Mayor Julián Castro and Evan Wolfson sound off on why marriage matters in Texas
February 12, 2014
Editors' Note: This op-ed by Julián Castro, Mayor of San Antonio, TX and Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry, was originally posted on February 11 in The San Antonio Express News. Mayor Castro is a co-chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.
While the country has been sprinting toward the freedom to marry for gay couples, the Texas Tribune noted last year that, “Texans appear to have been moseying along in the same direction.” Moseying may be turning into a dash here soon.
Today a federal court in San Antonio will hear arguments in a landmark case that, at its core, is about strengthening family and individual liberty. The case has been brought by two Texas couples — Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman and Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss — who wish to be able to marry where they and their loved ones live, here in the heart of Texas.
They are challenging the Texas ban on gay couples marrying, a blot on our state Constitution that is both unconstitutional on equal protection grounds and morally wrong.
The couples rightly argue that all Texans should have the freedom to marry the person they love. They invoke the Supreme Court's rulings, from Loving v. Virginia striking down race restrictions on marriage to last year's Windsor holding that the federal government had no legitimate reason for treating some married couples differently from others, just because they are gay. The moral question on the table is, do we treat others as we would want to be treated? Aren't we all striving to follow the Golden Rule without succumbing to divisiveness and discrimination? Aren't we all God's children? We think that most Americans, and most Texans, would agree: The answer is a resounding yes.
The discussion around dinner tables is about the right to marry — not what churches can or cannot do. Churches and other religious institutions will always be free — as they are now — to decide whom they want to marry. Religious freedom, like equal protection and the freedom to marry, is a bedrock constitutional principle of this great country. But the government should not be discriminatorily denying committed couples marriage licenses.
The nonpartisan James A. Baker Public Policy Center at Rice University continues to highlight the “sea change” on gay rights. About 60 percent of Texans favor either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples according to polling by the University of Texas. Fifty-nine percent of residents 18-29 back the freedom to marry, which is in line with the national trend among younger generations. Nationwide, multiple polls show that a solid majority of Latinos and African-Americans support the freedom to marry.
Corporate America sees where our journey is headed. Major brands, some with a large footprint in Texas — such as AT&T, American Airlines, BP, Dell and Texas Instruments — support rights because it's the right thing to do. And it's because it is good for business and for communities that want to compete in the global marketplace.
None of the fear-mongering arguments against the freedom to marry has come true in the 17 states — including Iowa, Maine and New Mexico, hardly bastions of liberal politics — that have ended their bans and allowed committed same-sex couples to marry.
Like the majority of Americans nationwide, Texans are coming to the conclusion that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is wrong. After all, we believe in individual responsibility and the pursuit of happiness, and know that freedom means freedom for all.
Two of the plaintiffs served in the military — De Leon in the Air Force, followed by the Texas Air National Guard at Lackland, and Holmes, stationed at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, followed by assignments in Wichita Falls, for a total of more than 20 years of service. Both put themselves in harm's way to protect our freedoms. In turn, they should have the freedom to marry the person they love.
It's a matter of when, not if — and when it comes to standing for family and freedom, Texas should lead, not lag.