Public officials aren’t supposed to change their minds. But I firmly believe that it’s important to keep learning. Last week, while I was in Connecticut meeting with members of the gay and lesbian community from across the state, I had the opportunity to tell them what I’ve learned about marriage, and about equality.
While I’ve long been for extending every benefit of marriage to same-sex couples, I have in the past drawn a distinction between a marriage-like status (“civil unions”) and full marriage rights.
The reason was simple: I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And as many other Americans have realized as they’ve struggled to reconcile the principle of fairness with the lessons they learned early in life, that’s not an easy thing to overcome.
But the fact that I was raised a certain way just isn’t a good enough reason to stand in the way of fairness anymore.
The Connecticut Supreme Court, of course, has ruled that such a distinction holds no merit under the law. And the Court is right.
I believe that effective leaders must be able and willing to grow and change over their service. I certainly have during mine – and so has the world. Thirty-five years ago, who could have imagined that we’d have an African-American President of the United States?
My young daughters are growing up in a different reality than I did. Our family knows many same-sex couples – our neighbors in Connecticut, members of my staff, parents of their schoolmates. Some are now married because the Connecticut Supreme Court and our state legislature have made same-sex marriage legal in our state.
But to my daughters, these couples are married simply because they love each other and want to build a life together. That’s what we’ve taught them. The things that make those families different from their own pale in comparison to the commitments that bind those couples together.
And, really, that’s what marriage should be. It’s about rights and responsibilities and, most of all, love.
I believe that, when my daughters grow up, barriers to marriage equality for same-sex couples will seem as archaic, and as unfair, as the laws we once had against inter-racial marriage.
And I want them to know that, even if he was a little late, their dad came down on the right side of history.