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Thinking About Same-Sex Marriage

Imagine if you will, finding the person of your dreams. The one person who embodies everything you had ever hoped to find in a mate. They are smart, funny, good looking, and perhaps most important of all, madly in love with you. You decide that you want to grow old together, and you are totally committed to a life-long monogamous relationship. You want to get married, many of your friends are married, but since you and your soul mate are both the same gender, you are somehow not entitled to enjoy a loving marriage.

Unions that bestow the same state and federal benefits to same-sex couples that straight couples have should be made legal in the United States. There are several other countries that allow same-sex partners to enter into legally recognized marriages, including Canada and Belgium. In the U.S., however, thanks in part to discrimination and fear, more than three million same-sex couples are denied the privilege of being able to marry the person with whom they have chosen to spend their lives. Not only do many people feel that you should not be allowed to be married, some of the members of your government are trying to use the Constitution to discriminate against you, too.

Not every lawmaker feels that the Constitution is the right place to address what many feel is a social issue. Representative Bob Barr, in his August 2003 Washington Post article, says that while he does not agree with same-sex marriages, he does feel that this is a social issue, and that the Constitution is not the right place to force social issues onto the states. The federal government can set down a rough framework, but the actual decision as to what constitutes a marriage should be left up to the individual states. Barr agrees with Vice President Dick Cheney that the U.S. is a free society and that freedom is meant for everyone, not just for those of whose behavior the government approves (A-23).

By not allowing same-sex partners to form federally recognized unions, this country is being discriminatory. The Defense Of Marriage Act makes this discrimination legal by refusing to recognize same-sex marriages, and refusing to extend to same-sex partners the federal benefits and rights that straight couples receive. The Proposed Federal Marriage Amendment that would change the U.S. Constitution states that: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the Constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman." (H.J. Resolution 56) In many states there is also legislation trying to amend the state constitutions to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The United States Constitution, and indeed the individual state Constitutions were put into place to grant and protect freedoms, not to take them away, and by adding these passages to the documents, we are using the very foundations of our country to discriminate.

In addition to the problem of discrimination, many people seem to feel that legalizing gay marriage would somehow destroy the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. They don't seem to be taking into consideration the fact that in this country approximately fifty percent of all first marriages end in divorce, the problem of young, unmarried women having babies, or the new reality television shows that seem to turn gold digging into an art form (Page, A-21). For the first half of the twentieth century, interracial marriages were kept illegal out of fear that allowing persons of different races to marry would cause the destruction of the institution of marriage, however, once mixed-race marriages were legalized, if anything, the institution of marriage was strengthened by the admittance of people who were so committed to the cause that they were willing to fight for it. Gay couples wanting to marry their often long-term partners did not cause the problems in heterosexual marriages, and the Federal Marriage Amendment will not fix them. An amendment to the constitution is "needlessly intrusive and punitive" (Barr, A-23).

Some people ask if instead of getting married, would gay couples be willing to enter into a civil union. Civil unions currently are only issued in the state of Vermont, and are valid only in that state. According to Vermont law, a civil union grants the couple all the same state benefits, protections and responsibilities that are granted to spouses in a marriage. While many gay couples are willing to enter civil unions, some refuse to accept anything short of a full-blown marriage. According to Chris Highland, a chaplain, offering a same-sex couple a civil union instead of a real marriage is akin to "offering Rosa Parks health care at the back of the bus, " (Halstead, Marin Independent Journal). They do have good reason for wanting to be married. Civil unions do grant whatever benefits, protections and responsibilities of marriage are granted by the state, but couples joined by a civil union are denied over one thousand benefits, protections and responsibilities granted by the federal government to married couples. Married couples are entitled to inherit each other's pensions, they are entitled to receive the social security benefits of their deceased spouse, and the remaining spouse inherits the deceased spouse's estate, tax-free (Said, A-1).

This country was built on the grounds of freedom. That freedom should be extended to everyone, even those whose practices may be different from ours. Would allowing homosexual marriages destroy the sanctity of heterosexual marriage? No, we heterosexuals seem to be doing a pretty good job of that all by ourselves. In closing, I would like to introduce you to eighty-three year old Del and seventy-nine year old Phyllis. They, after spending fifty-one years of their lives in a loving, committed, monogamous relationship, became the first same-sex couple in this nation to break through the bonds of discrimination. Even though after journeying together for more than half their lives, they have finally crossed the threshold to the realm of equality, they still have a long journey ahead of them as they struggle against those who feel that these loving little old ladies are a threat to them and their way of life.

By Carol Banes - I am a 39 year old college student and mother of a 12-year-old boy. I have been writing since I was in 3rd grade, and my son and I have written a few short stories together. We have some wonderful ideas fo...  

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