By Erin Delman
On June 16, 2008, California became the second state to legalize gay marriage. Then, less than four months later, it changed its mind.
Proposition 8, or the California Marriage Protection Act, declared that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized” in the state, and it passed with a 52 percent victory on Nov. 5, 2008. The opponents of Prop 8 were shocked; how could a government grant a right to a group of people only to ultimately rescind that liberty?
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized the civil rights fallacy of Proposition 8 on Feb. 7, 2012, when a three-judge panel issued a 2-1-majority opinion declaring it unconstitutional, as it violated the Equal Protection Clause.
The decision left family-value conservatives irate and liberal gay-rights-advocates ecstatic, but all parties continue to look forward, wondering if the ruling will generate enough limelight to thrust the issue of gay marriage onto the national stage. Many wonder if the Supreme Court, and thus the Obama Administration, will finally take an unambiguous, definitive stance on one of the remaining civil rights travesties in this country.
Yet regardless of the political implications, enough is enough. One need not be gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgendered to recognize that the underlying cause of the opposition to same-sex marriage is nothing more than glorified homophobia.
After all, there are no political, economic or national security issues that can be attributed to allowing gays to marry. As described in the majority ruling, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”
Anti-homosexual sentiment continues to run deep in America, but we can no longer allow that to affect our politics or society. Firstly, the argument fundamentally teeters on semantics. In California, a gay couple can enter a registered domestic partnership to acquire the same rights as a heterosexual pair. Yet, as U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt explained, “a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of ‘registered domestic partnership’ does not.”
However, technicalities don’t guarantee equality. Couples in registered domestic partnerships report discrimination by hospitals, employers and insurance companies. From the symbolic stigma to the second-tier status, civil unions just don’t work.
As the California court explained, “Marriage is the status that we recognize. We are excited to see someone ask, ‘Will you marry me?’, whether on bended knee in a restaurant or in text splashed across a stadium Jumbotron…Certainly, it would not have the same effect to see, ‘Will you enter into a registered domestic partnership with me?’ ”
Yet my real concern with this debate is not that it highlights American bigotry, or that its outcome will have a negligible effect on those who are not gay. The preeminent problem is that it directly opposes a fundamental tenet of U.S. democracy: the separation of church and state. Opponents of gay marriage assert that it “ruins the sanctity of the institution of marriage.”
I will choose to ignore that a 50 percent divorce rate and rampant infidelity among heterosexuals adequately undermines this so-called sanctimonious bond, but focus on the argument itself. By definition, the word sanctity means the holiness of life and character; godliness. Thus, gay marriage shatters the godliness of a bond. Seeing as how the First Amendment guarantees a separation of church and state, the government has no right to meddle in something such as marriage. Let churches and temples make that moral judgment, and let gays get married.
In today’s world, so full of hate, anger, sorrow and pain, it seems trivial to argue over any person’s right to happiness.