Saturday, October 19, 2013

Same Sex Marriage, the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time

Most People in America Still Believe in Equal Rights

If I've learned anything in the last few years, since gay, lesbian, and transgender issues have finally become part of the American consciousness, it's that most people really do value equal rights for everyone. Of course in the discourse over same sex marriage (which many people refer to as "gay marriage") there has been tension over whether marriage rights are civil rights, and therefore part of what people mean when they talk about equal rights. George Bush made this distinction in 2004 when he seemed interested in a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage or an amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. It came out of the old federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton (in the dark of night) which proponents and the majority of our legislators claimed was protecting marriage, not discriminating against LGBT people. This year, however, the Supreme Court ruled most of DOMA as unconstitutional and since then, the flood gates to gay marriage have opened to sue even those states that have bans on gay marriage written into state constitutions, most put into place during the eight years that Bush was in office.

In New Mexico, which is one of only a couple of states that have no laws one way or another for or against same sex marriage, the issue of same sex marriage is on the docket of the state Supreme Court to rule on the legality of marriage licenses issued to same sex couples in many counties in New Mexico. This activity mirrors that of then Mayor Newsom in San Francisco that sparked the Prop 8 legislation there a decade ago and finally ruled unlawful by the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals and not contradicted by the US Supreme Court, which then finally allowed LGBT couples in California to wed. New Mexico is at the brink of this same legality through the courts, but so is New Jersey, and in several other states, lawsuits brought by gay and lesbian couples are making their way through the courts, arguing that banning same sex marriage is a violation of our equal rights.

And we see that the majority of those that have been polled in the last couple of years have begun to support the idea of same sex marriage, especially following the reelection of Barak Obama in 2012, as an issue of equality. There are of course those who still argue that marriage is not a civil right, a kind of backdoor way to argue that everyone is equal but only heterosexual couples should be able to marry based on their special combination of genital equipment and the special sperm-egg combination that often creates offspring. But we also see that it doesn't take "marriage" to create offspring, so it's not a particular magic that occurs only between heterosexual couples, and while it takes a man's sperm and a woman's egg, numerous heterosexual couples who are barren are still allowed to marry and, like gay and lesbian couples, they use other means to have offspring.

There are those who argue that only a "mommie" and a "daddy" should raise a child, because only a mother and father household provides the right combination to raise healthy, happy, children, and of course we all know that heterosexual parents NEVER have gay children. So there are those who argue that if gay couples raise children they will create gay children, just as heterosexual couples create only straight children.

It turns out, as well, that those countries in the western civilizations are moving in the same direction, and not coincidentally, they are the same countries where there is a long tradition of democracy. We see for example that Russia has virtually no tradition of democracy, even though they have a framework for "voting." But then, so does North Korea.

Further, once the military's ban on gay/lesbian soldiers was lifted, the armed forces have done a breathtakingly quick job of supporting gay and lesbian soldiers; and perhaps as soon as ordinary people saw that none of the dire predictions of politicians like Rick Santorum came true, it was another step to see no reason to deny that LGBT issues were civil rights issues. A side note: it is interesting that Rick Santorum never served his country as a soldier, and yet he spoke about order, morale, and discipline in the military, as if he had a clue.