Nick Wallace ’14
Gay marriage is the latest socio-cultural issue to come to the forefront in mainstream American politics. The Supreme Court is currently hearing two cases, with decisions in both most likely coming in June. First, Hollingsworth v. Perry, otherwise known as the “Prop 8 case” takes on the issue of whether the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of “equal protection” prevents states from defining marriage as only between one man and one woman. California’s Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriages were legal in 2008. After the statewide ballot measure banning them passed with 52% of the vote later that year, gay and lesbian marriages were put on hold. The other case, which involves DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), involves a number of appeals from multiple states, all questioning whether DOMA violates equal protection guarantees in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under the laws of their own state. While the constitutionality of same sex marriage will ultimately be decided by nine unelected justices, I only have one thing to say to opponents of marriage equality; stop the nonsense.
Opponents of marriage equality often cite their personal religious beliefs as reasons for supporting “traditional marriage.” They claim that the Bible denounces homosexuality. This may be true; however, it is also true that Jesus Christ never explicitly says anything in regards to sexuality. According to Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, in no book of the Bible will you find Jesus Christ condemning sexual relations between people of the same gender. You will find the Bible condemning such acts, but we need to read and analyze the Bible like any other work of literature. We cannot take everything the authors say to be true, and biases must be taken into account. True Christians follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ never denounces homosexuals in any way; the authors of a collection of books do. I admire Thomas Jefferson for many reasons, one being that he created his own “bible” to follow, in which he simply cut everything out except Jesus’ teachings. He realized the Bible was opinionated, and instead focused only on what Jesus is reported to have said. Some of the most vocal opponents of marriage equality who cite religion as a main reason for objection falsely proclaim that Jesus Christ “hates gays.” As a non-Catholic, even I know Jesus tells us to love everyone, and as shown above, he certainly does not tell us to discriminate against homosexuals.
Moreover, those who oppose marriage equality from an ideological standpoint simply contradict themselves. It is no secret that same-sex marriage has turned into a partisan issue, with mostly Democrats in support and Republicans in opposition. Interestingly, the Republican party of today prides itself on small government. The official website of the Republican Party “opposes interventionist policies that put the federal government in control of industry,” and “government-run health care.” However, a writer of The College Conservative recently wrote an article entitled, “Keep the Government in Marriage,” which proclaims, “Taking the government out of marriage is a sure way to destroy marriage and any hopes of shrinking government at all. By doing so, we’ll be funding larger welfare programs and facing an even more anemic culture in terms of things like drug usage, sexual promiscuity, and crime.” Besides being completely ignorant and misinformed, this idea itself is highly hypocritical. Conservatives argue for little/no government intervention in the economy and health care, but advocate “keeping the government in marriage.” It’s a double standard if I’ve ever seen one: small government for this, and big government for that. A true conservative would argue that the government has no place in marriage. Likewise, it certainly has no right to tell two people who love each other that they cannot be together. Interestingly, several Republicans recently came out in support of gay marriage because it would allow for “two-parent households.”
And to those who argue that gay marriage ruins the sanctity of traditional marriage, you cannot possibly be serious. We live in a country in which 50% of all marriages end in divorce: So much for eternal love. More, we concentrate our attention on celebrity marriages that often demoralize what marriage is supposed to be about in the first place. Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries were married for 72 days, but gays are ruining the meaning of marriage? I find that hard to believe.
The sad truth is that gays are still disgustingly discriminated against. In an interview with Fox News analyst Chris Wallace, Rick Santorum argued that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should not be repealed because it would be “injecting social policy into the military” and that it would negatively affect “retention and recruitment of people to live in that environment,” implying that heterosexual soldiers would be uncomfortable with their gay counterparts. Fox News then placed a quote on the screen that read, ““The army is not a sociological laboratory. Experimenting with policy, especially in a time of war, would pose a danger to efficiency, discipline and morale and would result in ultimate defeat.” Essentially, Santorum agreed with all of these points in his previous comments. The quote is not about allowing gays to be in the military, however. It is from a WWII general arguing against racial integration of the military. Santorum is not alone in his reasoning for why Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should still be in place (thankfully, it is not). However, his statements clearly show that this debate has happened before with the issue of African Americans being allowed to fight side by side with whites. Until Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, we were simply repeating our previous mistakes.
Similarly, we are repeating the mistakes of previous governments in terms of marriage. In Loving v. Virginia, (1967) the US Supreme Court invalidated all laws that prohibited interracial marriage. The ruling was controversial at the time. In fact, Alabama finally became the last state to adjust its laws to align with the Supreme Court ruling in 2000, over thirty years after the initial ruling. I do not want to suggest that race is the same thing as sexual orientation. I understand they are two completely different things. However, the similarities of the discrimination scenarios are striking. Loving v. Virginia disallowed any state laws from prohibiting marriage bewteen two loving partners on the basis on race. Currently, states are allowed to prevent people from being married because of their sexual orientation. It sounds pretty similar to me. Most sane people today would argue it would be ludicrous to disallow two people from getting married because of their race. And yet, only 53 % of the US population now supports marriage equality. Yes, it is a majority, but it is not enough.
Does this look familiar?
Opponents of marriage equality also argue that with the use of civil unions and domestic partnerships, there is no need to allow marriage to homosexuals. However, there are many benefits to marriage that do not come with either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Marriages are recognized by other states under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. This same clause allows things such as driver’s licenses to be recognized by a state-to-state basis. For example, a legal Iowa driver at the age of 15 is legally allowed to drive in the state of New York, which requires independent drivers to be at least 17. Similarly, a same-sex couple can get married in Massachusetts and then move to Rhode Island and have the marriage be recognized. Civil unions and domestic partnerships do not work the same way. Additionally, since the federal government does not recognize civil unions, same sex couples that are not legally married cannot file joint-tax returns and are not eligible for tax breaks. Because of DOMA, same-sex couples have to file single on their federal tax returns. More, the General Accounting Office in 1997 released a list of 1049 benefits available to heterosexual married couples, including survivor benefits through Social Security, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans benefits and insurance breaks, family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to. While Civil Unions protect some of these rights, they do not protect all of them. Subsequently, by disallowing marriage equality, homosexuals are being denied basic rights that are readily available to heterosexuals.
But denying gays the right to marry is just one of the many ways in which homosexuals are continually discriminated against. Less than half of the states (21) have laws that outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Furthermore, as a Providence College student you do not have to travel far to witness the continued discrimination of homosexuals. In fact, you do not even have to leave campus. Providence College has a policy that allows discrimination of faculty members based on sexual orientation. That’s right; here at PC a teacher can officially and legally be fired for being gay. According to the Providence College Employee Staff handbook, “Providence College does not discriminate in its admission or employment policies and practices on the basis of extrinsic factors such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, or status as a veteran of the Vietnam War era, or as a disabled veteran.” Sexual Orientation is clearly absent. The Cowl asked Father Shanley about this issue in 2010, in which he explained that Providence College adapted its Employee Staff handbook mission statement from other Catholic colleges and universities. He said while Providence College does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, he could not support unequivocally adding the phrase into the staff handbook because of the “repercussions that would follow.” According to Shanley, such actions would conflict with the college’s religious views and Catholic identity.
It is appalling that here in 2013, Providence College refuses to list “sexual orientation” as a factor in which the college cannot discriminate against. Even more nonsensical is the fact that Father Shanley himself said that the College does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, but he couldn’t support adding it to the Employee Staff handbook. If we already do not discriminate, what’s the harm in officially stating it? More, according to that same 2010 Cowl article, Father Shanley said the mission statement of the Employee Staff Handbook was molded based on those of other Catholic universities, implying that other Catholic institutions also excluded sexual orientation from their non-discrimination policy. A quick examination of the Employee Staff handbook of Boston College, (a school Father Shanley likes to compare us to) however, shows us that “sexual orientation” is indeed covered under their non-discrimination policy. It seems that Boston College has no problem officially stating that it cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation. Why can’t we?
In the end, my life is not going to be dramatically affected by the rulings of the two Supreme Court cases regarding same-sex marriage. As a heterosexual male, I am not being denied the basic right to marry the person I will one day love. I am, however, a straight ally who refuses to wait an additional 40 years for 48% of the American population to realize its ignorance. Stop treating these human beings inhumanely. Give them the right to marry whom they wish. Stop discriminating against these people in the workplace and in all other facets of life. Now is the time to change. To refuse to do so is backwards, cruel, and downright unacceptable.