One of the topics that triggered this look into American culture was the recent examination of California’s Proposition 8 and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act by the United States Supreme Court. The debate as to the definition of marriage has been a hot issue for the last several years especially, with the argument becoming broader thanks to television and the Internet. Whether you’re for gay marriage or against it, there’s no denying that the debate has caused a lot of friction and strife amongst the American people, and has us clearly divided. A recent poll has shown that 53% of Americans believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, and politically, 63% of Democrats and 56% of Independents favor same-sex marriage legalization, as well as an astounding 37% of Republicans1. That’s incredible.
But on the other side of that coin, the arguments against the legalization of same-sex marriage are pretty stiff – and without much deviation. Most people who stand opposed to it often utilize beliefs within Christianity as the cause2. Needless to say, when it comes to something within the context of American civil rights, the Bible is not the best source for determining what is a Constitutional right and what isn’t. While we are a very Christian nation, for the most part, but because of the freedoms granted in the First Amendment – particularly the freedom of religion – there is a significant portion of our country that does not adhere to Christian values, whether it be that they are “lapsed” or that they are, simply, not Christian. This modern America is a little more tolerant, and as such, contains of higher demographic of people who do not believe in the Christian God, and are, say, atheists, Pagans, Taoists, etc. America has also been described as “the great Melting Pot”, meaning that our country has historically been accepting and encouraging of men, women, and children immigrating and starting lives within a country that has such freedoms, like the ones defined in the Bill of Rights. With that influx, came not only people, but structures of faith.
With many misinterpreting the actual definition of “the separation of Church and State”, we just have to look at this issue through the standpoint of common sense and history. In 1919, women obtained the right to vote, which is one of the biggest victories in Women’s Suffrage and giving women equal footing to men. So, it’s okay to give women equality. Over the course of the 20th century, Blacks and other “minorities” were given the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as whites with such rulings as Executive Order 9981 (1948), Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954), the abolishing of the poll tax (1964), and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968. So, we can give the races equality. Why do we draw the line at sexual orientation when “all men are created equal”? Because America is still very fundamentalist, this is where some have decided the line needs to be drawn.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with someone in March 2013 regarding Proposition 8 and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. For the sake of keeping this person anonymous, we’ll call him Greg.
Greg: I don’t know why people keep relating this to race, this is a completely different argument. If you are successful in making this a civil right issue equal to interracial marriage, then any one who opposes it whether it be due to religion or other reasons, will be seen as a bigot. And I will not I be called or implied to be called a bigot for standing up for what I believe to be a traditional marriage. Gay and lesbian couples can have the same right through civil unions but in my personal believes I don’t think they should be married.
Me: They don’t have the same rights through civil unions, since the rights permitted through a civil union are not the same as ones permitted through marriage. The social contract is significantly different. It is a civil rights issue and is the same thing as Matt said. It’s not any different than interracial marriage rights.The point is, as Justice Sotomayor said to attorney Charles Cooper, “Outside of the context of marriage, can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits? Or imposing burdens on them? Is there any other decision-making that the government could make — denying them a job, not granting them benefits of some sort, any other decision?”No, there isn’t . We allow gays to vote. We allow gays to own property and pay taxes. We allow gays to live among us without persecution for what they are. The allow gays to attend the same schools, go to the same public places and use the same public facilities of heterosexuals. But, all of this equality stops when they want to be able to do the ONE thing they’re denied? The ONE thing that makes them a second-class citizen?
I understand that your religious beliefs dictate your opinion on this topic, and I do respect that. If I were more in tune with my Catholic upbringing, I would even further understand it. But here’s the deal, man. Religion has no business in this argument and religion has no business being the dictating factor on civil rights, regardless of it’s gays, blacks, or whatever. Religion has no place in politics and the rights of any man, or woman, or child, regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation should not be dictated by religion.
My stance against what Greg said really sits with me beyond just an opinion. I firmly believe that this is the direction America should take when it comes to matters like these, or anything else that even so much as fringes on the Constitution. The fact that we use religion as a basis for certain laws is inconceivable, and doesn’t pain a picture beyond bigotry and forced ideology – both things that America claims to be against.
As second facet to the religious argument against gay marriage lies in what the actual definition of marriage is.
Marriage: 1. a (1) : the state of being united to a person
of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual
or contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state
of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship
like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage>
b : the mutual relation of married persons : wedlock
c : the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
2. : an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is
effected; especially : the wedding ceremony
and attendant festivities or formalities.
In the definition for marriage, there is no mention of it being exclusively a religious institution, as some have tried to argue. Marriage is a non-ethnocentric, culturally-sanctioned union between two or more people that establishes certain rights and obligations between the people, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws3. Marriage actually predates recorded history, but there are many cultures that have legends surrounding the origins of marriage. Anthropologist Duran J. Bell, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Irvine, has said that various cultures’ rites of matrimony may lie in a man’s need for assurance as to paternity of his children, and that he might, therefore, be willing to pay a bride price or provide for a woman in exchange for exclusive sexual access4. Such practices have been observed in the histories and legends of many cultures that existed before Christianity.
The final argument I’ve heard is, quite simply, just the word “marriage”, which was previously stated and defined without any claim to be a “Christian” word. So, where is the religious stake in marriage? Solely in the fact that organized religion, at one point, deemed themselves as the only people who could perform these ceremonies for them to be realized in the eyes of God. There is no religious argument when it comes to marriage.
So, why is the LGBT community still not able to get married in the eyes of the Federal government? There is no legitimate reason. With the religious arguments out the window, then it’s just another case of a group of people who’s civil liberties have been violated, thus making the debate of same-sex marriage moot. Same-sex couples must have the right to marry each other, or everything else we’ve accomplished as a culture in the name of civil rights means nothing.