Is marriage equality a Civil right or a privilege only for heterosexual couples?

17 Jul

Marriage equality is and always has been a civil rights issue in regards to the gay community in the United States. This position can be well backed up by looking at what marriage is legally and how the laws concerning marriage have evolved over time. While it is popular to try to use faith based arguments to marginalize this right, religious arguments have no place in this question as there is supposed to still be a thing called separation of church and state.

Examining the history of marriage as a civil rights issue in the U.S., we first need to go back to the period predating 1840. At that time it was illegal to marry slaves, either as a free man, or one slave to another. In 1824 many states followed the lead of Louisiana and loosened this restriction allowing two slaves to marry if their owner(s) consented to the union. It still however was illegal to have a mixed marriage. Fast forward 20 years and although still frowned upon, but slaves started being allowed to choose their spouse, but generally with the caveat that it must be a slave owned by the same master. Small steps were gained, but still it was heinously ridiculous.

As the Civil War ended and all slaves were freed, you would think as equal men they could marry whomever they chose, yet that was far from the truth. In actuality interracial marriage was illegal in 34 states in 1967 who had anti-miscegnation laws on the books and often arbitrarily enforced as a harassment tool. Thankfully that was the year the Supreme court ruled people could not be denied the right to marry outside of their race as that was discrimination.

Here is an important thing to realize that many people want to pretend isn’t true: marriage is only a “sacred institution” if the couple in question chooses for it to be so. Marriage is in all reality a legally binding contract sanctioned by the state under their guidelines. Money is paid to obtain the license, the contract is signed, witnessed and notarized, a ceremony is performed, and again documents are signed and witnessed to verify that the contract has been fulfilled. It is really not that different from getting a pet license, and as much as that enrages people, the process is basically the same legally and that is the truth. The fact that government officials like a Justice of the Peace or mayor can marry a person with no religious connotations whatsoever further points marriage is a government sanctioned and overseen institution. As such any two citizens of legal age should be allowed to marry as a matter of civil rights.

Since so many people enjoy dragging religion into the argument, let’s look at that briefly and see how various faith systems have approached the issue of marriage when it comes to denying people this right.

– In 1996 the Catholic Church refused to marry a paraplegic man because he was assumed to be unable to engage in sexual activity which led to procreation which was contrary to Vatican policy. While this is generally ignored it surfaces from time to time, just like priests of the Pauline Order that flout Vatican rule and marry gay couples seeing it as both a spiritual and civil right.

– In the late 1990’s an Egyptian professor was forced to divorce his Muslim wife because it was deemed he was no longer a good Muslim. The couple fled the country instead and still practice the Muslim faith.

While examples of the oddness of the stance on marriage by various religions could stretch on and on, those two examples alone are a perfect example of why gay marriage is a civil right- each faith can individually decide who they will or will not marry! Gay marriage has nothing to do with invading or trying to change any faith system. If a church doesn’t wish to conduct same sex marriages that is their prerogative. No law has ever been proposed to force any religion to change their belief system in the gay rights movement. With that issue having sufficient light shed upon it, and recalling the separation of church and state, you cannot say gay marriages infringe upon any individuals civil right to worship as they choose.

If gay people re held to every standard that heterosexual people are in regards to taxation, obeying the law, and civil conduct, then it is their civil right to be free to marry any consenting adult they choose just as it is for a heterosexual. Civil rights is about the rights of all people, not just those we pick and choose as being worthy. As a nation we did this in the past in regards to marriage, it was heinous and discriminatory, and here we are still doing it. It is time to grow America and realize violating one persons civil rights violates everyone’s civil rights, even if it is something you don’t necessarily agree with.

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