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A bipartisan appeal for marriage equality

Shaaya Ellis | Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On most issues, we could not disagree more. One of us is a moderate Democrat who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. The other is a staunch conservative Republican who believes the federal government is currently acting outside the scope of the Constitution. Regardless of our differences, we will focus on what we agree on: marriage equality for all Americans.

The issue of marriage equality in the United States dates back to when laws were enacted to prevent marriages between blacks and whites. In 1963, the Supreme Court decided in Loving v. Virginia that Virginia’s prohibition of interracial marriage was unconstitutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren’s opinion for the unanimous court held, “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man. To deny this fundamental freedom subverts the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry a person resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.” These tenets of freedom and equality outlined by Chief Justice Warren lie at the foundation of marriage equality for all Americans and question how government officials who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution deny citizens equal protection under the law.

With respect to marriage equality, we must say that ‘gay rights’ should not be a question. All Americans should have equal rights, especially those of minority groups. Our history has shown it is politically easy to not recognize that marginalized groups should receive the same rights other citizens receive. While many states have decided against gay marriage in elections, it is not fair to leave the rights of a minority group to the whims of the electorate. If we had left the rights of other minority groups, such as blacks and women, to the whims of the electorate, it would have taken much longer for these groups to receive equal rights. By granting rights to these citizens, we progressed toward our nation’s goals of liberty and justice for all.

While the arguments for gay marriage are strong, the arguments against are very weak. Many believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman because only a man and a woman can conceive a child. Given this, should our society not allow heterosexual couples who cannot have children or who do not want children to get married? The simple reality is it is not the government’s place to label marriage as a procreative institution only. It is an institution based on love, regardless of want or ability to bear children.

Many believe gays will destroy the institution of marriage. The reality is heterosexuals are in the process of destroying it. The current divorce rate stands at 50 percent. The percentage of adults married is at historic lows, the percentage of adults never married is at historic highs and the average age of marriage for both men and women is at historic highs. It is also sheer lunacy for our society to discriminate against two men or two women who have dated and lived with each other for years by preventing them from getting married while allowing Kim Kardashian and Larry King to get married as often as they would like.

The sad part is those who see themselves as social conservatives should support gay marriage. By allowing more gays to marry, we can create more stable families that can adopt more children and allow them to grow up in a home with two loving parents. A lot of critics say there are harmful effects for children in gay families, but these critiques are more based in bigotry than research. A compilation of research on this topic compiled by the American Psychological Association yielded: “Fears about children of lesbian or gay parents being sexually abused by adults, ostracized by peers or isolated in single-sex lesbian or gay communities have received no scientific support. Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.”

We write this article because we believe marriage equality is an issue that years from now will be a non-political issue, just like equal rights for blacks and women. Gay marriage will come, as Chief Justice Earl Warren once wrote, to reflect the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” When we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, we proclaim liberty and justice for all, but in a country where gays are denied the benefits of marriage, can we honestly say there is liberty and justice for all?  
 

Shaaya Ellis is a sophomore political science major with a classics minor. He can be contacted at sellis2@nd.edu

Adam Newman is a senior political science major. He can be reached at anewman3@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.