Recent years have seen a large increase in the popularity of the question of same-sex marriages. Sparked by petitions to allow for same-sex couples to acquire legal rights to their partners – for such things as insurance, health benefits, and other legal matters – this upswing has seen the debate of its moral and legal standing become heated. The United States government has sided with the right-wing religious voters, against any law that would allow the definition of marriage to be anything other than a coupling of one man to one woman.
However, this has angered many on the opposing side of the issue for at least two major reasons; firstly, the adherence to religious dogma over the rights of man, and secondly, the laws, as proposed, also exclude benefits from opposite-sex couples who choose to remain together, outside of marriage. In the United States, the strongest case against the right for same-sex marriage comes from the arguments of the religious voters. According to biblical context, homosexuality is a sin – therefore cannot be endorsed by the government.
The government’s answer to this issue was, then President Bill Clinton’s, Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. This act had two main points; first, it stated that no State would be required to acknowledge a law of any other state in regards to same-sex marriage, and second it defined, for the purpose of federal law, the terms, marriage and spouse. The DOMA was necessary because of a court case in the state of Hawaii. In 1993, the Supreme Court of Hawaii issued an opinion holding that the state’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages would be found unconstitutional.
Hawaii’s constitution stated that a person’s civil rights could not be infringed upon on the basis of sex – which lead to the suit against the state by three couples of same-sex relationships. However, this case was never fully brought to trial, as President Clinton, under pressure from the conservative base of the United States, signed into the Defense of Marriage Act. Within the court settings, the most common argument against the banning of same-sex couples remains that of sexual discrimination.
In these cases, the suitors cite the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as the primary law being broken in the banning of same-sex unions. However, more than that, these laws are made through religious ideals – effectively forcing upon the public, as a whole, the dogmatic ideals of a single religion. According to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, however; Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
Meaning that no federal law can be written that subjugates or imposes a religion. While the states are not bound by this, each state can enact laws following a vote of the electorate, any federal amendment forcing this issue would be unconstitutional. All in all, the publics fear and condemnation of same-sex unions is resulting from a religious base. There is no scientific or empirical evidence to suggest that these types of unions, in any way, disrupt the natural progression of life, development or society.
Yet, within the United States, and other countries where religion is a strong motivator of domestic policy, these issues continue to be points of contention. While the United States claims a free and religiously tolerant legal system, all too often, this is only lip-service to the masses. The basis of the American society claims a separation of church and state – yet, in every session of any governmental proceeding, one must swear an oath to the Christian Bible to uphold these laws. The hypocrisy of this practice has been over looked for the entirety of American history.
In so many areas of American domestic policy decisions, the Judaeo-Christian response is considered before any other priority – be it same-sex unions, abortion, or the observance of holiday celebrations. Once the religious connotation is removed from the equation, there is no legitimate reason for same-sex marriages to be outlawed. The freedom that America totes in front of the world must be all-encompassing. There can be no division between equalities of man for any reason – not sexual orientation, religion (or lack there of), race, creed or color.
These are fundamental cornerstones of American society. Though not without its blemishes, the American persona is of a tolerant, and accepting people. However, this latest trend to eliminate a certain segment of society is akin to the segregation of blacks and whites before 1964, and men and women before that. Unless we, as a society are careful, we will fall into another era of prejudice and intolerance – and to do that now, after the lessons of the past forty years, would be unforgivable.