This week featured two happenings in the drive to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States. First, the Supreme Court finally heard cases concerning the constitutionality marriage restrictions and second, Facebook was hit by a wave of profile picture changes to a red equals sign. One of those matters a great deal, one hardly matters at all. I’ll let you decide which is which. My distaste for internet activism aside, same-sex marriage is the topic of the hour and I would be amiss if I did not add my two cents.
Debates over the morality of same-sex marriage can certainly happen on a person-to-person level, mostly on the basis of religion. But then such conversations can also be applied to drinking alcohol, gambling, and watching rated-R movies. Once applied to a political/legal setting, however, the case against same-sex marriage disappears entirely. Unfortunately (or is it fortunate?), I have not been able to find a same-sex marriage opponent to lay out their argument against it, so I have to rely on what I have heard in the past.
The stupidest argument against same-sex marriage is that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. Please.
A frequent assertion by some conservative commentators is that allowing same-sex couples to get married will destroy the “sanctity of marriage.” This sanctity, however, has never existed and never will. Divorce and affair statistics aside, although they do serve as proof that if such sanctity did exist in the past it has been thoroughly annihilated, there is nothing inherently sacred about marriage. Marriages performed in churches or other places of worship under the umbrella of a religion? Sure, those can loosely be defined as sacred. But, legally speaking, there is no difference between a marriage conducted by a justice of the peace and one conducted by the Archbishop of New York.
Getting to the fun stuff, there is the assertion that Christianity prohibits same-sex marriage. This is explicitly laid out in some Leviticus passage which die-hards enjoy throwing out, but in the New Testament there are only three verses which refer to homosexuality (exactly none of which are spoken by Jesus). This argument exists in the personal realm, but falters immediately upon arrival on the political stage.
The very first thing in the Bill of Rights is the explicit statement that Congress cannot establish a national religion. Congress can no more install the Ten Commandments in the legal code than it can enact Sharia law. Biblical positions on homosexuality simply cannot be used as national legislation. To my knowledge, nearly every state has a similar prohibition in their constitutions. Conceding that, some same-sex marriage opponents assert that our nation was founded on Christian principles and because of that, laws resembling such values are permissible. The personal beliefs of our Founders absolutely cannot inform contemporary political policy. After all, many of the more prominent Founders (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jay, Henry, Hancock, and Franklin) owned slaves. If the fact that these figures were Christian should inherently make same-sex marriage illegal, then I guess the Civil War didn’t serve much of a purpose. Perhaps our nation was founded on Christian values, but it was also founded on the backs of slaves. We should not forget that fact.
It is the opinion of some that same-sex couples already enjoy all the rights as heterosexual couples and the debate is merely a name matter. Take it away, Chief Justice John Roberts! “Same-sex couples have every other right. It’s just about a label in this case.” You see, same-sex and opposite-sex couples are equal. Sure, they have separate names, but they are equal. Wait a second, that sounds familiar…oh, right! “Separate but equal” was used by the Court to justify segregation in Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896); a ruling which was later overturned by Brown vs. Board of Education (1954).
It is nearly inconceivable that the Court could find bans on same-sex marriage constitutional, but you never know what will happen. Overall, there can hardly be any legal justification for prohibiting such unions in their fullest forms. Those Christians who oppose it will not be satisfied, but there is little cause for them to erupt in fury. Nobody is going to force them to marry members of the same sex, and there will (very likely) not be laws which force ministers who oppose the unions to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. Legal opposition to same-sex marriage has always been smoke and mirrors, but hopefully this clears the air, so to speak.