"Marriage Equality and the Pursuit of Happiness"
"We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." - Thomas Jefferson
Although it has been about two hundred thirty years since Thomas Jefferson wrote these words in The Declaration of Independence, they should still be true. Those are, after all, the words that our nation was founded on. If all men are created equal and are awarded the unalienable right of the pursuit of happiness, why is it that people in serious, loving relationships with members of the same sex are being barred from marriage all over the country? Homophobia and overly traditional values are stopping this country from moving forward in a way that Canada, Sweden, Germany, and several other countries worldwide already have.
In the First Amendment, American citizens are given person al rights--freedom of speech and of the press, freedom in religious practice, and the freedom to congregate and protest peacefully. While sexual orientation isn't exactly choice that can be made, it seems that the right to marry the person you love (regardless of their gender) is somewhat like the right to religious freedom. The Marriage Amendment, a proposed amendment that would ban same-sex marriage nationwide, is unconstitutional because it would clearly show a difference between gay and straight couples. Civil unions have been recommended in place of marriages for same-sex couples, but they do not have exactly the same benefits as marriages. If every American citizen is equal, marriage for a gay couple should have exactly the same rights as a marriage for a straight couple.
What reason is there to believe that a marriage between two men or two women would be any less committed or loving than a heterosexual marriage? For some reason, homosexual love is regarded as an almost less-than-human kind of love and commitment. Isn't loving someone enough to want to marry them a commitment in itself? Some people have even taken the "less-than-human" view to a new level by saying that they fear that soon people will want to marry their pets. Not only is it unlikely (and, quite frankly, absurd) that people will want to marry animals, but it is offensive to compare a member of a same-sex relationship to an animal. Besides that, is a dog or cat capable of human love, not to mention signing a marriage license? Another reason that is often used to argue against same-sex marriage is that gay couples can't produce children, but there are children all over the world who need families and infertile couples are allowed to marry. Marriages in recent years have become less about commitment and more about laws. A marriage that lasts for only two weeks is, at this point, more legitimate than a marriage between two members of the same sex who would be married for their whole lives, if they could be.
Not long after same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, I was in Provincetown, Cape Cod. Provincetown is well known for its large gay population (tourists often ask where all the straight people are). Rainbow flags hung in front of doorways and in shop fronts, as usual, but the new additions were garden stones and bumper stickers decorated with the date May 17th, 2004, the day that same-sex marriage was made legal in Massachusetts. When I saw the stones and bumper stickers, I realized how important the right to marry was to the people of Provincetown. Perhaps someday the textbooks will describe the legalization of homosexual marriages in Massachusetts (and hopefully many more states, sooner or later) as something like giving women the right to vote. The Marriage Amendment was not passed when it was first proposed in the summer of 2004, but it was reintroduced to the Senate in January. If this discriminatory amendment is ever passed, it seems that it will take even longer for homosexual couples to achieve the right to marry. If the amendment passed, what would happen to the newlywed couples of Provincetown? It seems that their marriages would become nothing.