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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gay Marriage Does Not Screw Up Marriage

Many would claim that the recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California on Proposition 8’s constitutionality has set a precedent that will doom marriage by accepting same sex couples. This is not only untrue, but sensationalizing an issue that should not have been this contentious. If the federal government declares through an amendment in the future that, like bans in interracial marriage, amendments in the state constitutions that say marriage is only between a man and a woman are discriminatory and unconstitutional, this only makes gay couples equal in the eyes of civil law. Religions can still claim that those marriages are not ordained by God and refuse to officiate those ceremonies; their first amendment rights are protected even under such a declaration by the secular authorities. By no means would either secular or sacred marriage be destroyed or denigrated by the acceptance of gay marriage by society at large, except those who would prefer to stay in a previous generation, which is their right as long as they do not infringe upon those of others, such as the GLBT community when concerned with the supposed sanctity of marriage, which disappeared in cultural eyes when no fault divorce laws were passed. That sort of lazy approach to annulling marriages did more damage than gay marriage would ever do if passed across the country. Just because a religious definition of marriage is opposed by a secular law’s adjustment and allowance of gay people does not undermine or negate that definition in culture and society. It can remain, but by legal precedent, gays would be afforded the same title and rights, not merely the rights without the title, which is not solely the property of religion.

To begin with, gays are a suspect class by California law, so Prop 8 is explicitly conflicting with the Equal Protection Clause as it applies to state laws. It isn’t a stretch to claim that gay people are a suspect class on par with others that exist, such as race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Religion is not immutable except in terms of traditions it may hold canonically. People are not bound to their religion, but they are bound to race or ethnicity and by extension, since there is no evidence to suggest you are free to change sexual orientation or even alter it by force or so called “therapy”, it falls under one of the important qualifications of a suspect class in law, that it possesses an unchangeable characteristic. Other qualities include being persecuted and being unable to combat discrimination effectively by the legal process. For decades gays have been treated unequally in being denied the state of marriage while being given a compromise that is akin to saying one can have the duties of a soldier in the army, but not the title. One might say this is fair, but this would only be so if marriage was something that only had a religious implication. But the very association we have with marriage that entails property sharing, visitation rights, etc, makes it just as secular, if not more so, than the sanctity and holiness many believe it to possess. I believe it is very important, as close to sacred as one who doesn’t believe in the reality of the supernatural or transcendent could hold something in regard. But in order for marriage to be a fair practice, gays must be allowed to marry, and churches should be allowed to reject it, but not to legislate their religious perspective as law, since that more explicitly violates part of the constitution many people focus on only when it benefits them and not when it contrasts with what they take for granted, the free exchange of ideas which we may find offensive, but nonetheless tolerate the existence of.

Marriage does not have to mean the same thing to religious institutions as it does to the secular civil law, since they are not by necessity always in alignment with religious values, many of which can be antiquated and outdated. As noted before, there has always been, even back in the days before democratic republics with remote separation of church and state, an idea of marriage that connects the practice to property ownership, even if it was technically the woman that became the property of the man instead of sharing the property with her husband. Considering we can even think of a nuance between marriage of the state and marriage of the church, even if they also overlap in a sense, should be evidence enough that marriage is not something strictly for religion to define or legislate through the process of the courts. And arguments based on historical precedent only presume marriage will always be the same way it has been for thousands of years on the same faulty premise that the family will always remain as it was back in the old days, which is very much not the case. It used to be that your extended family shared a home with you, but we’ve progressively separated from that practice in the U.S., not to mention you can have families that are across countries through the use of technology, sharing their moments together without being physically with each other, not that it isn’t done with nuclear families in relation to immediate family if they are especially distant from each other. But the family can be a group of people completely unrelated to each other. Foster parents, adoptive parents, etc, all of which emphasize that family is not about blood relation, as defenders of so called “family values” and “traditional marriage” that “protects children” claim, but is about the sentiment behind the group or pairing in the cases of family and marriage respectively. The love is what makes a family or a marriage, not whether you are biologically connected or whether you can biologically have children together. This is irrelevant, even if it is a common occurrence in both cases. The most basic and essential part of both of these is love and for people to judge otherwise is to nitpick beyond even the biggest comic book nerd and forget the spirit of the institution for the body of the institution as it was in idealized history.

The state does not have a legitimate or compelling interest for denying the right to marriage in a civil context to people that, as noted above, are both a minority and being persecuted for something they cannot change without severe psychological repercussions. Denying marriage to people who are biologically related or to entities which cannot consent, such as children and pets, is a compelling interest because of either risks to the children or violation of children and pet liberties in contrast to denying marriage to a couple that can consent and poses no risks to their children. Any alleged studies about children raised by gay parents being likely to be gay does not show causation necessarily, but only a correlation that might coincidentally exist. Gay marriage is not something that has any explicit danger and so called predictions of disaster in two generations for any country that has seem to want to focus on the moralizing objections they have instead of whether a country is mismanaged apart from its acceptance of homosexuality, which certain groups find abhorrent, but nonetheless have not brought forth evidence that gay parents or couples adopting and getting married are any problem for the world at large. Without this, your opposition is religious in nature and trying to legalize it based on that violates the establishment clause on its face by American standards and a general idea of church/state separation across the world in one form or another.

It’s not that you can’t oppose gay marriage. No one’s stopping religious people from finding it objectionable. They just can’t use the law to try to make their discrimination legal in any sense. Like bans on interracial marriage, there are no grounds for banning gay marriage except that it makes people uncomfortable or morally indignant, which is not any rational reason to criminalize or prevent something from being protected by law, such as abortion, alcohol or cigarettes, all of which have opponents, but nonetheless have become commonplace and legally protected, though not considered moral by all people. This sort of distinction between legality as moral permissibility and legal as morally objectionable might have the potential for hypocrisy or abuses by humanity, but the intent behind them is not so sinister as abortion opponents try to spin the issue of what they mistakenly calling murder. Like gay marriage, abortion might have morally problematic qualities, but it is not something that poses a threat on the level of rape, murder or other such things that are illegal by their very nature. Same sex couples getting both the rights and title of marriage will not ruin your marriage and will not corrupt the youth into all becoming gay, since, as science is slowly showing, we are not able to change our sexual orientation or attraction so simply as we can change our beliefs concerning the supernatural, for example. So why should we discriminate based on the former and protect the latter under constitutional principles? We shouldn’t, and I don’t think even the founding fathers would have wanted the government to stay silent on this. Like the issue decades ago with bans on people of different races marrying each other, the government should step in so as to protect this fundamental right that, while not explicit in the Constitution, is clearly integral to our society. Opening it to one group of people with a compelling reason and no imminent danger to others or themselves will not lead to legalizing other marriages so easily. This fear based rhetoric is keeping us behind other countries making leaps and bounds of progress on many social issues. Shouldn’t we focus on love, especially if it is conducive to other values we tend to hold in common, such as responsibility and fidelity? Until next time Namaste and aloha.

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