Assoc. Opinion Editor
Today I read the news and it made me wonder: how can a nation that is grappling with the question of whether a fundamental human right is legal for all its citizens possibly consider itself a beacon of freedom and equality in the world?
As most of us who haven’t been living under a rock for the past week few weeks know, the U.S. Supreme Court is now hearing arguments on California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot referendum that banned same-sex marriage in the state. Though this particular case deals primarily with California’s individual marriage laws, many gay-rights activists feel that this is the time for the Supreme Court to make a decision on the legality of same-sex marriage once and for all. Apparently, some of the justices don’t agree.
The New York Times quoted Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concerns about the societal impact that legalizing same-sex marriage could have: he said, “We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more,” He apparently wanted to take time to see if any undesirable side-effects such as happiness, legal benefits, or economic improvement might set in. After all, why buck 2,000 years of tradition just to appease roughly 9 million Americans?
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. voiced similar worries and urged caution saying, “You want us to step in and render a decision based on the assessment of this institution, which is newer than cellphones or the Internet?” And here I thought our justices were a little slow on the uptake. Yes Justice Alito, many Americans want you to rule on something that is relevant today instead of waiting a century to correct a societal malady (see segregation) that embarrasses the nation and hurts countless Americans.
The justices are acting as if gay marriage is somehow radically different than “traditional marriage.” If you’re a bigoted homophobe who is intent on mixing religion with law, something expressly forbidden by our constitution, it very well may be. What our conservative brothers will have to understand is that the U.S. Constitution, unlike the Bible, cannot be bent and spot-texted to suit whatever cause you are pursuing.
In reality, same-sex marriages have the same effect on society that “traditional” marriages do. They deem the union of two adults a family, granting along with that the legal and economic benefits that all married couples have. Also, there are no studies that suggest children raised by same-sex couples turn out any different than those raised in a heterosexual home, except that they may be more accepting of others.
To me, this issue is settled quite simply. You grant the same rights that 97% of us enjoy to the other 3%. If you want to call America the “land of the free,” then a good place to start is by actually granting freedoms to its citizens.
The debate over same-sex marriage is arguably a state issue, hence why many Supreme Court Justices are considering not ruling on it. However, for just once I would love to see a legislative body with real power, the Supreme Court, step in and bluntly say that denying a person the right to marry based on their sexual preference is unethical, discriminatory, unlawful, and cannot be accepted in the United States. The time to make this decision is now: they should not let the states squabble over the issue for decades to come only to end up with half the country recognizing gay marriage and the other half stuck in the Bronze Age.
But I may be asking too much. Perhaps the justices are right in saying that America is just not ready for this change.
After all, this is the same country that took nearly 100 years to grant citizenship to African Americans, erasing once and for all the stain of slavery in America. We live in the country that didn’t grant women the right to vote until 1920. The same country that discriminated against people of color for nearly 100 years after the end of the civil war. The same country that, to this day, does not pay men and women equally, that wants anyone with Hispanic blood shipped out of the country, and that still can’t view black people as equal to whites.
Wouldn’t it be nice if for one time in the history of our nation’s domestic issues, we could make the right choice at the right time? Gay marriage will not affect anyone but the people who will finally be permitted to marry. Our homes, children, churches, offices, and streets will be as safe as ever, I promise. This is not a religious or traditional issue, it is a human rights issue; one that can be decided by nine people in robes. Let’s hope that those nine judges can use their common sense. If they cannot, the silent majority of Americans is a big step ahead of them.