Pro – When James Obergefell first filed a lawsuit in July 2013 to be recognized by the state of Ohio as the spouse of John Arthur, he unknowingly triggered a chain of events that would take his case along with three others to the Supreme Court.
The oral arguments that the Supreme Court heard on April 28th covered justifications for and against same-sex marriage that spanned legal, social and moral domains. But the issue, which we can no longer shy away from, is not a matter of a long-standing definition of marriage or a religious belief. It is a matter of discrimination that is no longer acceptable by any standard.
Constitutionally, the 14th amendment – specifically the “equal protection” clause – guarantees that, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States… nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Seeing that a gay person is indeed a person, a ruling that decides against same-sex marriage or that even avoids the issue altogether decisively ignores the same laws that protect us from racial and gender discrimination, invasion of privacy, and disenfranchisement. We have come too far to stop here.
While for many people marriage is based on a religious belief or millennia old practice, in the eye of the law, marriage is a legal institution that serves a legal function, much like a job contract. Marriage affords families a stabilizing structure largely because, like many contracts, marriage allows couples responsibilities and privileges that unmarried couples do not possess.
When Obergefell sued for recognition of his and Arthur’s marriage, he was mainly seeking the privilege of being cited as Arthur’s spouse when Arthur died of ALS, which did happen on October 22, 2013. For same-sex couples, marriage is certainly a way to legitimize their relationship, but more importantly, it is a purposeful ability – an ability to adopt jointly, to make spousal medical decisions, or even be held accountable for unfaithfulness. When gay couples are building families and enriching their communities as any married couple does, they are entitled to those rights – they need those rights – and the 14th amendment will grant them that right.
As for religious liberties, a decision in favor of same-sex marriage will adversely affect no one. Clergymen who do not wish to officiate same-sex marriages will simply opt not to, just as many rabbis regularly choose not to marry Jews to non-Jews.
Outside the protections that religion rightly enjoys, laws should display no hint of religious influence. Muslims have every right to reject pork as Islam mandates, but a storm of anger would ensue if religions with kosher restrictions made bacon illegal. A Supreme Court decision will not restrict the religious freedoms that already exist. It will, however, detach religion’s undue influence on gay marriage from the duty of the law.
The fears of those who oppose same-sex marriage are undeniably sincere. However, whether they stem from a personal conviction or from simply feeling uncomfortable with the idea of gay marriage, their concerns should not supersede the common pursuit of equality. As the discussion ensues, their worries will undoubtedly be dispelled.
Yes, gay couples can’t pro-create, but they do adopt, and they can love. Yes, children of gay couples might not have a mother or a father, but family and friends can fill at least a portion of that gap. And no, gay marriage will not destroy an old tradition – it will simply expand it. What’s so wrong with that?
Con – First and foremost, this dissenting opinion is by no means an objection to marriage equality. Every American, regardless of race, socioeconomic class or sexual preference, has inalienable rights bestowed unto them by their creator. With that being said, passage of any Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality will constitute a ruling that will be both imposed by the courts on the public and destructive to an ungoing national debate.
The right for same-sex couples to marry has been deemed the great civil right issue of the modern age. And while the issue of marriage equality has been heavily debated for the last couple of decades, it has garnered heavy public attention only recently. This recency means that the public is yet to establish a unified majority opinion. A definitive ruling by the Supreme Court will only hinder the path toward national agreement.
While most who argue against redefining marriage argue under the pretense of tradition and religious doctrine, arguments of such merit have ostensibly no real significance in the eyes of the law. Yet, when Justices Roberts and Scalia, both of whom understand the legal justification of gay marriage, engage in the discussion, their opinions regarding the law and the constitution reflect the fact that marriage and tradition are core values that the founders did in fact embed in the constitution.
Justices Roberts and Scalia’s opinions are clear. They wouldn’t necessarily rule against redefining the institution of marriage, but both have justified that with the traction that legalizing same-sex marriage has gotten in the last few years, the new issue is not whether there should be same-sex marriage, but rather who should decide. And in the eyes of the law, that right is reserved to the people. The beliefs of those who have to raise their children beside families of gay couples are surely of some merit. The beliefs that pervade communities across the nation deserve to be heard in a legal issue that is fundamentally about society.
Marriage is a basic human right regardless of those who argue otherwise, and basic rights are almost always resolved by the simple passage of time. The Supreme Court should rule against same-sex marriage, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because the debate has just recently come to fruition. Many people across the country still have reservations about the idea of same-sex marriage. Having nine justices rather than the whole of the United States decide on such an issue would simply halt all of the debate, especially in such a polarized political climate.
Ireland, on May 22nd 2015, became the most recent country to legalize same-sex marriage, and the critical feature that makes its process peaceful and sustainable is the power of a popular vote, rather than the decision of nine people outside the ballot box. Those in Ireland who voted against gay marriage are more likely to accept it because their voice was at least heard, and their confidence in democracy is stronger than any personal conviction.
As with the previous era’s issue with race and civil rights, real progress ensued only after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Black men and women were finally given equal rights when the majority of the people in the United States became unified by common sense rather than law. No matter the civil right, real change lies solely in the power of the people. That’s simply the American way.