Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Same-Sex Marriage in Utah…It’s About Time

I spent the recent holidays in London, and it was interesting to see good old Utah making national and international headlines over same-sex marriage.

I returned to find that several of my gay and lesbian friends actually got married.

In Utah?!


Who would have thought such a thing would happen here. And so relatively soon in the gay rights movement.

Think for a moment how long African-Americans had to fight for equal political and social rights in this nation.

Something like 100 years since the end of the Civil War and Emancipation.

And isn’t it interesting that opponents to gay rights today use the argument of states’ rights.

Sounds a little like the arguments against civil rights – who can vote, where one can go to school – in the 1950s and 1960s, doesn’t it?

Even the most ardent opponents of equal rights for homosexuals admit that they seem to be fighting a losing battle – that gays and lesbians will have basically the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexuals soon.

This, also, is a generational fight.

My daughters, in their 20s, just don’t see what the big deal is to let gays get married. They’ve had gay friends and associates for years.

Many Utahns, and other Americans, seem somewhat overtaken by the rapidity of the gay rights movement.

How did this come to this so quickly?

The answer, to me, is rather simple: Many white middle- and upper-class Americans have, over the last 20 years, experience gay issues and discrimination personally.

When your 16-, 21- or 25-year-old child announces he or she is homosexual, suddenly you as a loving parent are at the forefront of the gay rights debate.

A child, when he reaches maturity, doesn’t all of a sudden turn black. But he or she may announce they are gay.

White America didn’t have the experience of racial discrimination. But many are experiencing discrimination against gays and lesbians, even if their immediate household is not affected.

We’ve seen any number of Utah officials complain that Federal Judge Richard Shelby is an “activist” jurist, way out of line with Utah social and political thought and beliefs.

I don’t know about activist. But I admit Shelby is out of line with Utah social and political thought on gay marriage.

Kind of like Alabama was about civil rights 60 years ago.

Polls show that around 60 percent of Utahns identify themselves as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And Mormons are unique in their reverence of man/woman marriage and the traditional family unit. Few other organized religions put such an emphasis on getting married in a sacred ceremony, and an eternity with your spouse and children.

Many Utahns see gay marriage as a direct challenge to their religious beliefs.

Thus, it is certainly unlikely that the Utah Legislature would ever, in the foreseeable future, allow gays to marry here.

Just as it was unlikely that civil rights laws would have been passed in Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s.

It took federal legislative action then – spawned by U.S. Supreme Court decisions – to bring about civil rights for African-Americans.

And it looks like to me that it will take Supreme Court rulings to bring about gay marriage rights in Utah and in other states.

One may argue that it is not the right time for gay rights in Utah – delay is needed for such things to be accepted.

But when is the right time for equal rights for homosexuals?

Maybe we don’t call it “marriage.” Maybe we call it civil unions or something else.

But whatever you call it, looks to me that the time has come.