Today, Newt Gingrich, who wouldn't know respect for the "institution of marriage" if it jumped up and bit him squarely on his fat, self-righteous butt, weighed in that 'gay marriage is a pagan idea' and that it will lead to the decline of western civilization! (GASP!)
Okay, a.) clearly Newt doesn't know diddly-squat about Paganism, and b.) I think our inability to produce our own food and create a stable economy are more likely to cause the downfall of western civilization...but I'm a history professor. What do I know?
A young lady I knew as an undergraduate at the Baptist college where I was previously employed has recently come out of the closet and was among a group of Maine LGBTs who yesterday delivered the ballot initiative petition for legalization of gay marriage to their governor. Had you known her when I did, you'd understand the gravity of this situation and the figurative light years traveled between then and now.
I once heard a speaker from the New York Public Library, in reference to their commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising, say that there is a 'continuum of outness' among LGBTs...let's just say I've witnessed more than one person move from the far-right Closet of Denial to the extreme-left Personal Gay Rights Parade of Outness...and this is not a journey that isn't fraught with peril. LGBTs, even in this day and age, are frequently rejected by their peers and families when they choose to come out. Even if those around them cope to some degree with the news, when the layer of gay rights or gay marriage is brought up, the tenuous peace accords break down and you can hear the Queen of Hearts in the background screeching, "OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!"
What I've learned from the math professor who mentored me through the tenure process is something that I hadn't really considered until he stated it bluntly: these are not 'special rights' for which LGBTs are asking, they're basic civil rights. My great-grandparents had what, under the law of their day, was a mixed-race marriage...and in the strictest sense, illegal- my great-grandmother was Cherokee and my great-grandfather was Caucasian. Miscegenation laws finally changed, and it is now legal in the United States for people of different races to wed each other. At the end of the day, fundamentally, how is the "Gay Marriage Question" so very different?