Marriage equality issue divided along party lines

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Gary Cecil III
The Signal
For the first time in history, a sitting U.S. president openly supports same-sex marriage. Marriage equality is one of the “hot-button” campaign issues being debated this election.

While the Republican Party continues to oppose expanding the definition of marriage beyond one man and one woman, the Democratic Party, led by President Obama, supports same-sex marriage as part of its party platform.

“We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference,” states the Democratic Party’s platform.

The Republican Party platform reaffirms its support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“That is why Congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of states and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions. The current Administration’s open defiance of this constitutional principle—in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts makes a mockery of the President’s inaugural oath,” states the Republican platform.

The Pew Research Center, a public opinion polling center that does not take positions on issues, published an article, “Two-Thirds of Democrats Now Support Gay Marriage,” reporting that “in the past four years, overall support for marriage equality has risen to a slight majority, even though President Obama’s recent announcement of his support for same-sex marriage had little influence on public opinion.” One reason for this increase is that the younger generation is generally more accepting of homosexuality and that generation is now becoming voting age.

“If marriage equality is actualized, it will do nothing more than come closer to realizing the truth that yes, ‘all men are created equal,’” said Alan Mansfield, Unity Club president. “The only negative affect the opposing side will feel from reaching marriage equality is that they’ll have lost their battle of bigotry. Who anyone marries is not a concern of anyone else except for the people invited to the ceremony. Say gay couple ‘A’ gets legally and federally married.  They’ve lived across the street from conservative couple ‘B’ for 20 years.  Nothing has changed except for a document that couple ‘B’ is never going to see.”

The Pew research shows that acceptance of homosexuality in general has also been on the rise. However, many people who support homosexuality still do not support same-sex marriage.

Though the Pew research shows the number of Republicans who support marriage equality is growing, Republicans, in general, still oppose it. Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney signed the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) pledge to support the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

“Thirty-two states when given the chance have voted to protect marriage,” said Thomas Peters, cultural director of NOM. “Gay marriage has primarily been pushed with this claim that it is ‘inevitable,’ even though it goes down in defeat time and time again.”

NOM’s pledge also supports appointing federal judges who do not support same-sex marriage and putting the decision to repeal gay marriage in states that have permitted it to a popular vote.

“It’s important to prevent gay marriage because gay unions are not marriages,” Peters said. “The public purpose of marriage is and has always been to unite men and women together, and to unite them to whatever children they may have . . . any child introduced into a same-sex unit is deprived of either his or her mother or father.”

“The word ‘marriage’ has meaning in our society,” said Robin Maril, legislative counsel for the Administrative Advocacy for the Human Rights Campaign. “It communicates a lifelong commitment between two people based on respect and love. ‘Civil unions’ do not carry that weight and create a completely second-class version of relationship recognition for same-sex couples. The commitment that same-sex couples make to each other is no different from the commitment that different sex couples make, and the way the government views this commitment shouldn’t be different either.”

“It’s not about preventing anything,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Austin Nimocks. “Marriage is between one man and one woman. That’s what’s important. A mother and father are indispensable.”

Mansfield and KHMX – MIX 96.5 Radio DJ Blake Hayes both compare the current state of marriage equality to the “separate but equal” inequities that the Civil Rights Movement fought against.

“Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in ‘96, to appease the majority by not having to recognize civil unions federally,” Mansfield said. “Civil unions for gays are simply another form of ‘separate but equal,’ which was deemed unconstitutional over 50 years ago.”

Hayes, a recent guest speaker at UHCL for National Coming Out Day, said “the issue is really quite simple.”

“If you’re gay, you’re treated as a second-class citizen under the law,” Hayes said. “Laws banning marriage equality, or supporting other anti-gay discrimination, are the Jim Crow laws of our time. Civil unions are great, but they’re not enough.  They’re not marriage.  We tried that on the path to racial equality, creating separate water fountains or bus seats.  Separate but equal doesn’t work, and that’s not according to me, that’s from the Supreme Court.  Separate but equal is never equal.”

Peters argues gay marriage is really not about benefits anymore and points out even in states that have granted same-sex couples all the legal rights of marriage through civil unions, activists are still attempting to redefine marriage.

“Gay unions are not marriages and however long this fiction may be perpetuated in law, the more harm to society and the next generation will result,” Peters said. “If we erase the idea and if the law treats the idea as akin to bigotry that moms and dads each matter and each contribute something unique to the well-being of children, we have lost a core human truth and society and culture will suffer as a result. Gay people have the right to live as they choose, but they do not have the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us.”

Hayes said the opposition to marriage equality confuses him.

“How does banning me from marrying someone improve your marriage?” Hayes asked. “Doesn’t it go against the American ideals of pursuing liberty and happiness? …Equality has always made America stronger, not weaker.”

 

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