On Monday, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a gay marriage bill, making Washington the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Gay marriage is already legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Same-sex marriage is also legal in Washington, D.C. New Jersey’s gay marriage bill, approved by the State Senate yesterday, was sent to Republican Gov. Chris Christie for his signature, though he is expected to veto it.

On Monday, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a gay marriage bill, making Washington the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Gay marriage is already legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Same-sex marriage is also legal in Washington, D.C. New Jersey’s gay marriage bill, recently approved by the State Senate this Thursday, is currently awaiting gubernatorial decision.

The steps these states have taken toward equal marriage rights are commendable and a positive trend for our country. Michigan should not sit on the sidelines of progress. In addition to the states that have legalized same-sex marriage, there are 16 others that currently offer either civil unions or domestic partnerships. But Michigan is not following suit. On the contrary, on Dec. 22, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a ban forbidding state employees from receiving domestic partner benefits. It is inexcusable that while the rest of the country becomes increasingly tolerant, Michigan’s legislature is inhibiting the rights of a minority.

For those not convinced by the moral argument for marriage equality, legalization of gay marriage helps the personal finances of the couples involved and benefits the economy at large. Married couples are privileged with joint finances and shared insurance, whereas unmarried couples end up paying extra for these services because they are kept separate. Allowing same-sex couples to marry would make them more financially secure — something that should be a priority in hard economic times. Some companies will resent having to cover additional spouses under their insurance plans, but the financial costs do not outweigh the moral implications of marriage equality. This should be no excuse to hinder marriage legalization.

California’s Proposition 8, which was a 2008 ballot measure banning same-sex marriage, was declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court last week. The case will likely be brought to the Supreme Court where the justices will have a pivotal opportunity to promote equal rights. The legality of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 also has frequently been called into question. America’s judiciary system should continue to take action against discriminatory laws such as this and stand up for equality.

The time has come for America to fully accept gays as equal citizens. This is a question not of personal opinions or religious beliefs, but rather of the progression of society. Jim Crow laws are still in recent memory, and we shudder at the ignorance and bigotry of those racist policies. The present question of same-sex marriage puts us at a similar crossroads. Michigan needs to reverse its shift toward repressing same-sex couples. Michigan, along with the other 43 states that have yet to legalize same-sex marriage, should choose to be on the right side of history by taking action now.

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