On December 7, 2012, the United States Supreme Court announced it would hear two cases in reference to same-sex marriage: the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California Proposition 8, or Prop 8. The oral hearings for Prop 8 and DOMA are predicted to take place on March 26 and 27 respectively, and the Court’s decisions are anticipated on or around June 27.
DOMA has been the anchor legislation behind the illegality of same-sex marriage in the United States since former President Bill Clinton signed it into law on September 21, 1996, in what was probably the worst policy decision of his career (but only the second worst of his personal life!). DOMA defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman, and declares that same-sex marriages in one state need not be recognized by another. Section 3 of DOMA, a substantive part of the law, fails to recognize same-sex marriages for basically all federal purposes, including the filing of joint tax returns and Social Security survivor’s benefits.
Prop 8 is a state constitutional amendment which declares that only a marriage between a man and a woman will be recognized in the state of California. It was passed in the November 2008 state elections. And while President Barack Obama has made it clear in his Inaugural address that gay people have the right to be married “under the law,” the administration has been silent about its view on Prop 8. In a recent editorial, The New York Times noted that while the administration indicated that they will weigh in on DOMA, they have not done so for Prop 8, and they are calling on Obama to have his solicitor general file a brief opposing the proposition.
Ultimately, these Supreme Court hearings will decide whether or not to sustain these pieces of legislation. But if our trusted members of the court would like to be morally right (and legally correct) then the decision is clear: DOMA and Prop 8 must be declared unconstitutional.
Initially, it should be an easy decision for the Supreme Court to make. Sexual orientation can be classified as an immutable characteristic, an innate or unchangeable quality in a person or class of people. This would mean that discriminatory laws in opposition to these characteristics, such as DOMA, or more specifically, Section 3, are unconstitutional. It’s that basic and legally accurate. It is the Supreme Court’s job to be legally accurate, isn’t it?
Still, there are other non-political and supposedly “morally righteous” reasons behind DOMA and all legislation like it. It starts with the history behind the protection of “traditional marriage,” that is, marriage between one man and one woman, in the U.S., which has been a long and tiresome one. Normally a conservative view, the basis for this platform is largely religious, but it also extends to the belief that since marriage is an institution that allows for procreation and warrants familial stability, it can only be sustained and biologically fulfilled with heterosexual couples.
First, it’s unfair to impose religious doctrine on a population of people who don’t all share the same religious affiliation. It doesn’t matter whether or not the Bible says same-sex relationships are wrong for the simple fact that not everyone believes in, or is required to believe in, the Bible. Religion becomes an invalid and dismissible aggressor in regards to marriage equality when we live in a country where we are obligated to, and should, practice religious freedom.
Second, to honestly believe that only heterosexual couples are able to raise a child in a stable family environment is to contribute to the horrific systematic oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender demographics in America and all over the world. There have been absolutely no studies conducted to prove that as a whole, LGBT community members are unfit to participate in child-rearing. This line of thinking is catastrophic to societal progression and reveals a fundamental lack of compassion for the LGBT community.
But, recent patterns show that less and less Americans are endorsing the antediluvian “traditional marriage” theory, with this past 2012 campaign serving as irrefutable evidence of the population’s acceptance of liberal ideologies. Same-sex marriage referendums passed in four out of four states during this election cycle, and polls are now showing unmitigated majorities in support of this institution. In fact, public opinion of same-sex marriage has been one of the most rapidly evolving in reference to social change. In 1996, 68 percent of Americans opposed marriage equality and 27 percent were in support of it. Now, in 2012, 46 percent of Americans are in opposition and 53 percent support it.
If the U.S. constitutional process isn’t enough for the Supreme Court to make the right call, then these staggering numbers coupled with society’s auspicious outcry for change at the ballot boxes this year should be satisfactory. Even still, it’s a shocking realization that we live in a country where, historically, the decision for same-sex couples to marry has been made for them by a political legislative body. Such a personal occasion is being litigated as formal policy based on the prejudiced belief system that somehow same-sex couples aren’t worthy of protection under the same rights as the rest of the country.
There is an intrinsic hypocrisy to this belief that protecting a more “traditional” America is beneficial to society. We’re to believe in “the land of the free,” yet same-sex couples are methodically oppressed daily by archaic statutes; we live in “the home of the brave,” yet even our own politicians are afraid of progressive societal measures that might “ruin the sanctity of marriage” and take all of America’s conventional values down with it.
It’s hard to take this longing for a more “traditional America” seriously, especially when discussing marriage equality, because homosexuality will never regress. If anything, the relatively small percentage of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in America will only increase as humanity becomes more accepting of this inherent truth. Our government has shamed itself long enough in making the lives of people unnecessarily and exponentially more difficult in a world where the odds are already stacked against them, and it’s time they accept what is right.
Jillian Correira is a Collegian contributor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.