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Clarifying the gay marriage debate

Shane O'Connor | Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Several recent columns on the issue of gay marriage and traditional marriage have caused me to wonder if the two camps are even entering in the same debate.
Mark Gianfalla aruges in his column (“True matrimonial equality,” Apr. 10) that if gay marriage is recognized, there will be a fundamental shift in the understanding of the procreative aspect of sexuality within a marriage. He then asks the question: “If this aspect of sexual intercourse is removed … why is [sic] prostitution and bestiality both illegal and immoral?”
Let’s break this question down. Is prostitution immoral? Yes. Should it be illegal, in the sense prostitutes face jail time or financial penalities for their actions?  My guess is there are more compassionate ways to deal with people driven to such desperation. Equating bestiality and homosexuality, however, is foolish. Consensual homosexual relationships do not create a victim. Moreover, the right to homosexual sex is not up for a legal debate.
Mr. Gianfalla’s errors continue with his question, “Why should America change to accommodate the minority with dissenting opinions?” First, democracy exists to protect the rights of the minority. Secondly, supporters of same-sex marriage are no longer the minority.
Carter Boyd’s column (“Somewhere over the rainbow,” Apr. 10) shows similar fallacies. He says people cannot argue “God made this person that way” to justify non-heterosexual orientation because we do not do the same for “alcoholics, murderers, rapists, adulterers, robbers, swindlers, lairs, cheaters or terrorists.” Even if you believe homosexual orientation is something a person struggles with, something that deserves your prayers and support, the distinction between homosexuality and Mr. Boyd’s list is obvious. Alcoholism is a sickness we must treat before it kills the alcoholic or someone else. The rest of the list consists of people who have violated someone else’s rights.
So what, if anything, did these columnists get right? They are both within their rights to believe, as Mr. Gianfalla concludes, “marriage is marriage.” You can believe marriage is a religious institution, that it is a sacrament and a promise not only to a spouse but to God. The gay marriage debate, however, does not presume to change this any more than the government already has. Civic marriage has adopted the term and changed the meaning, so that now, sinners and atheists may have a union commonly referred to as “marriage.” The religious aspect of marriage has become an optional add-on to the legal proceedings. This may be a cultural change worth decrying, but extending what has become merely a legal contract to some, a legal contract and institution of loving commitment to many others, has what ramifications for the rights of anyone else?
People pray for others to end many different sinful habits. Mr. Boyd is right to want to show compassion to all people in this world, regardless of their sins. If he thinks homosexuality is a sin, he is obligated to pray for those who practice it as he is to pray for adulterers and polygamists. Yet, gay marriage still does not pose a threat to any of his rights. However, for people who embrace homosexuality, prohibition of gay marriage may pose a threat to theirs. The traditional marriage advocates are correct to want to preserve their tradition of marriage as a sacrament. But is there some way in which civically recognized gay marriage takes that away?
Shane O’Connor is a sophomore residing in Dillon Hall. He can be contacted at [email protected]
    The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.