Marriage Equality: A Civil Rights Struggle

NickDefaultNick 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.

16 thoughts on “Marriage Equality: A Civil Rights Struggle

  1. I respect your opinions. As a Christian I personally disagree with same sex marriage and yet I do not want to force my religious beliefs on anyone else, because I do not want our country to start basing laws regarding marriage on any other religion, either. I may morally disagree with same sex marriage, but I would not want homosexual couples to be denied the rights I have as a straight female.

    Keeping with this, I do not appreciate that you define a “true Christian” as someone who would not consider the entire Bible as a whole to be absolute truth. I wholeheartedly disagree. Just as you do not want my religious opinions in political matters, I would appreciate if your political argument did not make an incorrect blanket statement about my religion. There are notably different sects and levels of practice in Christianity, but there are thousands of American Christians, including myself, who are appalled at the Bible being called “literature” and grouped with other writing. The Bible is no ordinary book written by men, but divinely inspired. You do not have to choose to believe this, but please do not belittle those who do.

    • I am sorry to those who commented against this article, but the arguments against same sex marriage have no basis. Dealing with religious reasons, the bible also includes slavery, but that clearly has no place in our society. Instead of taking every word of the bible as truth, you should look at it in terms of today. Do you really think Jesus, who preached to treat those viewed in society as sinners or outsiders (ex. Leppers) as equals and to love them as one of God’s creations, would oppose same-sex marriage? I highly doubt it. On another level, even if the religious argument is used, same sex marriage still in no way effects your life. Taking away the opportunity for two men or women to get married only impacts their life removing their equality in America. As a straight man who has a gay brother, I have seen this first hand. Throughout high school, I saw my brother with various girlfriends, but he never seemed happy. I had no idea that he was gay and when he came out it was a positive change. I just celebrated Easter with him and his boyfriend and I have never seen my brother happier. How is it fair to take away his ability to marry just because you don’t think two guys or two girls are supposed to be together. The fact is it does not effect you in any way if my brother is married to the man that he loves any more than it would effect you when I marry the woman that I love. America is a country based on equality, but it can’t run this way until we grant everyone equal rights. We have come a long way with ending slavery and the segregation. Now it is time to take a step further and legalize same sex marriage throughout the country.

      • In no way is Amanda taking “every word of the Bible as truth” in the literal sense that you are implying. Did you even read her comment? The Bible isn’t literature but a divinely inspired work that must be interpreted within its historical AND theological context. And on what authority do you suppose that Jesus would support gay marriage? That’s literally hilarious that you think you can make a statement like that.

        I’m glad your gay brother is happy with his boyfriend–good for him. Although my religious convictions cause me to believe that a same-sex relationship is immoral, I am in no place to tell your brother that he can’t be in a relationship with another man since he does not share my convictions. It’s a free country and he’s allowed to do whatever he thinks will make him happy (as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else and doesn’t break the law). But WHERE does that translate into a right to marriage? Marriage is defined as one man and one woman in a procreative union–it results in a family. Changing the definition of marriage to be a union of two people who love each other will break down the family–the basic social unit–and thus break down society. Therefore it affects me, it affects you, and it affects all of America. Furthermore, defining marriage in this manner would allow all sorts of marriage–marriage between three people who love each other, marriage between relatives, marriage to animals… where does it stop? Thus you can see that there are not only biblical and religious arguments against gay marriage–there are social ones as well.

      • 1. The author said this: “Keeping with this, I do not appreciate that you define a “true Christian” as someone who would not consider the entire Bible as a whole to be absolute truth.” You are claiming that I didn’t read the comment, yet it clearly condemns Nick for considering true Christians as ones who consider the bible not to be a wholehearted truth. Therefore it implies that true Christians would consider everything in the bible as wholehearted truth.
        2. You are right, I have no idea what Jesus would or would not say, but as you speculate on the teachings of Christ, I also do the same. Jesus taught love throughout the bible and Jesus’ words never state that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Also, do yourself a favor and read Nick’s article. You are using the same arguments people used during the Civil Rights movement. When a black man wanted to marry a white woman, people would argue like you just have. They would say whats next are we going to let whites marry animals? You need to be more open-minded, so when same-sex marriage is allowed as a human right in fifty years you won’t be one of those people.
        3. If you are using the definition of marriage from DOMA, it has already been declared unconstitutional in eight federal courts and as the most recent survey has shown the majority of Americans now support gay marriage. Be prepared for marriage to be redefined.
        4. Don’t ever compare same-sex marriage to marrying an animal, that is not only ignorant, but it is degrading to homosexuals throughout the word.

  2. “A true conservative would argue that the government has no place in marriage.”
    How does that make any sense? A marriage between two people exists as a legal contract. Saying that the government has no place in marriage would eliminate the concept of any marriage at all (unless you are considering marriage as a sacrament within the church, which you obviously are not). The very purpose of the gay rights movement is to gain the right to marriage within the government. Don’t put words in the mouths of conservatives please, especially nonsensical statements like that one.

  3. While you cite a right to marriage, you do not explain any of the qualifications required for a marriage, or really define what a marriage is. I think that implicit in your article is the definition of a marriage as a legally-recognized union between two individuals who love each other. You demand that we “give [homosexual people] the right to marry whom they wish.”

    Considering this definition and the right of individuals to marry who they wish, I wonder at our laws against marriages between relatives–such as cousins, siblings, etc. If the qualification for marriage is simply two people who love each other, then why do we exclude blood relatives from this right to marriage?

    This comment is not meant to equate homosexuality to incest but to simply point out that the logic used in this article could also be used to justify an incestuous marriage. I am very curious to know what the argument against this is.

  4. How far must we fall from our graces that we even have to question whether or not love should be legal in any sense. It’s not a question of marriage equality, it’s a question of equality. For all the zealots out there, whether Jesus liked the gays or not, I’m sure he wouldn’t oppose them with hate, fear, discrimination…. He’d love them, just like he did everyone else. If I’ve read my fair share of the Gospels, I believe the Beatitudes back me up on this.

    Telling citizens they can’t be in love, while telling others they can? Sounds like that attitude won’t get any of us closer to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.


    The same people that make a fuss about gun control, citing fears of tyranny, are the one’s that don’t agree with marriage equality. Does no one see how banning marriage equality is the government dictating to you what kind of person you can and can’t marry. Tyranny eh? Regardless of personal sexual orientation, the fact that this is a free goddamn country, and yet some of our fellow patriots are being denied freedom. That’s alarming to me, and it should be to you.

    • You are doing yourself an immense disservice to your argument by claiming that the government, in banning gay marriage, is dictating to its people who they can and can’t love. To equate love with marriage is to equate self-defense with gun ownership: they are not mutually exclusive, and you would never say that someone who cannot possess a gun has been deprived of the right to defend him/herself.

  5. It is upsetting that the there is any “issue” to report on over marriage equality. It is funny that lawmakers, Supreme Court Justices and anyone against marriage equality, think it is okay to deny people something that should be a human right for everyone. How can some people think that you have any right to decide for yourself something that does not directly affect you. As a 13 year old said at the referendum in Rhode Island a few weeks ago, “They’re trying to vote on us again, Mom. Why do they think that’s okay?” You may be against marriage equality for religious reasons, but this does not mean you are allowed to think you can have a certain right and deny the same right to another social group. That is called discrimination. As I wrote in my popular song Same Love: It’s human rights for everyone, there is no difference. It is a problem that we still discriminate groups in society that are perceived as “different” from us. Wake up and start accepting people for who they are and “let” them enjoy the same rights as you can.

  6. Nick, your opinion means nothing if you’re not willing to reply to the comments. We’re not just going to sit here and read your opinion and automatically be convinced of how right it is.

    • As a standard policy, bloggers do not reply to comments with comments of their own. This has been a practice from the beginning of this blog for a number of reasons. You are encouraged to reach out to Nick if you would like to discuss any topic with him. He may have strong opinions, but he does not bite.

      Thank you for reading!

      • That policy really makes no sense but it’s your prerogative. As for me I’ve had enough of the “forward-thinking” on this blog. Good luck with your endeavors.

  7. First of all Nick, as a political science major, you really should understand that republicanism and conservatism are not the same thing. I would be careful when throwing out “ignorant” and “misinformed” if I were you. That said, I find it interesting that the majority of the arguments on both sides of this issue are about the actual word “marriage”. You discussed that civil unions do not include certain rights afforded to heterosexual married couples. If that’s the major issue, why don’t we just amend the laws regarding civil unions? In my opinion, the fact that homosexuals do not have the right to “marry” and are not afforded the legal benefits of legal marriage is not the driving force behind the marriage equality movement. It’s about social acceptance, more than anything. As a heterosexual male, I understand that this issue does not affect me directly, and that as Nick said, my life won’t be dramatically affected by the supreme court rulings. Like some of the other respondents, I question how this kind of ruling would impact the future with regards to other types of marriage. The examples of incest and blood-related marriages were previously brought up, and I think they raise an important question. Is there a line to be drawn anywhere? At what point is it an issue? Or is it an issue? Maybe the definition of marriage should be stretched to the point that there really is no definition? I’m not really sure, but I think it’s a question worth asking.

    Those who are religious oppose same sex marriage on a moral basis, and from my experience this opposition is in large part due to the fact that same sex marriage, if legalized at the federal level, would in fact be called “marriage”. I am not trying to make a blanket statement about all religion-based opinions about this issue, but am simply sharing what I have experienced personally. On the flip side, some who have responded to this post have said that gays are being denied freedom – namely the freedom to marry. One comment actually said, and I paraphrase, that the current laws tells some citizens that they cannot be in love, while telling others that they can… Honestly, that’s a completely ridiculous claim, and no way to make an argument. Discriminate has become the new four letter word. In case anyone forgot, it simply means to distinguish. Are you telling me we aren’t allowed to reserve some things for certain groups and some things for others? Ever heard of public bathrooms? (Simply making a point…)

    Ultimately, I do not know where I stand, and in the end, it does not affect my life all that much. I’ve made my point, which is that the argument is more about the word itself, at least on the opposition side, than the actual legal union of two homosexuals. I completely agree that we should not discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation. However, I think that the word discriminate should really be examined more closely.

    • This is the most intelligent thing ever written on Friarside Chats, and of course it’s not a coincidence that it was written by a reader, not a “forward-thinker.” The pretentiousness of Nick and his emotion-based arguments feigned as logic-driven is painful.

      • Hey dingo, why don’t you try you to stop anonymously trashing people who actually are doing something with their lives and either post something constructive or not completely asinine. You are welcome at 4chan, not here.

  8. The article makes a few of what I find to be very problematic assumptions that misrepresent the arguments that are fundamentally necessary to an informed debate on this issue. The first is the notion that opposition to gay marriage is primarily championed by a ‘republican’/’conservative’/’Christian’/’Catholic’ voice in America. Marrying (pun intended) any religious group’s investment in the anti-gay marriage campaign with a republican or conservative one seriously misrepresents the argument at hand. While there is a large presence of Christians in the United States, their understanding of marriage is derived from a religious interpretation that is entirely disconnected from the union of two individuals before the law. If the goal of this article is to serve as the Second Book of Revelation and enlighten Catholics regarding the true nature of Christ’s teachings, the author needs to reexamine the arguments he himself makes in favor of gay marriage, for they are — to use his own words — “highly hypocritical”. To suggest that Catholics expect the laws of the nation to conform with Biblical teachings is quite frankly preposterous. However, if the law is to come down on the side of equal protection and sanctify individual inclinations (whether they involve religious belief, sexual orientation, etc.) then Catholic teaching against gay marriage is just as permissible as allowing homosexuals rights to civil unions under the law. Otherwise said, the ‘equal protection’ defense of gay marriage, as employed by the other, cannot be considered legitimate if it rebukes Catholic teachings that condemn it.
    The other problematic assumption, less technical perhaps because of the author’s failure to construct a coherent argumentative scheme, has to do with the association of ‘love’ and the gay rights issue. As other comments have alluded to, the inability of gay couples to be civilly united before the law in certain states is not a condemnation of homosexual love, and neither is marriage always a fruition of love. Certainly there are heterosexual couples, deeply in love, who do not seek legal recognition of their union. To equate love with marriage or legal recognition of union is to suggest that everyone in love hopes to get married. I think this is an assumption that needs serious reconsideration, because you cannot base a legal issue on what people supposedly want. Legitimate anti-gay marriage arguments that play the ‘sanctity of marriage’ card are not those that suggest heterosexual unions are more legitimate than homosexual unions (with divorce rates, as aforementioned, to prove the point), but rather those that consider the legal implications of what it means to be ‘married’ in the eyes of the law, and the responsibility that ought to be afforded to that. This is not a religious claim, but rather a non-denominational assertion of any democratic and ‘forward-thinking’ society that values commitment to principles and embodies a sense of responsibility to others. A society that has, since its inception, functioned on a traditional family model of men and women marrying cannot be expected to abandon its central social unit so easily.

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