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  1. Opinion

Ruth: Looking toward a time where same-sex marriages are not news

John and Shel Goldstein hug during a group wedding Tuesday in Delray Beach.
John and Shel Goldstein hug during a group wedding Tuesday in Delray Beach.
Published Jan. 7, 2015

By now perhaps you have noticed that Florida has not been turned into a giant pillar of salt. Not even a hint, a whiff of an onslaught of boils, frogs or swamp-apes. That is a good start as the state — kicking and moping, and that's just Attorney General Pam Bondi — has been introduced to the 21st century.

This week, Florida joined 35 other states and the District of Columbia to permit same-sex marriage, and the only scourge to occur was the plague of bloviation offered up by Florida Family Policy Council president John Stemberger. He was weeping and wailing that gay unions found to be perfectly legal by a federal judge, sanctioned by the appropriate marriage licenses and recognized in ceremonies performed by duly elected and appointed authorities weren't really marriages at all because — he said so.

Maybe we need a telethon to raise money to send Stemberger a copy of the U.S. Constitution with a dog-eared page calling his attention to the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. If there is any cash left over, Bondi should get one as well.

Sackcloth and ashes types like Stemberger have argued that permitting same-sex marriages mysteriously makes heterosexual marriages somehow less worthy. But how? Is Stemberger's marriage, or yours, or mine in any way less valid, less legal, less committed because the government benefits have been extended to include a previously unconstitutionally discriminated against portion of the population?

"If marriage can mean anything, then marriage means nothing," fumed Stemberger to a West Palm Beach television station. But the marriages between same-sex couples have been entered into for the same reasons (we can only hope) that Stemberger tied the knot — love, a wish to share a life with someone, to be a family.

What really happened in Florida this week? Gays and lesbians exercised their desire, as articulated by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Happiness. We are the only nation in history to ever argue a case for its freedom on the grounds its citizenry has an inherent right to be happy.

And what's going to happen now, the caterwauling of Stemberger and his fellow travelers of intolerance notwithstanding? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And then some.

The past few days of big headlines and queues of same-sex couples at courthouses waiting to apply for marriage licenses are not likely to continue for an extended period. Six months from now the roiling debate, the fears of impending Armageddon, the dippy claims that same-sex unions will lead to an epidemic of people attempting to get a marriage license so that they can wed their border collie, will have all but evaporated.

In short, the same-sex marriage controversy will have become the Quemoy and Matsu in the long-forgotten litany of "We're all doomed!" sky-is-falling crisis. (Quemoy and Matsu were two disputed islands between China and Taiwan that dominated the 1960 presidential campaign between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, islands which were never heard about again after Election Day. We were supposed to be doomed back then, too.)

Roughly 70 percent all Americans live in states now where same-sex marriage is legal. In the months to come that figure is only going to increase. And with that growing acceptance, so too will the damnation decibel level steadily decline. Call it the law of diminishing slow burns.

The best thing that can happen to same-sex marriage is the day that nobody cares.

Here's another somewhat more cautious prediction.

Once some clerks of courts in places like Pasco, Santa Rosa, Duval, Holmes and other mostly North Florida counties finally realize allowing same-sex couples to have their marriages performed in the courthouse won't turn into an end-time novel, weddings by the clerks offices will quietly resume.

It's just an idle thought, but one way to dilute the remaining residual opposition to same-sex unions would be for gay couples to begin to invite Stemberger and the Florida Family Policy Council to their weddings where the food, the catering, the floral arrangements, the decor and especially the expressions of love and commitment will be fabulous.

Absolutely fabulous.