By passing the constitutional amendment by a margin of 61-39, they became the 30th state in the Union to legally define marriage as between a man and a woman.
This argument is a very tricky one to write impartially about. For most people, this is one of those “right or wrong” issues. For those on the pro same-sex marriage side, not allowing same-sex marriage is an attack on civil rights- we don’t pick who we love, and denying one the opportunity to be married to whoever one loves is directly violating his/her constitutional rights. On the flip-side, those against same-sex marriage say that to break the age-old definition of marriage as between one man and one woman would violate the sanctity of a tradition older than any government on earth.
And they’re right. To change that definition would in fact violate the sanctity of their tradition.
The keyword in that sentence is “their”.
While the concept of marriage as it is in the United States is often seen as a sacred union, that is not a necessary condition for marriage. Throughout history it was (and still in some places is) often the norm for marriages to serve more as convenient social structures and transactions. In 2009, I spent several weeks in Kenya, and on the trip I visited a Maasai Village where they practiced very old, nomadic customs. One of these customs was the act of marriage in which women were basically purchased as wives for ten cows. I’m sure the wedding vows went something like:
“To have and to hold, until my cows give birth and I can buy another wife”
I admit, this is a rather radical example, albeit true. But there are many other examples of how a “marriage” works in many different societies. But, because our government has at many times co-opted Christianity, we do marriage in our society the Christian way. One man. One woman. Two Rings. It’s like a birthday party for Heterosexuality. Its so great that some people just can’t wait to get divorced and do it all over again!
So we’ve established that this tradition has been around longer than the country we live in, and to allow same-sex couples to marry would in fact change this sanctimonious tradition. The government is not allowed to tamper with our religion, so for the government to allow same-sex couples to marry would violate our rights as a religious institution.
Correct. The government cannot pass a law telling religious institutions how to practice their religion. We have a complete separation of church and state. For the government to make any sort of law saying who could or couldn’t participate in certain religious institutions would violate the constitution.
Wait? Did you just say the government can’t pass any laws saying that certain people can’t participate in religious traditions and customs?
Yes, made up and seemingly anti-same-sex marriage counter voice, that is what I said. How could the government pass a law defining a religious tradition? Could the state of Nevada declare that Easter is actually on July 25th? Could the Wyoming state legislature declare that Bar Mitzvahs are only for boys between the ages of 14-16, and Bat Mitzvahs are banned? Could the…
Ok, I get it. I guess marriage isn’t really a religious tradition.
So it is a civil action?
With religious implications.
Well many things have religious implications. There are many crimes that are prosecuted by the government, but are in direct violation to one of the Ten Commandments. There are many passages in the bible that discuss how punishments should be carried out for violating the ten commandments, but in our society, we determine our own ways to deal with these types of things. If we consider marriage to be a religious tradition that our government co-opted then its not our government’s responsibility to tell anyone how it is practiced. It is up to the churches itself to make those rules. If every church in the nation wants to join together to deny same-sex couples from marrying in churches, they have every right to do so.
But even if gays can’t marry in churches, it doesn’t mean they can’t get married. They could just go to a courthouse and get married.
And what occurs in courthouses?
Ok, so marriage can be an entirely civil and non-religious occasion. But that doesn’t mean two men can be “married”. If a marriage by definition is between and man and a woman you could never say two men were “married.”
But marriage comes with a slew of monetary and civil benefits. So to deny marriage to same-sex couples is discriminatory in many ways.
Ok, true. It would be discriminatory. But if we said that gays and lesbians could be in “civil unions” and have every single civil benefit that married couples do, then it would be legal.
True, it would be legal. But for same-sex couples who want to be married to each other, being denied that title of marriage is also violating their rights to happiness. It cheapens their marriage by saying that it is less than sacred and simply a civil affair.
Aha! I thought you said marriage was civil and not “sacred”.
Well… Thats the problem. The act of getting married and being married can be an entirely non-sacred event. But the word “marriage is still sacred to many people. It is sacred to many same-sex couples, who feel that being denied the title cheapens their relationship, but it is also sacred to those against same-sex marriage, who feel that broadening the definition of marriage destroys its sacred value.
I’ve managed to logic my way through this question and this is the point in which logic stops working. Legalizing “civil unions” is the farthest LEGALLY that civil rights requires. This is because, at this point, its really all about semantics. The final hurdle for securing equal rights for same-sex couples is the word “marriage” itself. While same-sex couples assert that they should have equal access to the word, “traditional family values” people say that it was their word first and they’re keeping it.
So heres what I think is going to happen:
Sometime in the near-medium future, I believe that same-sex civil unions will be legalized on a national level. This probably won’t happen by an Amendment to the Constitution, because, as is evident by North Carolina, 3/4 of states probably wont ratify such an amendment. There will probably be some sort of Supreme Court precedent, maybe a national awakening, who knows. But the word marriage will always be contested. Sure, in 50 years when one generation replaces the other, “liberal” ideas such as gay marriage become more accepted, but there will always be those who oppose it.
But you know what. F-word that.
(This is the part where I say my uncensored opinion).
Calling a same-sex marriage a “civil union” rather than “marriage” is like saying “The F-word” instead of “Fuck”. We all know what “The F-Word” really means. Its just a term invented because we are too cowardly to say “fuck” (Credit: Louie C.K). We think it’s indecent. It makes us feel dirty, and we sure as hell don’t want the kids to hear it. Just because some people are insecure with words and ideas doesn’t mean that it should actually tangibly limit someone’s actions. We live in a country that allows the KKK to hold rallies and the WBC to protest at funerals, and if we live in a country that allows complete freedom when preaching hate then those practicing love should AT LEAST have the same rights as them. If the thought of two men raising a kid together makes you want to make a constitutional amendment quicker than the thought of hate speech at a military funeral, then you should just go down to the station and turn in your human-being badge.
Not allowing same-sex couples to at least enter “civil unions” is illegal, and not allowing them to be “married” is just stupid. I’m forever accepting of the fact that people will always be stupid, but come on, North Carolina, lets at least be legal about it.
- Michael Clauw