Should Equality be Something We Vote On?
The Supreme Court will not just decide the fate of gay Marriage, but whether people can vote to discriminate
Is equality something that can be held up to a vote? I’m not asking whether it has been put up to a vote, but should it. Right now the United States Supreme Court is weighing the legal option of whether or not equal rights among the law can be decided on a state by state basis.
For the LGBT community of America, their right to access legal marriage is compromised in many states, at the same time their access to a happy life itself is denied.
If I’m not mistaken, I always thought conservatives loved to tout the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? We hear this phrase often at conservative and tea party rallies across America. Regardless of what values they claim to hold as Americans, one important value they lack is the value of equality.
Some may not admit it, but personally I think they view the idea of equality as foreign, that America was not built to give every citizen perfectly equal rights. Conservatives will contend that equal opportunity extends individually and that it is not up to the state (government) to impose equal treatment onto everyone. If you can’t follow their logic, believe me you are not alone.
Equality issues are not new to American politics, they stretch back to the years of slavery. One group of people or another have always been targeted for persecution or exclusion, whether it be African Americans, Native Americans, Immigrants from Ireland, China, Mexico and so on.
The United States has consistently dealt with the issue of whether or not to include or exclude people based on certain factors that make them minorities (skin color, ethnicity, religion). Today, the equality battle in America is not centering around someone’s skin color, but by someone’s sexual orientation.
Let’s remember, being a homosexual in America was not always openly accepted. For example, many states had anti-gay laws on the books which effectively made being gay a crime. Measures such as these led to the famous Stonewall riot in the 1960’s and the outbreak of what would become the gay rights movement of the 70’s and 80’s.
I can remember stories my mother told me of how her mother (my grandmother) who was a lesbian, faced many issues with being openly gay in the 1960’s until her death in 1995. My grandmother even faced being thrown in jail over her orientation, and many others like her faced similar issues.
The arguments being made in the Supreme Court today over the legality of Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are arguments that both sides have made time and time again regarding gay rights. For those who support LGBT rights, their argument is fairly simple and straightforward. All they are interested in is equal access and treatment under the law, which the constitution requires.
In this case, denying two consenting adults (whether two men or two women, or man and woman) the right to marry each other and receive the proper status under the law is discriminatory regardless of what personal basis someone uses to justify their discrimination.
The opposing view has a very weak legal argument. Those who are opposed to allowing the LGBT community to have equal treatment come not from the constitution, but from you know what; the bible.
If I do recall, the bible is not the founding document of the United States of America. I realize many theocratic Christians exist and wish to challenge the idea of America being a secular nation, but that’s a different matter, I shall save that debate for another time.
Opponents claim that the bible forbids homosexuality (which it does among other things) and therefore allowing homosexuals to get married or even express their sexuality to the public is infringing upon the religious freedom of Christians in the US. They also contend that the institution of marriage has always been just between a man and a woman, and only “healthy societies” define it as so.
Let us all remember that the arguments going before the Supreme Court deal strictly with the constitutionality of certain laws. The proponents of Prop 8 and DOMA may feel very passionate about what they believe and have faith in, yet personal feelings about someone does not warrant negative action against those people constitutionally.
The Supreme Court ruled back in the 1960’s that marriage was an essential right in America, though back then the decision was based upon interracial couples being allowed to marry. In fact, you could take the very same arguments used against allowing interracial couples to marry and simply remove the terms “black” and insert “gay”.
The arguments against marriage equality are basically the same now as they were in the 60’s; we can’t allow them to marry because it will hurt society, it goes against our good christian morals, it isn’t healthy for a family, and its just unnatural. It was nonsense then as it is now.
The issue before the Supreme Court now is very important. The high court is faced with the decision of whether or not equal protection under the law is something that individual states can vote on or whether these rights extend nationally to everyone.
The court has made equality decisions in the past, such as civil rights for African Americans and Women. Unfortunately, with the conservative leaning Roberts Court deciding the issue, the outcome is not so clear cut.
The Roberts Court already seems skeptical of ruling on DOMA and may only rule on Prop 8 in California alone rather than apply it to the whole country. Nothing is for certain, yet some signs are positive and perhaps a broad country wide equality ruling is on the horizon.
Regardless of whether you changed your Facebook picture, supporting marriage equality is very important. The issue before the Supreme Court will decide the fate of LGBT rights nationwide one way or the other, and it’s never too late to let your voice be heard on the side of equality.