Proposition 8 was passed in California in November, 2008. It ruled that marriage must be between a man and a woman, and thereby placed a ban on all same-sex marriages. But last Wednesday, August 4, a federal judge overturned California’s ban. The ruling does not immediately grant gays and lesbians the right to marry but will likely push the case to the Federal Supreme Court for further debate. This is seen as a small victory for some because the judge didn’t uphold the ban. But the fact that this issue even has to go through the courts at all is the real problem.
The courts should not be deciding whether someone is fully human, which is exactly what underlies the ban on same-sex marriages. Banning same-sex marriage is an open declaration that gays and lesbians are not fully human. The right for people to choose their lovers and choose their marriage partners is a basic human right. And it should not be up for debate.
The ban on same-sex marriage is today’s equivalent of the laws banning interracial marriage (miscegenation) that were in place in the U.S. until end of the 1960s. Interracial marriages were banned in most of the U.S. from 1671 until 1967. Most of these laws banned the marriage of whites with any “non-whites” (primarily Blacks and Native Americans). The arguments then were based on the racist belief that people who were not considered white were not fully human and therefore did not have the same rights. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s fought against the legally-backed racism of this society, and ended the miscegenation laws, along with many other discriminatory laws.
Today the ban on same-sex marriages is based on a similar prejudice: that gays and lesbians are not fully human and therefore don’t have the right to marry. No one has the right to rule that some individuals are not fit to marry. Human adults have the right to consensual marriage with whomever they want. And for any government to take away this right is nothing more than legalized bigotry, and must be openly resisted.
Behind the opposition to same-sex marriage are messages of hate and fear. Gays and lesbians are being used by politicians and talk show hosts as just another scapegoat. Alarmist messages of fear of gays and lesbians destroying marriage, converting people’s children, and degrading society are used to distract people from the real problems that plague society on a daily basis.
The message is: “forget about the government giving trillions of dollars to the banks, forget about the millions of people who’ve lost their homes, forget about the millions more who have no chance at finding a job, forget about the Iraqis and Afghans murdered by U.S. soldiers, forget about the corporations’ daily destruction of the environment, forget about the real threats to our lives. Instead, focus your attention on these dangerous couples in love who want to get married. They are the serious threat in this society.”
This is nothing more than distracting nonsense. It is important not to fall for the bigotry of the media and the government in its opposition to same-sex marriages. The more we tolerate the ability of the government to deny people basic human and civil rights, the easier it is for governments to take away more rights in the future.
There are not two sides in this debate. There is one side: Gays and lesbians are human beings and have just as much a right to marry as anyone else.