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A little over two years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Cedar Rapids, where I took part in the wedding of two old and dear friends. The happy pair had been a warm, stable and loving couple for as long as I'd known them (about 25 years), so you might wonder why they took so long to tie the knot. The answer is simple: Both of my friends are women, but they have the good fortune to live in Iowa, and they got their license on the first day that it became possible for them to do so.

Being able to be a part of their happiness was one of the great joys and privileges of my life, and I'm pleased to be able to note that my own marriage of well over a quarter-century to the same woman (how many has Newt Gingrich run through in that time?) stands unscathed by the fact that our friends are also now married. In fact, if my arithmetic is right, counting the states that have legalized same-sex marriage times the number of years for each, we now have over 18 years' experience; and to date none of the disastrous consequences predicted by nay-sayers has appeared.

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That lack of any evidence of real harm may be why Thomas M. Crawford's letter (Leader, Feb. 2) contains no actual argument against the institution. Mr. Crawford's letter focuses instead on AIDS as a reason to continue to demand opposite-sex marriage only. But in Africa, where the AIDS epidemic is far worse than here, AIDS is mostly a disease of the heterosexual community. Mr. Crawford's logic would compel him to ban opposite-sex marriage in Africa.

Mr. Crawford's central argument is of course true: a couple wishing to marry does have to "get society's permission, in the form of a marriage license," and then go through other steps as he describes. However, since these criteria are set by "society," society can change them.

D. A. Neiburg

Laurel

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