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Monday, December 24, 2012

I've Decided You CAN Get Married - Updated

In the 1990's, the United States congress passed the Defense of Marriage act, attempting to stop gay marriage from being legalized by the courts. This law was responsible for making marriage other than between one man and one woman illegal, and unrecognizable under federal law. It went further to remove the recognition of states who chose to legalize same-sex marriage, or civil unions and their benefits to same-sex couples. The Defense of Marriage act was and has been unchallenged for much of the last decade, until recently.

Through court decisions, states like Massachusetts and Utah have overturned opposition to Gay Marriage, ruling it unconstitutional to bar through law due to its violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the constitution. Other Federal court systems have begun weighing in on the issue and appear to lean toward Marriage Equality. The first reason for this is simple; Marriage is a civil and secular institution. You need a license to marry in all 50 states, meaning marriage is enshrined through law in the legal system and does not require any religion to exist. While religious marriage does exist it is not necessarily a part of or a parcel to civil marriage. Atheists and other non-religious people are free to marry, through a Justice of the Peace, or District Magistrate in all states. Since each state regulates the distribution of marriage licenses, this is a further example of the separation between religious marriage and civil marriage.

These attempts to restrict marriage to one man, one woman unions has met with uncertainty by Federal courts who cite the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, "No state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"; furthermore, it goes on to state, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."(US, 1868). Courts have held this to mean the civil privileges of marriage are not to be denied, and states such as California are not allowed to bar same-sex couples from marriage rights. The Massachusetts Supreme court ruling in 2006, as well as the recent Federal judge ruling in California both support the legality of same-sex marriage as a right.

Our founding fathers also supported a right to happiness, by enshrining this phrase in the preamble of our countries constitution; the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Gay Americans like all Americans have the fundamental right to select their own partners in life, regardless of gender. This is a concept sometimes forgotten by religious ideologues who wish to push their religious beliefs on others; they commonly use religious arguments to justify their legal opposition to same-sex marriage. These arguments often lack substance and are merely references to religious texts written thousands of years ago.

Christianity in the United States has taken up the torch of this new crusade in particular, as their texts and teachings are the common bell weather arguments about the low morality of homosexuality and homosexuals. They quote the scriptures such as Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. While this may exist in the Christian Bible as text, it is often cited by those who commonly ignore or overlook other verses located before and after it, which include; selling a daughter into slavery, the condemnation of eating shellfish, or wearing clothes made with different types of cloth. This ability to selectively choose verses in Leviticus, which only suit your ideological viewpoint, represents an improper appeal to authority; furthermore not all people are Christian, and appealing to Christian Biblical authority implies one would have to believe in Christianity. As non-Christians will attest, Christian ideology is not a tangible authority in a logical argument.

Doctor Halsall at Fordham University has studied Native American Societies and LGBT history in particular, and teaches on the subject. This research has uncovered acceptance of homosexuality as a natural occurrence by some Native American Societies. It was even possible for some tribes to allow children to choose their own gender, with full integration into the tribe as a member of their chosen gender(Halsall, 2007). This forward-thinking viewpoint is important because it shows our society, which is a melting pot of culture and diversity, has the ability to overcome Puritanical Christian thinking.

In fact many of the evangelical Christian moral arguments against Gay Marriage echo the same arguments against Interracial Marriage in the 1950's and 1960's. During the civil rights era, many white Americans felt interracial marriage should be outlawed as well; that it was also an abomination. As a society even today there are times when interracial couples encounter resistance in society. These moral arguments are typically overturned with time, as people become more educated and aware of diverse cultures. Christianity may currently stand against Gay Marriage, although Pagan's and Wiccan's completely embrace this natural diversity. The moral argument really then becomes an argument of religious viewpoints, and because of freedom of religion in America, Christianity does not have a monopoly on the law.

This doesn't stop Christian Opposition, as well as some secular opposition to same sex marriage from making the claims that Homosexuality is unnatural. You hear the common phrase Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve; however, research into this subject does not concur with that statement. Dr. Kinsey of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction pioneered studies into human sexual behavior. What Kinsey found was that individuals fall along a continuum of sexuality ranging from complete heterosexuality, to complete homosexuality. This theory became the Kinsey Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale and is still used today.

The Kinsey scale is based on the concept that all human beings fall along a continuum of sexual orientation, from extreme heterosexuality, to extreme homosexuality. Kinsey's scale is used to help explain the phenomena of Bisexuality, as well the ability of some straight and gay individuals to be able to change sexual orientation roles. This theory does not address the larger issue of genetic factors, which cause homosexuality; however, Kinsey's research suggests that both Adam and Eve, as well as Adam and Steve are equally plausible and normal(Kinsey, 2010).

Research has also been done in the animal kingdom to try and understand the nature of sexuality. The University of California did a comprehensive study on several different species of animal's which showed the integration of same-sex behavior into their respective societies. Same-sex behavior was not only a universal trait in the animal kingdom, scientists also theorize it may be a product of Natural Selection. Male Bottle Nose Dolphins, for example, engage in same sex interactions to facilitate group bonding. The female Laysan Albatross can remain pair bonded for life to another female and cooperatively rear offspring. These examples are not indicative of a lifestyle choice, but serve a fundamental purpose within their respective populations. In order to believe that homosexuality is an unnatural lifestyle choice, we are forced to also believe that animals have the cognitive ability to make that choice(Riverside, 2009). Other studies done on the Bonobo Ape's of Africa were documented displaying bisexual behavior, across 90% of the entire species. This is important, due to the Nature arguments used against homosexual behavior, claiming homosexual behavior is unnatural. In this instance we have an entire natural species, who exhibit sexual behavior resembling Kinsey's theory.

The reason why this becomes important with regard to Kinsey's theory, is due to the lack of social stigma associated with homosexual behavior, among the Bonobo Ape's, as well as the natural acceptance of such behavior by the species overall. In contrast it could be argued, Human beings create stigma's on homosexuality and demonize the behavior; thereby, forcing people the majority of people through peer pressure to choose one orientation or the other, when most people may naturally fall somewhere in the middle.

This is important to all of us because we each take for granted our own liberties in the United States. We forget we have the right to choose our life partner, or the government has a duty to apply laws and privileges equally to us all. We have forgotten that religiously backed laws create a religious infringement on civil liberties. Not everyone is a Christian, therefore all laws based on Christianity, force others to follow Christian beliefs. The government does not have a role or the authority to interfere in the relationships of private, consenting, loving, adults. It is also constitutionally bound against allowing any one religious institution from dictating law to the rest of the country. If Christians had the authority to regulate marriage as they saw fit, where would the line be; Gay marriage, or perhaps only marriages of Christians. Would pagan handfastings become illegal as well? This isn't a slippery slope, but a very real possibility when you give control of the legal system over to any one religious belief system.

If my religious beliefs were responsible for creating laws and I decided to target marriages and relationships my beliefs did not agree with, there would be outrage and condemnation from everyone who is not of my faith. It would also be an infringement on the rights of everyone. This is what has happened to the issue of same-sex marriage in America. A civil, secular, legal construct which stands separate from religion is regulated by people who apply their own religious ideological standard to the legal system. There are talk of public opinion polls and how public opinion is split on the issue, just as it was during the civil rights era with interracial marriage. This does not mean individual rights should be subject to popular approval; popular approval today could mean popular disapproval tomorrow when someone Else's rights are at stake.

If one day it is decided that people over 30 are not allowed to marry, because they are moving beyond their peak years of reproduction and as a society we don't want to encourage older parenting, as well as scientific evidence which shows older parents have a higher rate of birth defects with their offspring, would we as a society accept these imposed social rules? No, most likely we would not allow our society to dictate terms to us, which interfere with the free exercise of our rights; yet this is what happens each day Gay Marriage is held back and marriage equality is not achieved. If complete strangers who are not a part of your life are affected by your private life, and are enabled through law to make different rules for you, you in effect have no rights. Civil Marriage rights are for everyone and are not subject to popular approval under the constitution, perhaps our society needs to catch up with the constitution on this issue.


 ~ Updated 6/29/15

On June 26th, 2015 The United States Supreme Court upheld that bans on Same-sex marriages were unconstitutional, thereby making Marriage Equality the law of the land. Though many of us were skeptical of seeing Marriage Equality achieved within our lifetime, and the very real possibility exists of a Federal Constitutional Amendment being pushed in the future should the GOP gain even more power, for right now, in this moment we can say Marriage Equality has arrived. 






References


Bible, (2010). King James Bible [Electronic Edition]. (Leviticus 18:22), Retrieved from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/k/kjv/kjv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=407964

Halsall, P. (2007). People with a history: an online guide to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans history [Online Edition]. (Native American Societies), Retrieved from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/index-am.html#c17

Kinsey, (2009, March). Kinsey's heterosexual-homosexual rating scale. Retrieved October  12, 2010, from The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction Web site: http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/research/ak-hhscale.html#what

Owens, J (2004, July, 23). Homosexual activity among animals stirs debate. National Geographic News, Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0722_040722_gayanimal.html

University of California - Riverside (2009, June 17). Same-sex Behavior Seen In Nearly All Animals, Review Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/06/090616122106.htm

US Government. (1868). 14th amendment. United States Constitution