Gay Rights and the Privilege of Marriage

I’m unconvinced this is about rights. It’s about equality. But I’ll get to that in a minute or two.

While life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness may not be constitutional provisions, they are the goal, the philosophy upon which the constitution was drafted. Do we then define them as merely privileges like having a license to operate a car?

Were marriage the privilege many would mandate it to be, it would be reserved for nice people, spotless, good-hearted folks with pure intent, don’t you think? And there would be some moral code by which people could be judged worthy of the privilege, worthy of the sanctified institution we call marriage. (Hmm, sounds familiar. Wait, that sounds like church! And churches are constitutionally legalized to perform so. But that’s church, where marriage becomes a holy, sanctified union, not State.)

For the State to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry isn’t about the sanctity of marriage. It’s about the morality of it, a standard enforced by well-intended (church) folks wishing it to remain a privilege.

If marriage’s sacredness was truly rooted in its morality, perhaps legislation should be passed to deny any person the right to it who has engaged in any sexual or moral deviancy decried by men who are no less affected. Imagine the exclusivity of such an elite club. You wouldn’t find me a member, that’s for sure.

So why deny a demographic of people who show no more nor less monogamous capabilities than heterosexuals, the same rights and privileges that marriage affords two people in love? Two people who wish to have their monogamy validated by the State? Outside of religion’s context, outside the “broad-based coalition of church’s and other organizations,” it’s not a morality thing, it’s an equality thing. And in denying equality, ”life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” becomes just a catch phrase.

Virginia’s Racial Integrity act of 1924, a statute prohibiting marriage between races was over-turned in Loving v. Virginia in 1967. The people had voted, the majority decided that a white person could not marry a non-white person. And then along come the Lovings (love the irony here), a mixed race couple, married in DC and living in Virginia. All eyes, as you can imagine, were upon this couple, and one night the police invades their domicile and catches them in the act, they were sleeping together. They were charged with the felony of miscegenation and were sentenced to prison. Well, that dastardly ol’ ACLU got involved and the next thing you know the case is before those lawyers in black dresses, yep, the Supreme Court.

They ruled that Virginia’s statute, voted for and supported by the majority in Virginia, violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The court found:

“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Now, you might be thinking race is not the same thing as sexuality, and therein lies the division that exists. You see, I feel that just as one cannot choose their ethnicity, one can neither choose their sexual orientation. That’s the heart of this argument.

The bottom line for me is this; marriage should be defined by the two people who have entered into it. Should that definition be shared by their church, more power to them. The State, though, much like it cannot discriminate in dolling out driver licenses, should not be (note the conservative twist here) governing the choices one can make about whom they decide to marry.

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