SAN DIEGO, June 7, 20, 2013 ― In the wake of so many current, riveting news events, some have forgotten what lurks in America’s horizon. The question of same-sex marriage finally made its way to our Supreme Court.
We have not heard as much about this issue lately because the skilled attorneys from both camps have finished their passionate pleas and returned home. Nine U.S. Supreme Court justices are now reflecting upon the various arguments thrown their direction. At the moment, we are experiencing still waters. Stormy waves may have appeared to be far off on the horizon but June has finally arrived and soon a decision will be made.
Actually, two different but related laws are being considered simultaneously. First, the Defense of Marriage Act, (1996) which grants states the rights to refuse recognition of same-sex marriage should a couple relocate from a former state which did allow the union.
DOMA also offers a definition of marriage at the federal level.
“In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” (Defense of Marriage Act, United States Government Printing Office, September 21, 1996).
DOMA was signed into law by Bill Clinton, who has since “evolved” to the point where he no longer agrees with his own law. Such evolution has been recently shared by President Obama (who refused to defend DOMA) and several Johnny-come-lately Republican politicians.
The other case, of course, is the appeal of California’s infamous Proposition 8. This one has a back story that could rival any soap opera or reality show. At first the will of the people got struck down when courts overturned a new law springing to life from Proposition 22, a successful 2000 ballot measure. Prop 22 defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The California Supreme Court felt it knew better and ruled the law as unconstitutional. People tried again with Proposition 8. The goal this time was far more ambitious: They decided to amend the California constitution itself! After all, no judge can rule something unconstitutional if it’s actually in the constitution, right? No, not so fast. The new law was also struck down because supposedly California’s amended constitution violates our federal constitution.
Whatever the outcome, don’t hold your breath waiting for this issue to go away. Strong opinions and emotions will remain on both sides of the isle. The Supreme Court could no more end a debate on same-sex marriage than 1973’s Roe V. Wade made abortion discussions disappear.
That’s not such a bad thing. One should never be in a hurry to shut down an important debate. In that vein, perhaps it would be best to back up and study the same-sex issue a little more closely.
What follows is a series of responses to certain questions or statements, all of which I have heard in real conversations. The objective is to inspire and stimulate further dialogue in a friendly atmosphere. Cordial discussion seems to be missing today. It is time to put away worthless mudslinging and attempts to silence opposing views.
Certainly weak arguments have been heard from both sides. Nevertheless, this article takes one side. It’s probably no spoiler alert to admit right up front that I speaking on behalf of traditional marriage, hopefully presenting a better case than people are used to hearing, all the while offering empathy for the side I respectfully disagree with. My goal is to not only discuss the issue compassionately, but legally, intellectually, and even psychologically. Such a tall order must be broken up over several articles, so today’s column should be viewed as the initiation of a small series.
We will begin by addressing people who think conservatives are their enemies:
“Isn’t it important to speak against hate? Those who are against same-sex marriage are filled with hate, aren’t they?”
With all due respect, that’s quite a sweeping generalization. Have you met and conversed with every single person opposed to same-sex marriage? Have you allowed them to speak for themselves or are you letting others filter and restate their opinions? And how exactly are you defining “hate?” I respect your desire to be loving, but please be careful here. Stop, take a deep breath, and notice the subtlety of what is going on. Otherwise you may find yourself guilty of the same kinds of bigotry you claim to be against. Before pulling words such as “compassion” or “tolerance” out of the arsenal, please put yourself under the microscope of these very words: Can you show compassion and tolerance for people who have a view of homosexuality contrary to your own?
“But disapproving of homosexuality is like disapproving of an entire race because gay people were born that way.”
Actually nothing of the sort has ever been proved. This notion will be challenged shortly in this same series of articles, but for now, even if you disagree, viewing sexuality as different from race or skin color isn’t really that far of a stretch, is it?
Dedicated liberals are quick to make this comparison. By couching the debate under headings such as “equality” or ”civil rights” they often forget how many African-Americans and Latinos resist the alleged parallel. 70 percent of California’s African-American voters voted in favor of Proposition 8. A little more than half of California’s Hispanic voters joined them (National Election Pool, 2008).
Rev. William Owens (head of the Coalition of African-American Pastors) is himself a civil rights activist. He had this to say about the comparison between gay rights and the African-American plight:
“Every morning I wake up, I look in the mirror, and I see a black man, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to change the color of my skin…They are not suffering what we suffered, and I sympathize with people who face discrimination. Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, but what they’re going through does not compare to what we went through.”
Owens went on to say that changing the definition of marriage will be “devastating to all of our families” (CNS News.Com, March, 26 2013).
“Even if the comparison with race breaks down, you are still suppressing the rights of gay people. Shouldn’t they be allowed to marry?”
Nobody says they can’t. In fact, gay churches and other liberal churches have been performing homosexual weddings for years. All we ask is that they not force the rest of us to change our own definition of marriage. If they are entitled to their view of marriage, we are also entitled to ours.
“But in most states a gay marriage isn’t recognized legally.”
That is true. But many who oppose changing the definition of marriage still support civil unions. A lot of states have civil unions or domestic partnerships and we are probably on the road to all having them in time. With such an ideal scenario, there would be no financial benefit denied and no hospital visitation suppressed. So legally, homosexual couples would have the same rights, and religiously (depending upon the church) they have the affirmation of marriage. I honestly appreciate your desire to be fair and compassionate. I really do. But please think about this for a moment. If gay couples can already be married by choosing from a wide array of liberal churches; if they can also have legal civil unions; if they decide to then call themselves married (as they have been doing for many decades) and if nobody is passing any law against their free speech to describe their relationship any way they choose, what possible reason remains for demanding that the entire country change its definition of marriage, other than to insist on affirmation from people who have a right to their own opinion about varying lifestyles?
NOTE: This article was the beginning of a series. Watch for Bob Siegel’s next article: If you think same-sex marriage will not affect you think again: The effect on children
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Bob sometimes selects reader’s comments and responds to them on his radio show. Readers are free to call in and challenge Bob’s response over the air. Details of his program can be found at www.bobsiegel.net.
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