(Note: this is a slightly tweaked version of a piece I wrote last year.)
For those couples whose engagements don’t fall by the wayside, statistics show that divorce after the wedding is a real possibility. Let’s look at some of the reasons why people have divorces: spousal abuse, fights over money, adultery, and different expectations. What is interesting is that, among the reasons I have listed for increased divorce, gay marriage is not one of them. Yet there is an idea among many Americans that, somehow, heterosexual couples will dissolve their marriages upon seeing married gay couples. It is supposedly the fault of gay couples who have been married that Newt Gingrich and John Edwards repeatedly failed to keep their trousers on. Of course, blaming the unpopular minority is always easier than starting with the person in the mirror, so what do you expect? Why precisely is it so important that gay marriage be legalized? Sexual orientation is an immutable trait, meaning that it is inherent and unchangeable. For those heterosexual readers who disagree, I would ask them to try and remember when they chose to be heterosexual. If they’re honest with themselves, they can’t remember, because sexual orientation is not a choice. And this is where some people get touchy. Because if sexual orientation is immutable, then it is just as immoral to deny a person equal rights based on sexual orientation as it is to deny a person equal rights based on race. Obviously, there are major differences between the “Gay Experience” and the “Black Experience.” However, differences do not mean that comparisons are unfounded. For instance, slaves were often not allowed to marry, and most states at one time or another banned marriage between blacks and whites. While interracial marriage was legal in all of the Northeast and much of the Midwest by 1890, laws banning it were in force throughout the South until the 1960s. Some people around today who are involved in interracial relationships, such as former NAACP chairman Julian Bond, realize the similarities between bans on interracial and gay marriages and are hardly shy about pointing them out. There’s a very interesting quote I want everyone read: “Marriage between one man and one woman only was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.” Who said this? Well, it was Jefferson Davis. And it wasn’t about gay marriage, it was about slavery. The fact that I can replace “slavery” with “marriage between one man and one woman only” and have the quote sound almost exactly the same should give one pause. Jefferson Davis was a fork-tongued, sanctimonious racist, but he knew his Bible. Leviticus, Chapter 25, Verses 39-46 state, “And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant. But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee. And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God. Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bond maids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor.” There isn’t much wiggle room: Bible verses exist which condone race-based chattel slavery. If the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality is infallible, so is the Bible’s support for slavery. Realizing that the Bible cannot be used to support their views, opponents of same sex marriage sometimes argue that marriage has “always” been exclusively between a man and woman. So? The fact that something is tradition does not make it right. Otherwise, slavery, genocide, and rape would not be wrong. And if marriage has indeed always been defined as exclusively between men and women, that is because of societal and governmental bigotry, and the definition of marriage should be changed. Will this lead to polygamous, incestuous, or inter-species marriages? It does not need to. Heterosexual Americans have the right to marry the individual that they love–gays simply ask for that same right. Polygamists want a new right that nobody in America has been given–the right to marry multiple people. In the case of incest, there is no reason to believe that some people are intrinsically attracted to family members, meaning that banning incestuous marriage does not violate anyone’s civil rights. Finally, silly though it may be, I will address the claims of people like Bill O’Reilly who suggest that legalizing gay marriage will mean legalization of marriage between people and turtles: Bill, good luck getting a turtle to sign a legal document. Some people, who want gay activists to simply go away, have suggested civil unions as a compromise. That is nothing short of separate but equal. It is the same principle that condoned separate drinking fountains, schools, and the like for people of different races. If marriage is indeed a religious institution, then get the government out of it and leave it to churches. As long as there is civil marriage, it must be granted to gay couples. Even those gays and lesbians who do not wish to get married should understand that a legal ban on gay marriage labels them as second class citizens. The arguments against gays serving in the military, adopting children, or being protected in employment and housing by workplace protection laws are just as silly. They consist of putting what some narrow-minded, bigoted heterosexuals want above what gay people are entitled to. Unfortunately, many of these heterosexuals scream that they aren’t bigoted. And in their attempts to be conciliatory, many gay people say, “Of course, we know not everyone who is against gay marriage, adoption, etc. is bigoted.” Um, alright. I would argue that bigotry consists in feeling that a group of people is inferior based on immutable traits/supporting systems that keep them as second class citizens. So indeed, believe that marriage, adoption, etc. should be reserved for heterosexuals is inherently bigoted. Limiting the definition of bigotry to outright hatred for a group of people limits the root of the problem to a few crazy people, like the Westboro Baptist Church and the Ku Klux Klan, rather than a far reaching poison imbedded in our country for centuries and solidified with the U.S. Constitution in the 1780s. (Read Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3.) Other countries have already given gay people equal rights. If we really are the “Land of the Free,” we had better follow suit immediately.