To the Supreme Court of the United States: There is only one correct decision today, and that is a landmark ruling stating that the right to marry is a constitutional and inalienable right for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
Today, the Supreme Court will look at California’s Prop 8 law that bans same-sex marriage in the state. On Wednesday, the justices will examine the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that bars the federal government from giving benefits to same-sex couples, regardless of whether or not their home state legally permits them to marry.
It is bad enough that gay men and women do not have the right to marry the person that they love in this country. It is even more reprehensible that we deny those same-sex couples who are legally married under their own state law the right to federal benefits that other heterosexual couples enjoy. And now, more than ever, is the time to push this legislation. A poll from May 2012 found that 53% of Americans believe that it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry. Only 39% say that it should not be legal.
By virtue of the fact that we do live in something called a democracy, that should be enough. Yet somehow, the religious minority in this country has managed to keep the legalization of same-sex marriage from happening. Proposition 8′s supporters, for example, argued that the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage must be put in place because, “while gays have the right to their private lives, they do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else.” They argued that marriage was “essential institution of society” and that, without this proposition, the result would be that teachers in public schools may start “teaching our kids that gay marriage is okay.” After all, why would we want our teachers to teach our children tolerance and understanding. It is hard not to respond to these quotes (taken directly from the Prop 8 voter guide) with mockery, but I will try my hardest to remain marginally objective.
So just what is this true “definition of marriage” that supporters of Prop 8 are trying to protect? The Bible, certainly, offers little guidance as to what a “true” marriage should be. Greg Carey, a professor of the New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary, writes in a Huffington Post piece, “Let’s be clear: There’s no such thing as “biblical family values” because the Bible does not speak to the topic clearly and consistently.” For example, there is nothing in the Bible that could support the idea of the “nuclear family” values that some hold to be so self-evident in this country. The idea that marriage is between a man and a woman with the explicit intention of biological procreation is an absurd one. Jesus himself never took a wife, and in fact, told his disciples to leave their homes and their families to follow him. Carey writes,
“Let’s not even go into some of the Bible’s most chilling teachings regarding marriage, such as a man’s obligation to keep a new wife who displeases him on the wedding night (Deuteronomy 22:13-21), his obligation to marry a woman he has raped (Deuteronomy 22:28-30) or the unquestioned right of heroes like Abraham to exploit their slaves sexually. I wonder: Have the “biblical family values advocates” actually read their Bibles?
It seems strange, then, that such focus is put on defining the “true” definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, yet the very source that this idea credits is the very same that advocates that a man should leave his family, sexually exploit his slaves, and in the event he finds himself raping someone, he should at least marry her. Don’t even suggest, however, that a man in love with another man, or a woman in love with another woman, cannot enjoy the right to commit to that person in marriage, if they so choose.
Arguments concerning the Christian-right’s skewed views of marriage aside, the equal right to marry is, very simply, a basic liberty that should be applied to all Americans. The claim that each state should be permitted to decide whether or not same-sex couples can marry is not a valid one. In 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education, the ruling was not that individual states could decide to desegregate or not. The ruling declared that separate but equal was inherently unequal, and that this was not a state’s right to choose issue, but an issue of right and wrong, moral and immoral, equal and unequal, across state borders. They did not rule that people in Kansas deserved equal access to a quality education but those in Mississippi did not. The Supreme Court ruled that education should be a fundamental human right for all, and thus desegregated the country’s school system.
The issue of same-sex marriage should not be a state-by-state issue, either. The Supreme Court decisions today and tomorrow should be easy ones. Denying gay men and women the right to commit to their partners with the same rights and abilities as straight couples is unjustifiable. The thinly veiled bigotry of the minority Christian-right cannot continue to hold hostage our inalienable civil rights any longer. There is only one correct ruling, Supreme Court Justices, and I hope you have the moral integrity and bravery to make it today. Repeal DOMA. Repeal Prop 8. Proclaim marriage and all its benefits to be a constitutionally guaranteed right to all Americans, gay or straight.
Alyssa Röhricht blogs at Crash Culture: Political Train Wrecks for Political Junkies