On January 8, 2010, the historically social conservative Portugal became the sixth country in Europe to legalize same sex marriage. The bill itself won the support of the liberals in the country, and conservative president Anibal Cavaco Silva is not expected to veto the bill, but rather is expected to ratify it. If all goes as planned, same -sex couples will be able to wed in Portugal by April 2010, ironically enough a month before the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.
Marriage between same-sex couples was first made legal in the Netherlands in 2001. Since then, six additional countries have passed legislation to recognize marriage rights for LGBT citizens. Spain is the only country in the world that recognizes same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage under the same law.*
Today, January 11, 2010, in a Federal courtroom in California, Perry v. Schwarzenegger began proceedings about this same debate: the legality of same sex marriage. For the first time in the United States’ history, same-sex marriage will be mentioned, and debated, by the federal court system. Theodore Olson and David Boies (who worked the Bush v. Gore 2000 opposing one another) are high-profile lawyers representing two same-sex couples who were denied the right to marry when Prop 8 passed. According to their suit, “This unequal treatment of gays and lesbians denies them the basic liberties and equal protection under the law that are guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.” (All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.)
Marriage equality statistics in the U.S. are changing fast and furious these days. As of now, five U.S. states — Massachusetts (2004), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), New Hampshire (2009 vote, 2010 enactment), as well as the District of Columbia (2009 vote, 2010 enactment) — recognize marriage equality. Two states, Maine and California, had recognized marriage equality at one point, but passed ballot initiatives rescinding marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. Meanwhile, one state recognizes civil unions between same-sex couples — New Jersey — and several states have domestic partnership laws that grant certain benefits to same-sex couples. These states include Oregon, Maine, and Washington.
On the flip side, thirty states have passed constitutional amendments or laws explicitly banning same-sex marriage. According to the National Association of Social Workers, prohibiting marriage protection to same-sex individuals denies them 1,000 federal protections and responsibilities granted to heterosexual individuals. Opponents of same-sex marriage have also been championing Proposition 8 in California, a statewide ballot measure that rescinded marriage rights for LGBT citizens in that state.*
Today, with the start of these proceedings to overturn Prop 8, one of the opening remarks from Prop 8 supporters: Marriage centers on procreation. and should not be “transformed into a private… relationship designed simply to provide adult couples with personal fulfillment.” However, Theodore Olson, in his opening statement, argued that the Supreme Court has described marriage as a basic civil right, one associated with the right to liberty and intimate choice. “In short, in the words of the highest court in the land, marriage is the most important relationship in life,” and that “by sanctioning marriage only as between a man and a woman, the state creates a societal atmosphere of non-tolerance.”
I believe “non-tolerance” is the key word in this statement. The fact is that this is not the first time this country has been divided concerning the issue of marriage. 70% of our nation was opposed to interracial marriage when Loving v. Virginia passed in 1967. As of May 2009, the disparity between those for and against gay marriage was not nearly so large as those opposed to interracial marriage! According to gallup.com, 57% of Americans are opposed to gay marriage, whereas 40% of Americans are in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.
While I do realize that a majority of Americans are against this measure, there is world of difference between 70% and 57%! This proves to me that Americans are, indeed, more tolerant than they were forty three years ago, although “tolerant” may not be the right word, either.
Why should society “tolerate” one’s choice of a partner? Why shouldn’t society ACCEPT this? Who are we, to sit as judge and jury over who someome else loves and chooses to spend the rest of their life with? How will my sister and her girlfriend getting married affect the marriage of heterosexual couples all over the country?
Here’s the answer: it won’t. The fact is that LGBT couples tend to have longer, more monogamous relationships, and lower rates of “divorce” and infidelity, than their heterosexual counterparts. And all that nonsense that marriage is purely for pro-creation? One, that’s a biblical argument, not a legal one. Additionally, does that mean heterosexual couples who can’t or don’t want to have children should be denied the right to get married? Try passing THAT one and see how many people clamor for the government’s heads on silver patters! Furthermore, the children of same-sex couples grow up more well-rounded than some children who have parents of both sexes. There is NO scientific evidence that gay couples have gay kids! So, tell me again, how same sex marriage deteriorates our country and the sanctity of marriage?
*statistics courtesy of http://gayrights.change.org