South Dakota touts itself as "The Land Of Infinite Variety" but I don't get the "infinite" part: there's certainly no room for variation when it comes to laws regulating marriage. In this state it's all about one man, one woman--and that's it. While the rest of the country is advancing steadily toward the notion that marriage is between two people in love, South Dakota stodgily maintains an official insistence that it's all about a male and a female, even though the vow "I do" is gender neutral. This is a frustration that finally proved too much for Nancy Robrahn and Jennie Rosenkranz of Rapid City last week. The two ladies, in love and co-habiting for several decades, decided a couple of day ago to formalize their relationship by giving it official sanction as a marriage. Boy did they bark up the wrong bureaucratic tree. Officials at their county office refused to accept their application for a marriage license
Undeterred, Nancy and Jennie promised to find a state where same-sex marriage is legal and return to the "Land Of Limited Variety," then demand official recognition of their marriage. Go get 'em, gals. My attitude, true blue professed libertarian that I am, is that relationships are self-defining and "t'aint nobody's business" as to how Nancy and Jennie and countless other couples in this state and country care to represent themselves--married, going steady, shacking up, or otherwise. This is still a free country and the people involved are probably as law-abiding and tax-paying as the rest of us. They have their rights to the privacy of their relationships and the benefits that accrue to all married folks, same as everybody else.
No doubt a sizable body of South Dakotans disagree, but those folks are in the minority nationally. Last week's ABC News/Washington Post poll on the subject determined that by a margin of 59-34, Americans support same-sex marriage. 50% of those polled even think it is a Constitutional right. I think it's dawning on our society that people of the same gender calling themselves married doesn't bring on some sort of social, political or economic apocalypse. Those whose religious views find it abhorrent are free to express their rejection of the notion by keeping same-sex marriages out of their places of worship--a right that I believe is indeed Constitutional and one that I would defend to my last breath. But rejecting it as a feature of everyday social interaction in the secular world of day-to-day society? What's to be so worried about?
As far as I know, same-sex married couples go through daily life in about the same ways as everyone else. As to the legal matters attached to marriage rights and responsibilities, how would they differ on the basis of the genders of partners involved? And when it comes to adoption, I'm confident about the outcome of a same-sex couple adopting a child out of a desire to raise a young one in a loving home that really wants that child. Considering the rotten home lives of way too many children in our country, I'm convinced that a caring home headed by a same-sex couple would be something we should tolerate, accept and encourage..
Seventeen states already recognize same-sex marriage, and courts are striking down laws that ban them on what seems like a regular basis. Ultimately we'll be tested here in South Dakota if Jennie and Nancy follow through on their plans. I suppose a court challenge is probably the only way this will get some final resolution here, but it would sure be nice if a sudden dawning of enlightenment could descend on our elected officials, getting the law changed through the legislative process. A vote of confidence from our representatives instead of a court order would make for a nice recognition by South Dakota of a free society's essential value, that "equal rights" means "equal rights."