Same-sex marriage, cell phones and the Internet

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Justice Samuel Alito said that the concept of gay marriage is “newer than cell phones or the Internet” in Tuesday’s opening hearings on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in the Supreme Court.

“Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. Same-sex marriage is very new,” Alito told Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, according to court transcripts.

“There isn’t a lot of data about its effect. And it may turn out to be a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good thing, as the supporters of Proposition 8 apparently believe. But you want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet? I mean we — we are not — we do not have the ability to see the future.”

“¨”¨While it’s true that same-sex partnerships are relatively new and have only been realized in a fraction of states (and many of those only quite recently), it’s historically untrue that the concept is newer than cell phones or the Internet, unless they had these technologies back in 1971, when the debate for same-sex marriage first began.

(The first cell phone was introduced to the public in 1984. The internet, as we think of it now, was introduced in 1986, and commercialized in 1995.)

On June 4, 1971, a group of men and women from the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) walked into the New York City Marriage License Bureau to hold an engagement party for two male couples. The city pursued legal action against them, because the two couples had managed to obtain a marriage license from the Church of the Beloved Disciple, which had a largely gay congregation.

Mark Rubins was one of the first LGBT activists who laid out the same-sex marriage agenda:ӬӬ

“The issue is gay rights. Gay people have the right and liberty to the pursuit of happiness. Gay people have the right to their own bodies. Gay people have the right to love. No nation state or city has the right to deny gay people these rights. The reason why I want you to remember this, is because the issue is not gay marriages, the point is gay rights and our fight against discrimination.”

This video records the conference that the GAA held right before the unsuccessful takeover of the Marriage Bureau Office in New York City; it shows that at the very point of inception over the debate for same-sex marriage that the fight was for rights guaranteed under the constitution.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court hearing had the undertones of painting the issue of same-sex marriage as a radical and new debate as epitomized by Justice Alito’s comments of the relative “newness of the concept of same-sex marriage.” 

However, no matter how much same-sex marriage may seem like a 21st century cultural battlefield, its first skirmishes occurred over 40 years ago. It’s no wonder then that the current hearing has brought to mind the civil rights movements of the 1960’s and 70’s, because both began then.

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