasn't mandatory.”

—The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire

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