Gay marriage is a difficult topic to talk about without getting a great number of people upset. It also has a tendency to be a very divisive issue with which to discuss. I have decided (for better or worse) my current opinion of the subject. Please feel free to comment and add your thoughts to the discussion. As with so many controversial topics, the need to discuss it rationally is just as important as the topic itself.
There has been a great deal of talk lately about the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages. The basics of the amendment work like this “marriage” would be defined as a union between a two consenting adults, one male and one female; and that such a definition would not be redefined by state or federal laws. The amendment would leave open the question of civil unions; allowing for the possibility to make all laws pertaining to marriages also apply to civil unions. Fundamentally the constitutional amendment simply enforce the Jedo-Christian definition of Marriage federally.
Personally, I have been wrestling with this issue for a while. Here are some of the problems I am trying to work out. Fundamentally I have several core values that touch on this subject. Notice that I said core values because non of the following beliefs is expressly guaranteed by the constitution.
1) I believe it is absolutely wrong for the federal government to discriminate against someone (from a legal and judicial standpoint) because of their sexual preference.
2) I do not believe that a country can judicially accept a “separate but equal” understanding of the law (i.e. have the same legal rights but just not call it “marriage”) and maintain true equality.
3) I believe marriage to be a sacramental religious institution between a man and a woman. Not a man and a man, woman and woman, man and child, woman and several men, woman and child, man and several women, man and animal, or woman and animal.
4) I do not believe that you can successfully redefine marriage without destroying the fundamental nature of marriage.
Within the boundaries of the current pro-gay-marriage/anti-gay-marriage discussion these views would seem to stand in stark contrast to one another. They surely don’t support the baning of gay unions but they don’t support the institutionalization of traditional marriage for the gay community. What is also most interesting is that I believe most Americans agree with above points. That general agreement concerning the rights of individual and the rights of our institutions is what is making this discussion so difficult.
The anti-gay rights movement has tried to paint this debate as a battle of good vs evil, moral vs immoral. This outlook, however, is based on a moral view of the world that is not shared by all people. In addition it totally ignores a problem that has to be reconciled with: that we are refusing legal and judicial rights to a group of people because of who they are. This blatant disregard for the legal equality of mankind cannot go ignored. Choosing to ignore (or worse legislate) this inequality is no better than acceptance of slavery in this country. Banning all forms of gay marriage would totally ignore beliefs 1 and 2 listed above. Do we sacrifice half of our countries values to save the other half?
The pro-gay rights movement has attempted to make this an issue of discrimination. While this may be true it totally ignores the fact that most Americans are religious and have the right not to have their beliefs, ideas, and institutions redefined for them. Remember that we are talking about an institution that existed before the government did. Marriage is historically a religious institution and the government has no right to legislate the structure of religious institutions. In addition, if we truly put away all of our biases (i.e what kinds of unions are right and wrong) what is to keep us from redefining marriage to mean a union between a man and a dog, or an adult and a child. Legalizing all forms of gay marriage would ignore beliefs 3 and 4 listed above. Again I ask you, do we sacrifice half of our countries values to save the other half?
Many Americans realize the juxtaposition and have chosen banning gay marriage but legalizing civil unions because it addresses 3 of the 4 beliefs mentioned previously, more than the two most common solutions put forth by the pro/anti gay movement. In fact dangerously close to 2/3 of the country seems to leaning this way, making the passage of a constitutional amendment a real possibility. The problem here is that I am not willing to violate one of my core beliefs to save the other three. Ignoring value #2 would mean opening this country up to the possibility of bringing back the separate-but-equal laws of the pre-civil rights era. Even more so because this would constitutionally give a basis for separate-but-equal where any previous constitutional basis in its favor was simply implied. Banning marriage but legalizing civil unions seems just as unacceptable to me as the previous solutions.
So where does that leave us? We cannot ban gay marriage, we cannot legalize it, we cannot ban some form of civil union but legalize another. The only solution that I have been able to come to is one that I have heard almost nothing about (mostly because the two “sides” of his argument don’t want the public to realize there is another option.) We totally remove marriage from federal jurisdiction. This leaves the question of civil unions open to the federal government (a topic for discussion another day) but marriage must become state/citizen/private institution. This is actually the way it is now. States recognize marriage, not the federal government. But some federal programs do give special consideration to married couples and those provisions would need to be removed or given to civil unions (if the federal government chooses to recognize civil unions.)
A couple reasons why this solution looks so good to me (besides the fact that is conforms to all of the above listed values concerning gay marriage) is that it A) is coincides with another fundamental belief of mine: the less the federal government gets involved with my life, the better off my life is; B) the Constitution should not be altered unless absolutely necessary, and should never be altered to enforce social policy decisions (see Amendment XVII as an example); and C) its in perfect harmony with current Constitutional Law and the spirit of our founding fathers (i.e. Amendment I clause 1 & 2 and Amendment X.)
I don’t know if the solution I have presented is the best solution available; but it seems to address more concerns, with better equality, than other solutions presented by the current administration and the media. Maybe instead of trying to change the constitution to enforce our current social structures, we should read our constitution and see how it suggests handling it.