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Matrimonial Discrimination
by david   February 24, 2004
gay, marriage, discrimination

Okay -- I seriously cannot take this anymore. I want everyone to take a step back, just for a second, and realize that a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is the most serious, widest-reaching form of governmentally sponsored discrimination I've seen in my lifetime (I'm 30). I mean it -- drop your fake moral posturing. Take off your conservative religion-colored glasses. There is no real, fundamental need for anything of this sort. A Constitutional amendment encouraging discrimination, based upon the shifting sands of religious-based moral fervor, of fear-based predjudice, of traditionalist ignorance -- surely this is a nightmare, and I will wake soon. George W. Bush, court-appointed President of the United States: you, sir, have gone too far.

You see, this goes way beyond typical presidential politics. Laws, Executive Orders, between-session judicial appointments -- these can all be overturned, and relatively easily if public opinion is behind the move. Even those laws and orders with ongoing popular support can be circumvented administrationally through withholding funding, etc. (just look at what Bush has done to Clinton's popular environmental work). But Constitutional amendments are a much different animal. Overturning a Constitutional amendment is not technically possible -- all that can be done is the ratification of another amendment which includes language repealing the prior amendment. This has only been done, to my knowledge, once -- the 21st amendment repealed the 18th (Prohibition). Amendments, for all practical purposes, are permanent. Even an "overturned" one remains forever a part of the Constitution.

Writing discrimination into the Constitution would place a terrible blemish on the face of the most important document under United States law. All of the other current Constitutional amendments are clarifications of points of law, rules establishing the inner workings of the Executive and Legislative branches, and declarations of freedom from discrimination and oppression (Article XIII makes slavery illegal, articles XV, XIX, XXIV & XXVI make certain that everyone over 18 can vote). This newly proposed Constitutional amendment would be the first to sanction discrimination.

And, interestingly, it is in direct opposition of Article I, commonly called the first amendment. We normally think of the first amendment as the Freedom of Speech amendment, but what we often forget about is this little gem:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
This is one of the basis for the expression "separation of church and state." Basically, it prohibits the creation of laws based upon the edicts of one religion or another. There are two arguments I've heard for the banning of Gay marriage -- the first, and often loudest, is that homosexuality, and the expression thereof, is against God's will. If we pass a law based upon this assumption (which is held only by some faiths, not by all, not by a long shot), we are directly violating the first amendment (in this sense, Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional -- Bush knows this, and has hinted at its vulnerability to being overturned). In passing a Constitutional amendment banning Gay marriage on these grounds, we are effectively repealing a portion of the 1st Amendment.

The second argument against Gay marriage is far weaker than the first, but has more purchase in the current debate, because most opponents of Gay marriage, who in their hearts oppose it for reason number 1 (above), know that their reasoning is unconstitutional, so they've created this second argument to mask their faith-based discrimination. The second argument: Gay marriage flies in the face of tradition, and damages the foundation of the American family.

The response to this argument is simple: tradition is not always right. The tradition of slavery, held for thousands of years, was wrong, and eventually we came to see that. The tradition of treating women as second-class citizens, held pretty much since the dawn of human civilization, was wrong, and eventually we (most of us) came to see that. The tradition of prohibiting mixed-race marriages was wrong, and eventually we (again, most of us) came to see that. All of these "traditions" helped define how the American family worked, in their time, and the breaking of these traditions was right and necessary, despite the inevitable changes to the "traditional American family," because discrimination, in all forms, is wrong, and is a cancer that eats at the heart of society.

The reality is that there is no argument to defend a ban on Gay marriage, anymore than there is an argument for any other form of arbitrary discrimination. The only reason we are even debating this is because homosexuals are the last well-defined group in America against whom it is still "okay" to discriminate. As with all other forms of discrimination, this has its roots in ignorance and fear. As we grow as a society we will come to realize that, whatever the Pope says, whatever our Bibles tell us (remember, our Bibles tell us that a wife must obey her husband, and that slavery is A-OK), homosexuality is not a crime, any more than it is a simple lifestyle choice. Homosexuals are who they are, and they deserve the same rights and freedoms as every other human being. This proposed Constitutional amendment is nothing more than dangerous, divisive political posturing in an election year, by a President whose (nearly) every action in office has been dangerous, divisive, or both. The biggest problem with this gesture is not the petty, narrow-minded, short-term goals of this little man who runs our country, but the permanency of a Constitutional Amendment. This is why we should fight Bush's proposal with all our strength. I think the American people will see this, will understand this. I hope they will.

The American family will endure Gay marriage. The people will come to realize that the foundation of the American family is not one man and one woman who procreate and raise their biological children together -- it is mutual love and respect between people who support each other emotionally, socially and sometimes financially, who sometimes decide to pledge their lives to each other, who sometimes decide to raise children (their own or others who need love), who contribute to society by providing a network of human connection which spreads across our country and the world. The American family is evolving, and always has been. Gay, straight, black, white, brown, male, female and everywhere in between -- the only truly important constants are love and respect.

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