Friday, March 4, 2011

Same-Sex Marriage: Equality vs Bigotry

by A. C. LaMonica

The ongoing debate over same-sex marriage has had a resurgence in the public square after Iowa and Vermont recently legalized gay marriage. The D.C. Council also voted to recognize gay marriages in other states further fueling the controversy. As these events unfolded, I watched the slew of opinions and commentary pour out while choking back my immediate urge to rant from the rooftops.

As a person who believes in equal rights on all fronts, my position here will be obvious. However, out of my frustrated curiosity I decided to take an honest look at the readily available input from the opponents of gay marriage. If so many are against denying certain rights to a group of people, there must be some remotely valid reason, right? Not so, unsurprisingly.


At the core of this argument is religion. There is no way around it and it's embarrassing when gay marriage opponents attempt to explain their point using less religiously-charged terms like "unnatural" or "anti-family." Other than the obvious reasons for religious motivation against gay rights, the Pew Research Center also shows the majority of people say they are opposed to same-sex marriage for the following reasons:

- It's morally wrong
- It's a sin
- The Bible says
- Against my religious beliefs

My question is, how can we actually allow discrimination under the threat of encroaching on the "religious liberty" of those whom are primarily Christian? Would we have the democracy we have now had we restricted the rights of people because of the religious reasons of others?

People like Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, rage against the "redefinition" of marriage and claim that it would "affect the rights of those of us who believe there is something special and unique about a union of one man and one woman." And what is that "something" Mr. Brown, other than your personal opinion of marriage? We are all aching to know what reason you have that is not based on religion or tradition. Yes, religious liberty is an important right we share as Americans. But where would you draw the line and why? When one's religious beliefs deny the rights of others based on sexual-orientation, perhaps? If it were one's religious belief that only whites have the right to marry, should that also be enforced and protected by government? That is the ground of the argument you tread on.

When confronted as being discriminatory because of his religious beliefs, Mr. Brown claims that, "People of different faiths and no faith at all, across wide spectrums of time, culture, and place have accepted the fundamental reality of marriage. It is rooted in biology not bigotry. Only a man and a woman can come together and naturally create and raise the next generation."

What Mr.Brown has described is sex. I can certainly see how that is related to marriage but the ability to procreate is not a requirement of marriage. Obviously, those heterosexual couples that are not able to have kids are still able to marry as they wish. His "biology" argument is another frequently used tactic in the marriage debate. What opponents fail or refuse, to realize is that biology and nature show us many examples of homosexuality, even amongst animals. According to the National Geographic, explicit evidence of homosexual and bisexual behavior is seen throughout many species. For example, there are "pairs of male flamingos that mate, build nests, and even raise foster chicks." It would appear that those who are anti-gay marriage would do best to stop using "nature" as one of their arguments.

This point, however, is irrelevant because what we are dealing with are two consenting adults wanting to marry and share the same benefits granted to every heterosexual couple.

Brian Brown has also expressed concerns regarding the threat of religious organizations having their tax-exempt status revoked in relation to the topic of same-sex marriage. Perhaps this explains the particular passion with which those in the pulpit express their disapproval of homosexuality in general. For example, Boston Catholic Charities adoptions was shut down in MA after the passage of same-sex marriage and allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children. That is, Boston Catholic Charities chose to shut down or else lose their tax-exempt status. Mr. Brown brings up an excellent point that works against him. Should tax-exempt status be provided to organizations that openly discriminate? Of course not. Let them discriminate at their own cost.

Many proponents of gay marriage are using the comparison of the fight for gay rights to that of our country's slow acceptance of things such as inter-racial marriage, women's rights, and the abolishment of slavery. Some opposing Christians scoff at this point each time and I don't understand why. The Bible goes as far as to tell people how to treat their slaves and yet now, almost every Christian is in agreement that slavery is one of the highest violations of human rights. How are the verses on slavery excused as not being relevant today but the verses against homosexuality are? All bibles aside, this debate comes down to equality, whether it's for abolishing slavery, women's suffrage, or same-sex marriage.

The welfare and education of children is another matter brought into the discussion. Those against gay marriage claim that legalizing gay marriage will lead to the deterioration and collapse of the family and that the best upbringing for a child is with a mother and father. The simple response to this is to suggest a glimpse at the current divorce rates of heterosexual marriages. Certainly this can not be the family stability "best for a child." Furthermore, empirical evidence presented by organizations like the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that children do just as well with same-sex parents.

Another major point expressed by opponents of gay marriage is that it is not in line with the will of "the people." Here, America shows its true homophobic colors. Sadly, this is the one argument that holds true, for now. According to the Pew Research Center, polls show that while opposition to same-sex marriage is in the majority, it is also in decline. For example, there was a decrease from 63% in 2004 to 51% in 2006 for those against legalizing gay marriage.

This may be in part due to the influence of America's younger, more progressive generation. Polls also show that the majority of young people into their early thirties tend to favor legalizing gay marriage. This point was recently made when Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, formerly against gay marriage, quoted his daughter's response to the conservative view on this issue. She said, "You guys don't understand. You've already lost. My generation doesn't care."

And I think that is true because this generation sees through the archaic racism, misogyny, homophobia and ignorance of "tradition". We are a generation more exposed to the diversity of humanity than ever before in history. The internet, for example, has allowed people from all walks of life to mingle and eventually realize that we really aren't that different; that we all deserve the same rights as human beings; and that includes the right to marry.

While the same-sex marriage opponents can currently claim majority as an argument, what I have yet to ever understand since the beginning of this debate, is how it is even up for debate. Shouldn't it be obvious that to base the rights of gays and lesbians on a vote, is a gross perversion and abuse of democracy? When in our country's history has putting to vote the rights granted to a particular group of people been looked upon favorably in hindsight? The simple fact that must be admitted is that there is no reason why two people should not be able to marry, in a democracy or otherwise. Fairness and equality are things meant to exist above "the will of the people". The nature of this debate should disturb Christians and religious alike because if rights can be denied gays and lesbians, what is to stop a majority from taking their rights in the future?

The recession of bigotry can be notoriously slow in hypocritical societies such as our own but we will not let down in our fight for marriage equality. And there will be equality. Whether it happens today or years from now, it is inevitable. Just as inevitable as the dying ideas of a generation dying with them.

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