Friday, July 09, 2004

The United States should not amend its constitution to prohibit gay marriage

Why you’re right:

1. There has never been an amendment legalizing discrimination. The constitution has been amended only seventeen times since the original Bill of Rights. These seventeen amendments have abolished slavery, established equal protection for people of all races, and granted women the right to vote. The constitution is amended infrequently because, by short-circuiting the judiciary’s ability to protect minority rights, they have a serious, and usually permanent, impact on the democratic process. Imagine if there had been a parallel interracial marriage amendment in the 50s—Loving v. Virginia could never have happened. (Human Rights Campaign)

2. The amendment would codify religious discrimination. Since an increasing number of religious denominations empower their clergy to perform same-sex marriages, an amendment would unfairly discriminate against these groups. On divisive issues, the constitution should not endorse one set of religious values over another. Over two dozen religious denominations and groups have signed on to a letter to members of Congress protesting the measure (Americans United for Separation of Church and State)

3. The amendment could be interpreted to prohibit civil unions. The amendment says that no state or federal law may mandate that “marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.” This imprecise wording opens the way for future judges to call civil unions unconstitutional. (The Washington Post)

Why they’re wrong:

1. Even if the amendment does allow for civil union, that is an insufficient compromise. While international law requires governments to recognize marriages performed abroad, civil unions are subject to no such protection. Further, as long as civil union is regulated by different statutes than marriage, the policy is discriminatory. Requirements for entrance into civil union can differ drastically from those for marriage and may include a mandated demonstration of shared finances or level of commitment. Even if civil unions afforded people all of the rights of marriage—which they don’t—insisting on a distinct term for gay unions stigmatizes them as less worthy. Separate but equal is never truly equal. (Human Rights Watch)

2. President Bush is wrong to state that there is an “overwhelming consensus” against gay marriage in this country. The latest polls show that only around half of the country supports the amendment. One poll found that 43% of 18-29 year olds support full same-sex marriage equality. Young people should not be forced to inherit a constitution that excludes that possibility. (The Whitehouse, Polling Report)

A better idea:

Laws regarding gay marriage, like all issues for which there is no clear social consensus, should be allowed to evolve and change to reflect Americans' desires.