EQUALITY & SAME SEX MARRIAGES: Strange bedfellows?
By Anthony Ortiz, Guest Contributor
When it comes to equality, this nation has had a long journey toward creating a “more perfect union.” Much of what is at stake in the same sex marriage issue is public equality and recognition, not simply a right to conduct secret liaisons undisturbed by the law.When it comes to equality, this nation has had a long journey toward creating a “more perfect union.” Much of what is at stake in the same sex marriage issue is public equality and recognition, not simply a right to conduct secret liaisons undisturbed by the law.
Marriage is, of course, an institution that has historically been influenced by religion, namely the Judeo-Christian tradition; a tradition now challenged by the New Jersey Supreme Court’s holding. Many invoke religion as the primary rationale why we should not legalize same sex marriage. It’s worth noting that early in our nation, the Puritans did not celebrate heterosexuality but rather marriage; they condemned all sexual expression outside the marriage bond and did not differentiate sharply between sodomy and heterosexual fornication. The world is changing and if we are to be a nation of liberty and justice for all, then we must hold true to that belief. Spain has a long commitment to the Catholic faith, yet they were the first nation to legalize same sex marriages in the legislature. Why not in the U.S.?
Opposition to same sex marriage certainly has as its core antagonism to homosexuality. The targeting of homosexuals for who they are rather than for what they do for society is one hallmark of these anti-homosexual sentiments. There was a time in this nation when a white male could not marry a black female because of the grim ugly truth of racism. Have we not learned the lessons of the past? When will we call things for what they are? Just wrong! Do we let it continue to occur for years without a social remedy? Make no mistake about it, same sex marriages will come about in the USA. Countries like South Africa, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands and Spain already permit same sex marriages. Countless other countries will soon join them. Are we going to be the last to join the world chorus of equality while professing to be a nation of equals? Or do we still believe that “separate, but equal” is acceptable?
If we are unwilling to accept homosexual conduct as criminal, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to lift the lifelong stigma created by the law in all realms, both in the public and in the private aspects of the lives of gay men and women. Hatred of our fellow Americans for political advantage is wrong, but silence is even graver. Anything less than marriage for same sex couples is the creation of a permanent underclass that cannot be reconciled with principles of equality in a government born on the premise of a secular order that affords the freedom to believe whatever religion one holds in one’s heart.
Moral disapproval is not enough in a nation that believes in equality under the law. No religious ceremony has ever been required to validate a state issued marriage license. So what is the actual rationale for denying it to same sex couples if not to serve a deep and scarring hardship on a very real segment of society for no rational reason? Those who argue “tradition” are protecting ‘traditional’ values by enshrining in the law invidious discrimination. No state in good conscious should ever deem a class of people strangers to the laws enjoyed by the majority when the law affords stability and happiness.
Advocates of the “ostrich” solution to this controversial social issue follow a blind philosophy of ignorance. It’s the same school of thought as those who failed to condemn racism early in our history. Our elected leaders, especially the Democrats who proclaim to be progressive leaders, will be remembered for how they vote on this question at the polls. But more importantly, they will be judged by history. Same sex marriage does more than just challenge the impact of principles of equality; it tests the possible limitations of their meaning.
A prime aspect of the history of our Constitution is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded by the law. I call upon the elected legislative representatives to continue in the great spirit of that principle and vote for same sex marriage. Remember that certain meanings and practices operate in furtherance of morally indefensible ends.
Rather than ask how same sex couples can be shielded from the exercise of state laws, ask how state power might be invoked to restructure the personal aspects of their lives in order to eliminate distorting stigmas associated with same sex couples living a loving, committed life. Instead of relying on history and religion for the answer to the controversy of legalizing same sex marriages, we should look to justice.