The sky hasn’t fallen

THE SKY HASN’T FALLEN…. Nearly a decade ago, the state of Vermont, responding to a state court ruling, passed a law allowing civil unions between same-sex couples. At the time, the outrage and disgust among Vermont’s conservative activists was overwhelming, and talk of various nightmare scenarios — cultural, legal, economic, religious — were common.

As the state began a debate over marriage equality, the 2000 debate seems almost quaint in retrospect. None of the dreaded consequences came to fruition, and even conservative Republicans came to look at civil unions as a common-sense measure with no reasonable downsides. The sky, right-wing rage notwithstanding, did not fall.

The same is true in Massachusetts, where gay marriage has been legal for five years.

One of the striking developments, since 2004, is the fading away of opposition to gay marriage among elected officials in Massachusetts.

When the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, there seemed to be sufficient support in the Legislature for a ballot measure that would overturn the decision. But efforts to unseat pro-gay-marriage legislators floundered; a gay-marriage supporter, Deval Patrick, was elected governor; and a climactic push for a referendum was rejected by lawmakers in 2007 by a 151-45 vote.

Last year, lawmakers went further, repealing a 1913 law that blocked most out-of-state gays from marrying in Massachusetts. The vote in the House was 119-36.

It’s just not that scary. Nothing has changed, except families who were denied equality before 2004 enjoy it now. Barney Frank’s prediction about the issue becoming less controversial over time looks to be true.

To be sure, there isn’t unanimity. The president of the conservative Massachusetts Family Institute told the AP, “We absolutely believe the sky is falling.” A Roman Catholic bishop added, “The mantra that the sky hasn’t fallen takes a short-term view. We don’t know what the implications will be.”

The “implications” of consenting adults getting married?

That the sky-is-falling crowd sounds almost comical now demonstrates the changing nature of the debate.