This blog is about living and celebrating a full life and at the end of the day, I can’t think of any country in the world where that is more possible than in the United States. However, just like everything else humans have created, except maybe the game of basketball, the United States isn’t perfect and probably never will be. But we should keep trying. For me, America exemplifies freedom. However, our definition of who is entitled to freedom and how much freedom they should have, has evolved over the years. I’m not sure where my thoughts on freedom came from. I think I learned it in grade school. Anyway here it is: Freedom should only be limited when one person’s freedom interferes with the freedom of others or harms them. Based on that definition many of our current laws would have to go, so there may be some other reasonable limitations that are acceptable, but I believe we often go too far. Freedom and rights should be defined by our founding principles, not the religious beliefs or prejudices of the majority.
One example of our continuing imperfection as a country is the concept of the “Defense of Marriage”. I believe this is an example of intolerance and an attempt to force the personal religious definition of marriage, or personal prejudices of the majority on everyone. We have secular marriage in this country and a wide variety of religious beliefs; therefore, the religious beliefs of the majority, or even a vocal and active minority, should not decide the definition of marriage represented in our laws. These laws should be based on fairness and a principle of equal protection and treatment by the law.
Our “legal definition of marriage” has changed over the years. The religious practice to prohibit interfaith marriage is widely rejected or ignored by the laws of the United States; however, this is not true in all countries. In the United States, interracial marriage remained illegal in some states until the Supreme Court ruled the remainder of these laws unconstitutional in 1967. Today, a significant majority of American’s believe that interfaith and interracial marriages are completely acceptable and would never accept laws that restricted people’s right to marry in these cases. If you want a religious ceremony, interfaith marriage is still a problem for many religions. However, that is up to those religions not the government, just as the beliefs of those religions should not dictate the government’s definition of marriage. This is based on a fundamental right that was a key part of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, Separation of Church and State and freedom of religion.
Regardless of the fact that most of us believe we were wrong in our past “defense of marriage” against interfaith and interracial marriage we continue to apply our “majority rules” definition to marriage even today. Why do we feel the need to limit the freedom of others. How could anyone be hurt by two people who commit to love and support each other. Why would anyone feel the need to prevent two adults from marrying? Don’t let politicians create issues like the “defense of marriage” by convincing you that your beliefs should be forced on everyone. We should all relish the freedom this country gives us all to worship or not in our own way, the freedom to marry who we want or to not marry anyone. However, we should all take very seriously the responsibility that comes with the citizenship that grants you that freedom, the responsibility to ensure that others have that same freedom.
One argument is that you can’t equate race discrimination with lifestyle discrimination. There is definitely a difference between race and lifestyle. I’m not going to argue about whether being gay is the way you are born or not. What I will say is I don’t think it is necessary to compare different types of discrimination to see if they are the same or related. It doesn’t matter why the people are discriminated against. That is not the point. The point is that they are people, real people with real lives, real goals, real hopes, and real dreams. They have every right to be treated fairly with equal protection under the law. When it comes to marriage and family law, the laws and those protections are complex and there is no reason to try to establish separate laws. The same laws and the same protections should apply to all.
At this point I have to make an admission. My views on this issue have changed. I had very limited exposure to this issue on a personal level. I was completely ignorant of the impact this had on people. Although I could see no way that gay marriage hurt others, I did not see how not having marriage hurt gay couples. My position was not based on strong feelings against gay relationships, but it was wrong. My understanding of the issue changed a few years ago when I met someone who was significantly impacted by this issue. Getting to know her made all the difference. This is an issue of freedom, but it really goes beyond that. It is an issue of tolerance, diversity, and acceptance. It is an issue of justice, fair and equal treatment and protection under the law. The fact that a legal marriage is not available in most states does not prevent gay men and women from making long-term or life-long commitments to each other. It doesn’t prevent them from forming domestic relationships, and it doesn’t prevent them from wanting to be able to start a family and raise children. It absolutely treats them unfairly when they do this, and the domestic partnership laws are pathetic and failed attempts to treat people in a “separate but equal way”. Marriage and family law is complex and there is no reason to try to create a separate set of laws for gay couples.
Now to get back to my admission… I voted for Proposition 8 in California. I now completely feel that this was a mistake. At the time I felt the courts should not have been involved, that eventually, when the majority was ready, gay marriage would be legal, and that this would be the best way for it to happen. I was wrong. The majority should not be able to treat a minority as second class citizens. The majority should not be able to limit the freedom of a class of people to do something it allows everyone else to do. The majority will come around, just like they did for interracial marriage, and it will happen much more quickly once the courts have done what they absolutely should do. Proposition 8 has been ruled unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and I hope that the United States Supreme Court will rule the same way. I also hope that their ruling will be used to strike down unfair laws everywhere and uphold everyone’s right to equal protection under the law.