Love isn’t the only thing same-sex couples and their supporters are celebrating this Valentine’s Day — the gay rights movement recently received welcome news on a number of fronts.

Love isn’t the only thing same-sex couples and their supporters are celebrating this Valentine’s Day — the gay rights movement recently received welcome news on a number of fronts.


Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a same-sex marriage measure into law Monday, making Washington the seventh state in the country to give gay and lesbian couples the right to legally wed.


The modern-day civil rights movement seems to be gathering traction elsewhere as well. A federal appeals court overturned California’s gay-marriage ban last Tuesday, ruling it was a violation of same-sex couples’ civil rights and therefore unconstitutional.


In the 80-page majority opinion, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that Proposition 8 “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and humanity of gays and lesbians.” The court came to that conclusion, he said, because of two factors: California has permitted domestic partnerships provided same-sex couples all of the rights and benefits of marriage since 2005, and the California Supreme Court had legalized same-sex marriage just five months before the measure many refer to as “Prop Hate” was enacted. Therefore, same-sex couples in California had already won the right to marry, and that right could not then be taken away.


“A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of ‘registered domestic partnership’ does not,” he said. “We are excited to see someone ask, ‘Will you marry me?,’ whether on bended knee in a restaurant or in text splashed across a stadium Jumbotron. Certainly, it would not have the same effect to see, ‘Will you enter into a registered domestic partnership with me?’”


Illinois is also taking the next step toward true marriage equality. One year after legalizing civil unions, three legislators filed the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act” on Feb. 8.


The bill would give all couples in the state the same marriage rights, protections and responsibilities — regardless of whether they are same-sex or opposite-sex spouses. The act would also allow for the voluntary conversion of a civil union to a marriage.


The measure, crafted to ensure religious rights are respected as well, states that religious groups would be free to choose which marriages they perform. While that should address religious objections for most, there will, of course, still be some who object on “moral” grounds.


However, as I was recently reminded while reading a syndicated religious column called “Focus on the Family,” there was a time when Christians were prohibited from marriage, too. In fact, the Catholic Church believes the origins of Valentine’s Day itself may be rooted in the fight for the right to marry.


“According to Catholic Online, the original St. Valentine, Valentinus, lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II at a time when the Roman army was involved in many bloody and unpopular military campaigns,” Focus on the Family president Jim Daly wrote. “Claudius was having difficulty recruiting soldiers, and he believed the reason was that men did not want to leave their lovers or families. As a result, he cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentinus was a Christian priest who performed secret marriages in defiance of the emperor’s decree. As a result, he was apprehended and condemned to death, suffering martyrdom on Feb. 14, around the year 270.”


Daly meant for his story to serve as a history lesson for children who believe the holiday is all about candy and expensive gifts, but like all parables the message is equally applicable for a number of life’s challenges.


For me, the lesson to be learned from St. Valentine is that love and marriage are worth fighting for, even in the face of opposition. I can’t think of a better way to honor St. Valentine’s sacrifice than to stand with those who fight for marriage equality ... and what better day is there to reaffirm those beliefs than Valentine’s Day?


Amy Gehrt may be reached at agehrt@pekintimes.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.