After 52 percent of California voters decided earlier this month to ban same-sex marriage in their state, gay rights activists there and throughout this nation took to the streets demanding a right unrelated heterosexuals are granted without question.
A majority of the voters in California, Florida and Arizona recently determined that because of their sexual orientation, because they don't fall in love with the same people they would, gays cannot legally validate that relationship or gain the same financial benefits through a marriage contract as heterosexuals do.
They cannot do what the rest of us can, simply because we don't think they should.
I'm having a few problems with that.
But because same-sex marriage has been and still is a hard-fought battle that doesn't seem to be turning in their favor, I wondered why gays and lesbians continue the fight. Why not be content with the gains won with laws like Lexington's Fairness Ordinance that outlaw discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity in work, housing, and public accommodation? Or be satisfied with all the company changes that embrace domestic-partnership benefits?
Why continue to stress over an issue that isn't budging? Why should we be concerned about it?
"You shouldn't be concerned about gays getting married," said Joan Callahan, a University of Kentucky philosophy professor on extended medical leave.
"It is just about who gets into the club," said Jennifer Crossen, Callahan's partner of 20 years. Together, the women own Windy Knoll Farm Riding School.
"With (President-elect Barack) Obama's election, the pool is getting larger and larger, but the last group to get in is gays."
Callahan and Crossen are longtime warriors in the movement to acquire the rights that are afforded heterosexuals but are dealt out piecemeal to gays.
They have welcomed Lexington's progressive stance as well as that of UK, which finally allowed Callahan to include Crossen and Crossen's son on her health insurance. And they have also witnessed the overwhelming passage of an amendment in 2004 that banned both gay marriage and civil unions in Kentucky.
After two decades together, they are family, but only in their own eyes. They have few of the rights families are given by government or by society.
They have disturbing stories of longtime partnerships that amounted to little or nothing when one of the loved ones died. There have been problems with life-and-death visitations and with the fulfillment of after-death wishes by the surviving partner because a person or agency had a different definition of family.
Those stories hit close to home with Crossen and with Callahan, who was diagnosed with fourth-stage uterine cancer in 2006.
"It has a lot to do with the rights that come along with getting married," Crossen said. "Things like Social Security. Single people cannot say who gets their Social Security benefits."
"Rights come with marriage," Callahan said. "It's a matter of a particular institution deciding they will allow gay couples to be counted as family. We are reliant, then, on the beneficence of strangers."
But society is more accepting of gays now, I said. That kind of thing is over with, isn't it? "Yeah, and racism is over, too," Callahan said.
Despite the advances made with employers by gays and unmarried heterosexuals who are in long-term relationships, it isn't enough, she said. "You shouldn't have to rely on customs. It is a matter of rights."
Civil unions can eliminate a lot of the obstacles gay couples face, but that still is not the same as marriage. "That is separate-but-equal thinking," Callahan said.
"The state has a role to play here," she continued. "Whether the majority agreed or didn't agree with the abolition of slavery, the abolition of slavery needed to exist. It affected the will of the majority without affecting the fundamental rights of the minority.
"Suppose the majority decided these blacks have gone too far. Make them ride in the back of the bus again. Suppose that under some conditions, we decided to persecute blacks like we used to.
"We would all say it doesn't matter what the majority says. It is wrong," Callahan said.
Crossen grew up with marriage being an important stage of life. She wants to marry Callahan and has proposed to her in Canada, in Vermont and in Massachusetts, where gay marriage or civil unions are legal. Callahan declined. She wants to get married in Kentucky.
"If a civil union meant the same as marriage, I would have no problem with that," she said. "I want to get married for the romantic thing, the symbolic thing. I've been married before and I can tell you it was not a marriage. This is a marriage. We work together and do everything together.
"If you don't want your church to marry us, I won't get married in your church," Crossen said. "It is not a religious thing. This is a civil right. I can get married with a justice of the peace."
Change will have to come from the government, both women agreed. Interracial marriages became legal when one state after another legalized them, Crossen said. That forced the federal government to step in.
"Let's skip all that and go federal," she said.
"Unless the laws change, the culture is not going to change," Callahan said.
As a Christian, I know the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination (Leviticus 18:22). But in that same book, God doesn't appear too keen on adultery either. Why are there no laws banning marriage for adulterers?
Had senior voters in California stayed home, analysts said, Proposition 8 — which amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and woman — would have failed. Young people don't understand what all the fuss is about.
Maybe gays will just have to outlive a generation of folks to achieve certain rights.
Quoting actor and writer Harvey Fierstein, Callahan said, " 'Breaking the lock on my door doesn't make your home any more secure.' "
Never has and it never will.