Monday, February 1, 2016
The Debate Over Gay Marriage
Written between April and May 2nd, 2004 as a High School Writing Workshop Piece
Edited on February 1st, 2016
Same-sex marriage is becoming a more and more important and widely debated issue, and is creating controversy and inspiring rallies across the country. Recently, the City of San Francisco, California legalized same-sex marriage, challenging the state’s constitution, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. In the first week beginning February 12th, almost three thousand gay and lesbian couples were wed. The city’s decision, which was opposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Bill Lockyer, was put into effect to purposely question whether California and the United States would allow same-sex marriages in the future. A proposition that was passed in California in 2000 states that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Illinois’s law states that any marriage between two people of the same sex is considered invalid.
The proposition in California’s law – which states that gay marriages are invalid, and denies gays a right that all heterosexuals have – directly opposes the 14th Amendment by denying homosexuals equal rights. According to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, any law against gay marriage is unconstitutional. Two states have officially legalized gay marriage; one being Massachusetts, where judges say laws prohibiting gays from marrying are forms of segregation that make homosexuals and heterosexuals unequal. The other state is Vermont, where the law technically provides for “civil unions”, but not “gay marriage”, the only basic difference being that in marriage, the couple receives a marriage license.
The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified after slavery was abolished, states “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” This clearly includes any homosexual who is a legal citizen of the United States. In a literal interpretation of this amendment, marriage is a privilege to which every U.S. citizen is entitled. Therefore it is illegal to deny the right to marry to any citizen. However, the unconstitutional proposition passed in California, as well as 37 other states, still stands. Some people who oppose gay marriage, including President George W. Bush, say that it will require a new constitutional amendment to allow gays to marry. To do so would require approval from 67 senators, approximately 300 representatives (depending on when the law would be passed), and the legislatures of 38 states. If it were to be formally proposed and passed, all previous state laws forbidding same-sex marriage would be invalid.
Prior to the date when Vermont became the first state to legalize homosexual civil unions, the law’s treatment of gays had been similar to the treatment of blacks between the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement one hundred years later. State laws segregated African-Americans and whites, forcing them to be apart from each other in public settings at all times. Many Southern states had laws that forbade whites from marrying any person who was less than 7/8 white, but non-whites, then categorized as “coloreds”, could marry those of their own race. These laws, which were called segregation laws or “Jim Crow” laws, also required blacks and whites to have separate bathroom facilities, separate buildings to buy alcohol, and separate movie theaters. Under these laws, blacks and whites were considered “separate but equal”, and therefore the laws were not considered unconstitutional.
Today, many Christian groups are against any efforts to pass laws legalizing gay marriage. Some are seeking the White House’s support in opposing any propositions that “redefine” marriage. According to them, marriage between two men or two women, and any homosexual acts, are immoral. Some, like Kenneth Howell, the director of the Newman Institute of Catholic Thought, oppose gay marriage because he thinks laws should reflect morals. The Catholic Church does not condone it because homosexual marriage serves no purpose; specifically, to create children. Some say that allowing either civil unions, marriages, or domestic partnerships – which allow gays, and also heterosexual couples whom do not want to marry, to have benefits such as jail and hospital visitation and funeral arrangements, but not the right to be recognized as “married” – would undermine the religious values of Christians and Jews.
If the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage (Note: there are alternative legal options that could also be effective in prohibiting this across the country; an amendment is not necessary the only way to do it) were to be officially proposed, voted on, and passed, then it would be the first amendment in United States history to take rights away from people. If any state were to legalize gay marriage before the amendment, married gay couples would have to be broken up by law, and they would no longer be able to visit each other in hospitals or have power of attorney over them and the ability to decide what happens to them when they die. Homosexuals, a significant percent of the population, would have one of the most important freedoms taken away from them; the freedom to love, and the freedom to be considered a married couple by the law.
Although in Illinois, marriage between two people of the same sex, performed in other states, is invalid, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has expressed support for the possibility of Cook County legalizing gay marriage, along with the mayors of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as Gifford Miller, the Speaker of the New York City Council. SO far, the same number of states that would have to approve any constitutional amendment allowing gay marriages, has already passed laws against them. Still, with the changes made in the last few years advancing gay rights, such as San Francisco’s and Massachusetts’s gay marriage laws, Vermont’s civil unions law, and Cook County, Illinois and New York City’s domestic partnerships laws, the possibility remains that homosexuals will soon be entitled to get married and have the same rights as heterosexuals, and with the help of voters making the decision in favor of love and freedom, it could become a reality soon.