- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Nov. 4, voters in California, Arizona and Florida changed their constitutions to say that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. This brings the tally of these marriage amendments to 30.

There’s more to talk about - California’s amendment is being challenged in court, for instance.

But for today, I have two observations.

One is that 20 states do not have constitutional marriage amendments, and that’s not likely to change. As a result, the 12-year marriage-amendment-on-the-ballot gambit may have now run its course.

Second, and more unsettling for proponents of gay marriage, these amendments reflect the genuine will of the nation. More on that in a second.

First, 20 states do not have state marriage amendments (SMAs).

Gay marriage is legal in two states - Connecticut and Massachusetts - and lawmakers in nine states - Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington - seem more amenable to gay-friendly laws than a SMA.

In five states - Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wyoming - it’s possible lawmakers might enact an SMA, but these are long shots.

In the remaining states - Delaware, Illinois, North Carolina and West Virginia - lawmakers are even less likely to consider SMAs, given their track record on the issue.

This means that while it’s possible another SMA could appear on a ballot, nothing is imminent.

Proponents of gay marriage may breathe a sigh of relief at this, but my second point will not be comforting.

A long-favored argument for gay marriage is the proponents’ battle is comparable to the battle to legalize interracial marriage. Indeed, when the California Supreme Court ruled for gay marriage in May, it drew parallels between the gay plaintiffs and Richard and Mildred Loving’s battle to overturn Virginia’s ban on white-black marriage.

In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Lovings and instantly rendered all state anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

But here’s the inconvenient truth. For the first part of the last century, interracial marriage was illegal in 30 states. But this began reversing itself in 1948, and by 1959, interracial marriage was legal in most states. (This history can be found at http://www.lovingday.org/map.htm).

When the Lovings’ decision came down, only 17 states still outlawed interracial marriage. Thus, the high court’s decision was completely compatible with a trend that was naturally sweeping the nation.

That is not the case with gay marriage. Not only have voters in 30 states now blocked gay marriage but 37 state legislatures have passed a Defense of Marriage Act to define marriage and clarify that they will not recognize out-of-state gay marriages and/or unions.

This is because Americans see significant and enduring differences between men and women - thus same-sex - and opposite-sex couples. Americans believe in inclusion, but with gays and marriage, they do not agree it has to be one size fits all.

Someday a gay marriage case will reach the Supreme Court. Until then, it’s likely that about half the country will create ways to offer legal rights to gay unions. But barring a change in California, only Connecticut and Massachusetts are likely to call it marriage.

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.