In 2008, California, a supposedly progressive state, passed a bill titled, Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage statewide. Now that very law, a seemingly discriminatory law, is before the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2008, the ban passed with 52 percent of the public vote, but the pendulum has swung, and attitudes in California have seemingly shifted radically. As it stands right now, nine states recognize either civil unions or gay marriage whereas 30 states have statewide constitutional bans disallowing that basic civil right.

Now, as I write this, the legality of Proposition 8 is being challenged in the highest court in the land. President Barack Obama’s team took an unprecedented step in filing a brief with the court asking the Supreme Court to consider the merits of marital equality for all.

I’m Catholic, and I certainly understand the reticence of the more conservative members of society to embrace Marriage Equality, and I’ve coached other Catholic parishioners and friends to pray about whether to support gay marriage. I’ve told my Catholic friends that it’s indeed a discernment process. For those who’ve not been paying much attention to the movement within the Catholic faith, the new pope, Francis I, though stopping short of supporting Marriage Equality, made a radical reversal in the Church’s stance on contraception by issuing an edict stating that contraception is acceptable to stop the spread of disease. For all those Catholics who’ve practiced safe sex outside of the sanctity of marriage, this is an enormous leap forward. It virtually allows for the use of contraception for individuals who aren’t bonded by the legal contract of marriage.

Back when Bill Clinton was president of the United States, Congress and the Senate in 1996 passed the Defense of Marriage Act, more commonly known as DOMA. This law clearly defined marriage as a contract between a man and a woman, excluding the right of gay men and lesbians to marry. This law had the effect of denying Social Security survivor benefits and federal tax deductions to gays.

In Illinois right now, there’s a bill before Congress, called, The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act that has already been passed by the Illinois Senate. I encourage supporters of gay marriage in the Chicagoland area or throughout Illinois to contact their Congressional state representatives by email or online petition to indicate support for this bill as this new bill is about to be voted on in the Illinois legislature.

Like the Virginia Slim’s cigarette commercial, “We’ve come a long way baby!”

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