*Update: As A Crowing Hen went to press, US President Barak Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage. See CNN.
The United States has always been a place where “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are “inalienable rights” not for all, but for those who fit into a particular group’s narrow vision of how a human being should look or act. The United States was not the “land of the free” if you were landless until the 1850s, black until 1968, female until 1920, and poor until 1966.
But we cannot solely blame the minority of bigots. Their success at maintaining an exclusionary society within the United States has persisted since our nation was founded in 1776. Why? Partly because the silent majority of free-thinking progressives, the very spirit that defines the United States and its realization, have let the views of closed-minded groups cloud their judgment, corrupt their agendas, and/or continue without objection. Those who would otherwise be inclined to disagree with a policy of “inalienable rights for the people we like” are either stifled by their own laziness or cowards in the face of the political repercussions that could result from taking a stand.
For example, while Vice President Joe Biden and US Secretary for Education Arne Duncan have endorsed gay marriage in the past week, ABC news reported today:
“The open secret in Washington and in the gay community is that Obama most likely supports gay marriage and is waiting until after Election Day to make his views public.”
Meanwhile, his charisma and rallying appeal to North Carolina voters might have helped get some of the opposition off their couches yesterday.
NC Amendment One was meant to exclude homosexual Americans from their right to the pursuit of happiness. The argument for defining marriage as heterosexual stems chiefly from religious background. Proponents of the bill have argued in favor of the amendment because:
“As you all know, marriage was not invented by government. Our creator established it as the union of a man and a woman in an exclusive lifelong covenant and it has merely been recognized by government as the key to a strong and flourishing society.” – Tami Fitzgerald, the Vote for Marriage Chairwoman
“At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage. The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment …” – Billy Graham
Other proponents argue that since homosexual couples cannot procreate naturally, they should not be seen the same as heterosexual couples.
Most disturbing of all is an argument posed by Newt Gingritch,
“Marriage between a man and a woman is at the heart of our civilization. It’s a belief that is now under attack, yet it’s at the very core of defining who we are. That’s why I urge you to vote for the initiative right here in North Carolina. The chance to vote for a referendum to declare clearly that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Slavery was also the heart of our civilization until 1833. Just because something has always been a certain way doesn’t mean that it is necessarily just or should continue in the face of dramatic societal advancement and change.
None of the above arguments for Amendment One are actually valid within a just legislative setting. Laws and regulations created by the government are designed to protect our liberties, not to discriminate against the few because of some backward, religious fanaticism or faulty logic. Nowhere has it ever been argued that limiting unions to heterosexual marriage will benefit the populace. Who’s rights are we protecting?
Religious arguments breach our nation’s First Amendment, which states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
This breach itself should discount any religious arguments. If that is not enough to settle the concerns of religious leaders and followers, they should take care to remember that there is a clear difference between a legal union and a religious marriage. While commonly the two events happen simultaneously within a church, it is not necessary for a religious official to bear witness or bless a marriage. Churches are legally allowed to make decisions on what types of couples they will and will not marry based on their own belief structures, as they have done for thousands of years. When homosexuals are finally awarded their equal marriage rights, religious homophobes should rest easy knowing that they can safely continue to discriminate against homosexuals within their sanctuaries.
Religious fanatics feel the need to share their hatred and interfere with the rights of others because they fundamentally disagree with homosexuality. However, denying homosexuals the same basic freedoms as all other Americans is not going to make them disappear.
Meanwhile, procreation arguments could be applied to infertile couples. Yet there hasn’t been any movement to say that heterosexuals incapable of procreation should be banned from marriage or civil unions.
The arguments against limiting marriage to heterosexuals are rational. Allowing legal unions to remain open to couples regardless of sexual preference, protects the rights of all. Allowing only legal unions between heterosexuals denies the rights of many Americans. Once again, laws in the US should be written to protect our basic rights, not deny them.
However, the arguments against Amendment One in NC were cowardly, focusing on the potential job losses or failure to attract investors to the state if it is branded as being anti-gay. Public officials in NC were too afraid for their offices to say that Amendment One was hate rhetoric-driven and instead hid behind economic arguments. While these arguments might have been persuasive to some, I am doubtful that the vast majority of those opposed to gay marriage would suffer their morals for the sake of the state’s economy.
While I am a heterosexual, I have always been of the belief that all people should be treated with respect and be afforded their natural rights. While I am a Christian, I have always believed that God loves each of us just as we are and that if homosexuality is a sin, that is between individuals and God, not for society to judge. As a single American, I have made a pledge not to get married on US soil until all consenting adult Americans are free to marry regardless of sexual orientation.