Steve Chapman: Gay Marriage and the Limits of Tradition

We treasure the customs and practices passed down from our ancestors. And we change them anytime we want.

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Gay marriage
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In all the bad days that opponents of same-sex marriage have had lately, few compare with the one they had this past week in a courtroom in Chicago. Lawyers defending the bans in Wisconsin and Indiana were buried in an avalanche of skepticism and incredulity.

The judges demanded to know what worthy goals the prohibitions serve, and the attorneys had terrible trouble coming up with any. Perhaps the low point for their side came when one was asked why Wisconsin makes it so hard for same-sex couples to adopt and ventured to say, "I think tradition is one of the reasons."

At that, Judge Richard Posner did not slap his forehead and exclaim, "Of course! Why didn't we see that? Everything makes sense now!" Instead, he retorted: "How can tradition be a reason for anything?"

Americans do pay homage to our past by invoking the Declaration of Independence, the framers, the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln, and so on. But the idea that we should be afraid to make changes in our laws for fear of rending the organic fabric of society doesn't command much allegiance on either the left or the right, writes Steve Chapman.

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