Shmoop Politics Guide: Gay Marriage Debate

The Question: Should gay couples be allowed to marry?

At Issue:

Marriage is and always has been one of our most important institutions, arguably the key building block both for individual families and for society as a whole.  In the United States, it is a rite that is both religious (sanctified by various churches) and civil (recognized and regulated by the government).

In recent years, gay couples and their allies have launched a movement to gain the right to marry.  Marriage is a civil right, they argue, and the government’s denial of gay couples’ right to marry amounts to naked (and illegal) discrimination.  A church might choose not to accept gay marriage, but the state has no right to do so, especially since marriage comes with hundreds of specific civil benefits – things like visitation rights in hospitals, the right for foreign-born spouses to obtain citizenship, the right to inherit property and Social Security benefits, and so on.

Opponents of gay marriage, meanwhile, argue that marriage is and always has been fundamentally defined as a union of one man and one woman, and thus homosexual relationships, by definition, can never be “marriages.”  To redefine marriage to include gay relationships might undermine the institution itself, leading to a breakdown of traditional order and morality.  In many cases, foes of gay marriage also cite specific religious teachings that define homosexuality as sinful and unacceptable.

Dive Deeper in Shmoop Civics:

Why You Care:

If you’re gay, you care for the obvious reason: whether or not gay marriage gains legal recognition will powerfully affect the potential course of your life.

And if you’re not gay, gay marriage still matters because it’s become one of the most controversial social issues in modern America, taking on a significance larger than the relatively narrow question of whether or not your cousin Christopher and his partner James ought to be able to get a marriage license.

Gay marriage is such a hot button because it brings core American values into conflict with each other.  Doesn’t respect for equal rights require the government to recognize gay marriages?  But what about democracy? Majority votes in many states have indicated that the will of the people is that gay marriage should not be recognized.  And what of freedom of religion?  Should the government really force through social change that most faiths reject?  On the other hand, what about the separation of church and state?  Who cares what Leviticus says about homosexuality; why should that have any impact on secular law?

Depending on how you see things, then, the fight over gay marriage might be seen as the key civil rights struggle of our time.  Or as the key battle in a long war to define the moral soul of the country.  Or maybe both at the same time.

Context:

Gay marriage is a big deal today because it happens to be the place where two major social and political movements crashed – hard – into each other.

The first of those is the Christian Right.  The majority of the American population has always been Christian, but recent decades have seen an explosion in the popularity of more fundamentalist evangelical churches.  These conservative churches have also become much more politically active; traditionally hostile to politics – don’t “gain the whole world, and lose [your] soul” – these churches began organizing for political action in the 1970s, becoming the backbone of an increasingly conservative Republican Party in response to perceived excesses of liberalism in modern America.  In the political sphere, the Christian Right has fought to ban abortion, clean up the coarsening and sexualization of popular culture, and oppose homosexuality.

Over the same period of time, we’ve also seen a huge surge in the gay rights movement.  Until quite recently, discrimination against gays was widely accepted.  The American Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality to be a form of mental illness until 1973, and many states had laws making gay sex a crime until the Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional in 2003.  Since the modern gay rights movement began in 1969 with rioting against a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a Manhattan gay bar, America’s LGBT community has been working to gain legal equality and social acceptance.  Recent public opinion polling has shown a fairly rapid and steady softening in popular hostility towards homosexuality.

In recent years, then, American society has grown both more religiously conservative and more accepting of gays and lesbians.  Those two trends ran straight into each other in the debate over gay marriage, fueling a series of ballot measures and court cases in many different states.  The most intense recent controversy has erupted in California, where the city of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in 2004.  In 2008, voters narrowly passed Proposition 8, banning gay marriage in the state.  Then supporters of gay marriage sued to overturn Prop 8 as unconstitutional; in 2010, they won their case in federal district court.  The case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, is currently on appeal and likely will go all the way the United States Supreme Court.

Key Arguments – Pro-Gay Marriage:

  • Equal Protection: The Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees “protection of the laws” to everybody.  Being gay is not a choice; therefore, gay people are denied the equal protection of the law if they are denied the same right to marry the partner of their choice granted to straight couples.
  • Separation of Church and State: Opposition to gay marriage is rooted overwhelmingly in religious teachings.  The First Amendment of the Constitution establishes the principle of church and state; civil marriage law should not be determined by religious doctrine.  The civil privileges of marriage are not dependent upon religion and should not be denied to gay people some religions object.
  • Minority Rights: The core purpose of the Bill of Rights (and key later amendments like the 14th) is to protect vulnerable minorities from the tyranny of the majority.  In America, majorities can’t strip minorities of their rights by simple popular vote.
  • Benefits of Marriage: Civil marriage comes with all kinds of government benefits – more than 1000 of them from the federal government alone, according to one recent count.  Denying gay couples access to those benefits is illegal discrimination.  Marriage also provides more intangible benefits of community recognition and social stability; gay families ought to be able to enjoy these benefits just like straight families.
  • No Harm: Recognition of a gay couple’s marriage does no real harm whatsoever to another straight couple’s marriage, or to society as a whole. Churches will still be free to make their own choices on whether or not to recognize gay marriage, even after the government begins recognizing gay civil marriages.
  • Equality: Recognition of gay marriage is part of a larger recognition of gay people as normal and fully accepted members of American society, rather than “sexual deviants” or second-class citizens.  To deny the equality of gay marriage is to deny the equality of gay people, period.

Key Arguments – Anti-Gay Marriage:

  • Tradition: In the United States, marriage has always been defined as the union of one man and one union.  That tradition, arguably the key institution of Western Civilization, is worthy of respect and should not be radically overturned.
  • Democracy: Citizens in many states have voted on propositions concerning gay marriage, consistently supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman.  Supporters of gay marriage seek to overturn the will of the people.
  • Children: The ultimate purpose of marriage as a social institution is to create and raise children.  For obvious biological reasons, gay marriages cannot produce children, and the adopted children of gay parents will inevitably miss out on the benefits of growing up with a father and mother in the home.
  • Slippery Slope: If the definition of marriage changes today to recognize same-sex unions, why shouldn’t it change again tomorrow to recognize the union of one man and 43 women, or one man and his sister, or one man and his pet goat, or one man and an inanimate object?  The line must be drawn somewhere.
  • Religion: Most (but not all) major religious sects in America teach that homosexuality is a sin. The Bible contains several overt condemnations of homosexuality, for example in the book of Leviticus describing it as an abomination. Why should an abomination be recognized as marriage?

Viewpoints – Pro-Gay Marriage:

HRC on Marriage Equality

The Human Rights Campaign, America’s the largest gay rights advocacy organization, makes the case for gay marriage (pdf).

Freedom to Marry on Gay-Marriage Messaging

Freedom to Marry, a political organization devoted to making gay marriage legal, offers its supporters these guidelines for effective messaging on the issue (pdf).

Andrew Sullivan, “My Big Fat Straight Marriage”

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative opinion writer and gay activist (yep, you read that right), was one of the first to make the case for gay marriage, advocating its legalization back in the 1990s.  In this piece, Sullivan describes his own 2008 marriage and makes the case that gay marriage is really just marriage, period.

Judge Vaughn Walker’s Decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger

In 2010, Judge Walker ruled that California’s Prop 8, which had banned gay marriages in the state, was unconstitutional.  His reasoning (which is currently being appealed by gay marriage opponents) implicitly makes a strong legal case in favor of gay marriage.

Viewpoints – Anti-Gay Marriage:

Family Research Council: Ten Arguments from Social Science Against Same-Sex ‘Marriage’

The Family Research Council is a prominent conservative Christian political advocacy group.  Here the FRC makes the case against gay marriage in secular terms, focusing on the importance of mothers and fathers to raising children.

National Organization for Marriage: Talking Points

The National Organization for Marriage, which has organized election campaigns against gay marriage in several states, provides messaging advice to its supporters.

Ross Douthat, “The Marriage Ideal”

Douthat, a conservative New York Times columnist, makes a secular argument in defense of “lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensible estate… still worth honoring, and still worth trying to preserve.”

Sam Schulman, “The Worst Thing About Gay Marriage: It Isn’t Going to Work”

This 2009 story from the conservative Weekly Standard magazine argues that gay marriage will undermine straight marriage, and thus society as a whole, by weakening crucial institutions of kinship in modern society.

33 thoughts on “Shmoop Politics Guide: Gay Marriage Debate

  1. Pretty good factual article. I personally have only one problem with it: Has anyone actually read the first amendment?
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
    It protects religious freedom. Period. Has nothing to do with the “separation of church and state,” and certainly nothing to do with legalizing gay marriage.

  2. Wow! A nearly unbiased, sane, and rational presentation of both sides of the argument. Normally there is such an “anti-the-the-other-side” slant that these articles are tough to get through without exponentially increasing one’s blood pressure.
    Along with the stef argument above, I take issue with the “Being gay is not a choice” line. Either science has shown that it is a choice and has proven it (as you mention, the legitimacy debate has raged for decades) or after countless studies and testing of the hypothesis the answer is still that being gay is a choice. No one cares what people “believe” on this subject any more than they care that people “believe” in God. So why is it that we still promote the idea that being gay is not a choice when everything we see in science and the overwhelming evidence in nature itself points to the contrary?
    To add to this, why does it matter if a person honestly has an inner sexual desire for those of the same sex? Maybe the person has weighed the social ramifications, the health related issues as well as any other stigma attached to “gay” and feels that they still desire to pursue a gay lifestyle, couldn’t we substitute “incestual” or “polygamous” for “gay” and make the same arguments? Before you throw out the slippery slope nonsense answer the question. Don’t we as a society have some moral obligation to say that certain things are simply wrong and should not be condoned, mush less presented as acceptable and protected under the Constitution?

  3. The phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from a private letter written by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut. In that letter, referencing the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Jefferson writes:
    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.[17]

  4. In 1797, the United States Senate ratified a treaty with Tripoli that stated in Article 11:
    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. [11]

    Supporters of the separation of church and state argue that this treaty, which was ratified by the Senate, confirms that the government of the United States was specifically intended to be religiously neutral. Allegedly drafted by George Washington’s administration with Thomas Jefferson’s help, they claim it becomes, with the Constitution, “the supreme Law of the Land” — as Article VI Clause 2. of the US Constitution says it must. Opponents argue variously that the text which appears as Article 11 in the English translation does not appear in the Arab text of the treaty,[12] that though the English phrase is not an untrue statement since it is referring to the federal government, the Founders openly described America as a Christian nation,[13] or that the quotation is fraud based on an incomplete reading of Article 11.[14] and further that the Supreme Court, after reviewing history, declared Pennsylvania to be a “Christian nation” in Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States 143 U.S. 457 (1892):

  5. The right to freedom of religion is so central to American democracy that it was enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution:
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

    By its very wording the “church” or religion must remain separate from laws or “the state” if you DO make a law that establishes or prohibits a religion then the two are no longer “separate” and you have violated the constitution. now i think if we could just establish a nat’l civil union with all the rights and priveleges and responsibilities of “marriage” then this issue would go away. however since marriage is done on a state level, this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. so…. there ya go!

  6. Actually “no law respecting an establishment of religion” *does* have something to do with “separation of church and state”:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=define:+established+religion&btnG=Search

    * A state religion (also called an official religion, established church or state church) is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. Practically, a state without a state religion is called a secular state. …
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Established_religion

    * official religion, sponsored by the government. The First Amendment to the US Constitution forbids the government of the United States from establishing a state-sponsored religion.
    http://www.historycentral.com/civics/E.html

  7. @Stef “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” IS separation of church and state. It doesn’t just mean that Congress cannot RESTRICT religion, but it means that it cannot legislate according to “an establishment of religion” either. Separation.

    As the article (correctly) states, the overwhelming argument against marriage equality is from religion and religious leaders. These arguments are being used to justify the restriction of CIVIL marriage between partners of the same sex, an institution that should be (according to the amendment that you cited) completely removed from religious concern.

  8. We’ve had same-sex marriage in Canada for a few years now, and the sky hasn’t fallen, much less the wrath of the invisible imaginary friend who lives in the sky.

    I have NEVER understood how Catholic Priests had any authority regarding the institute of marriage considering they themselves are not allow to marry, and have to take an oath of celibacy.

    If anything, the Catholic church should be cleaning house of its scandals before they have the audacity of telling other people how to live their lives.

    Fuck religion.

  9. Not so “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” means tge government cannot make laws which establish a religious viewpoint or a religious (faith-based) intitution. Congress can no more create a law for the purpose of enforcing a religious practice (such as the taboo of hompsexuality), than it can create a law creating a state religion.
    So often the religious outspoken minority in this country forget that freedom of religion includes freedom from religion.

    Legalizing gay marrige is under due process of the law. If straight people can have legal marriages, gay people must also gain this right.

  10. In a couple of places you refer to “democracy” when you are actually talking about the “majority rules” principle. This confuses a couple of issues. While the “majority rules” principle is an important part of democratic practice it is not the whole of it. Normally believers in democracy think the majority rules principle must be reined in by the a more fundamental protection of individual rights. We do not normally think that just because a majority wants to, for example, beat up, rape or kill someone that they are justified in going ahead and beating them up, raping them or killing them.

    It is normally assumed that people have specific “rights” in order to prevent majorities from just doing what they want to others who disagree with the majority. So the question about the “rights” of gays in this case is prior to the question of what the majority does or doesn’t want. If there is no good reason why marriage rights should not be extended to gays you can’t just say, “Well, the fact that 65% (or whatever) of people in the community don’t want gays to have those rights is a good reason why they shouldn’t have them.” Only in a very crude “democracy” with deeply ingrained biases is that considered a good reason.

  11. The key issue here isn’t gay marriage. It is that the government is defining marriage. Marriage should be a religious definition. What the government should be defining is a Civil Union.

    Marriage is a religious concept. By allowing each religion to define it how ever they so choose, you change the issue of gay marriage from a political debate to that of a religious debate. One religion could view a marriage as being between a man and a woman, and another could view it as one hunk of physical matter in our universe being tied to another physical hunk of matter. At which point you can choose which religion you want to follow by what kind of marriage they define.

    What the government should be issuing and converting all marriage licenses to is a civil union certificate. These would be defined as a union between two people with all of the current rights bestowed to a married couple. A single person would only be allowed into one such union with one other person.

    Everyone I have talked to about this issue, on both sides of the debate, have agree that it is none of the governments business to define a religious concept like marriage.

  12. Dear Stef: The fourteenth amendment’s Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction. How is not allowing gays or lesbians to marry “equal”?

  13. Actually, yes it does – let’s break it down:

    a.”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” – No law can be made where religion is established upon someone, nor can a law be made allowing one not establish a religion.

    b. “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – No prohibition of your choice to follow a religion or not to follow a religion.

    By stating that the federal government will make no law respecting any religion they separate the church and state entirely, and furthermore it states that they will not prohibit the exercise of any religion, again, meaning they are separate of religion. That is the separation of church and state that you’re looking for, and it has everything to do with legalizing gay marriage.

  14. @stef
    What part of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” do you not get? That is the essential statement for Freedom OF and FROM religion. It also defines separation of church and state. If congress can make no law respecting the establishment of religion it means that it can make no law setting a national religion, etc. No it doesn’t have anything to do with gay marriage, but, section 1 of the 14th amendment does.

  15. @stef
    Are you sure *you’ve* read the First Amendment? That opening line where it says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” *is* the other half of separation between church & state. This limits Congress from either establishing a state religion or promoting one religion over another . For the state to deny *anyone* the same rights enjoyed by others on religious principle (any religion) is in direct violation of this amendment.

  16. I think the best solution would be for the government to not have anything to do with marriage. They have the ability to hold individuals to contracts which is basically what a marriage certificate is, It makes you legally entitled to all the benefits this and other articles point out. Why are we issuing marriage certificates anyways? If you read up on the history of marriage certificates they initially started to keep inter-racial marriages from happening.

  17. @Stef Have you actually read the the volumes of constitutional law, numerous constitutional law establishing religious freedom?

    You probably have not, so let me break down the establishment clause and free exercise clause.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” This has been parsed out to mean that the government (federal or local) may not establish, endorse, promote, show bias towards, prefer, give special treatment towards any religion or religious group.

    “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” This prevents the government from restricting the practice of a religion as long as it does not harm other people (you can’t molest children because your religion says so).

    Those two clauses are the linchpin for church-state separation in the United States. It prevents religion taking over the government while also prevent the government taking over peoples religions.

    Where does this come in for gay marriage?

    Fifty years ago, the mores of the society and even the psychology community presented arguments that were valid (at the time’s standards) without religion. But since then, those arguments have been shown to be invalid. The remaining arguments comes down to certain religions disapprove of it. Tie this with the largest funders and supporters being religious groups.

    If the reason for not allowing gay marriage is because of religious beliefs, then it is the government endorsing a religious believe of heterosexual marriage. This would violate the “establishment clause”.

    Church-state separation does not have an opinion on if gay marriage is good or bad, but is it a religiously discriminating law. Vice-versa, it would also be a church-state separation issue if the government was to force religions to marry gay couples.

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  19. True that is what the first amendment says it say, and the interpretation of that is where the idea of separation of church and state come from.

    Here they how I view they way the first amendment applies to the gay marriage debate.

    Say I belong to a religion that recognizes gay marriage, and i want to get married. Aren’t then the laws that ban gay marriage prohibiting the free exercise of my religion then?

    Now if gay marriage is allowed, my religion could be exercised freely, and a religion that does not believe in gay marriage still can practice freely, since no law would force a church to perform gay marriages (only the state would have that obligation), the churches could still follow their religious beliefs and not recognize same sex marriages.

  20. The 1st amendment has everything to do with separation of church and state. The very first part reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….” … meaning that no US law can be derived solely on the ideas of a religion…. in simpler terms – religious law cannot dictate US law.

  21. @stef: the phrase “separation of church and state” is an amalgamation of political, humanitarian and theological concepts and court legal precedent that all support the first amendment. A similar phrase was used by Thomas Jefferson to help summarize the first amendment passage “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” for those not familiar with the constitutional legalese. Today both phrases are accepted as interchangeable.

    It forbids Congress from creating laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion; it also forbids Congress from creating laws based on specific religious values, or in respect of an “establishment of religion”.

    Therefore, it has everything to do with legalization of gay marriage if the opposition is claiming rejection in favor of religious values.

  22. The “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” part.
    So banning same sex marriage for religious reasons is not a good reason.

  23. Stef, it’s stated right there in the quote. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

    What this means to the illiterate is nothing, apparently. But what it means to people with actual brain function is that congress may not pass a law for the sole purpose of respecting the views of a certain religion. Since gay marriage is predominately about religious morals than anything else, it would seem unconstitutional for it to not be legalized.

  24. This is an admirably balance summary of the issue. If more discussions were like this, many more problems could be solved to the benefit of all.

    Besides the excellent point already made by stef, I would like to add three points —

    Gay marriage supporters like to pretend that the Bible only mentions homosexuality in Leviticus, so they can say things like, “Well, you eat pork don’t you? Should we stone adulterers too?” The truth is, however, that the Apostle Paul speaks at length about homosexuality in the New Testament, after Jesus had been crucified.

    Romans 1 explains how homosexuality is the result of God giving those who reject Him over to their own sinful desires. Romans 2 goes on to explain that no one should feel superior because we are all sinners. Romans 3 tells us how faith in the blood sacrifice of Jesus is our only hope of escaping the just punishment that we all deserve for rejecting God.

    So, speaking from the Christian perspective, homosexuality is depraved and not something to be condoned by society. Nevertheless, homosexuality is just another sin, like adultery and disobeying your parents. Sin happens, but that doesn’t mean we should encourage it by providing its practitioners with special benefits for doing so.

    My second point is that homosexuals are not being denied anything. They are free to marry a person of the opposite gender at any time. They can visit that person in the hospital, receive their social security benefits, and inherit their wealth.

    Thirdly, it is a frequently cited statistic that ten percent of people are homosexual. This statistic is wildly exagerated, a complete fabrication designed to make the general populace believe that homosexuality is normal. Read here for the proof, straight from the horses’ mouths: . See also this study that details every sexual relationship in one entire high school over an 18 month period. Out of 832 students interviewed, there was only one single homosexual relationship between two males, one of whom also had a heterosexual relationship.

    Thanks for an excellent article.

  25. This is an admirably balance summary of the issue. If more discussions were like this, many more problems could be solved to the benefit of all.

    Besides the excellent point already made by stef, I would like to add three points –

    Gay marriage supporters like to pretend that the Bible only mentions homosexuality in Leviticus, so they can say things like, “Well, you eat pork don’t you? Should we stone adulterers too?” The truth is, however, that the Apostle Paul speaks at length about homosexuality in the New Testament, after Jesus had been crucified.

    Romans 1 explains how homosexuality is the result of God giving those who reject Him over to their own sinful desires. Romans 2 goes on to explain that no one should feel superior because we are all sinners. Romans 3 tells us how faith in the blood sacrifice of Jesus is our only hope of escaping the just punishment that we all deserve for rejecting God.

    So, speaking from the Christian perspective, homosexuality is depraved and not something to be condoned by society. Nevertheless, homosexuality is just another sin, like adultery and disobeying your parents. Sin happens, but that doesn’t mean we should encourage it by providing its practitioners with special benefits for doing so.

    My second point is that homosexuals are not being denied anything. They are free to marry a person of the opposite gender at any time. They can visit that person in the hospital, receive their social security benefits, and inherit their wealth.

    Thirdly, it is a frequently cited statistic that ten percent of people are homosexual. This statistic is wildly exagerated, a complete fabrication designed to make the general populace believe that homosexuality is normal. Read here for the proof, straight from the horses’ mouths: [http://www.banap.net/spip.php?article79]. See also this study [http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/chainspix.htm] that details every sexual relationship in one entire high school over an 18 month period. Out of 832 students interviewed, there was only one single homosexual relationship between two males, one of whom also had a heterosexual relationship.

    Thanks for an excellent article.

  26. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” known as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment through legal precedent has been interpreted to concluded that “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.” (Justice Souter, Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 1994), effectively separating church from state. Not legalizing gay civil unions can potentially be seen as government showing preference for the view of most major American religious sects, forbidden by the clause.

  27. Although not a part of the point / counterpoint of “gay marriage”, I think the article fails to mention a key sticking point regarding the semantics of “marriage” vs a “civil union”. Many straight people take issue with defining the union of a gay couple as a “marriage”. If proposition 8 in CA were to adopt the wording of a civil code rather than that which is largely defined by religious circles (civil union v marriage) it would stand a much stronger chance of getting a majority vote.

    Which then begs the question: Almost anyone can recognize the distinction in the wording, yet supporters of gay marriage fight for a word in legislation that the traditional definition does not afford them the rights to. Is the fight about the human rights associated with a legally recognized union, or is it of gaining rights to the definition of a word that many hold as sacred?

    Is “different but equal” truly equal? The counterpoint to defining gay unions as civil unions and marriages as…well, marriages, is that “different can never be equal”. The reality of the situation though, is that homosexuality is fundamentally different than heterosexuality. The two terms can never mean the same thing, so it would stand to reason that a heterosexual couples union would have a different name than a homosexual union.

    The pragmatic and probably most obvious solution, would be for the state to grant civil unions and marriages would be granted/performed/officiated by the church. Thus, legally we are all the same and equal, yet religious citizens would still have the rights to their tradition and definition of the word “marriage”.

  28. The word “Establishment” in the first amendment is generally interpreted by the courts to mean that the government cannot 1. establish any religious system, or 2. endorse or support any religion over another, or over irreligion (athiesm/agnosticism etc.). The “Separation of Church and State” was originally in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist Assc. at the time, in which he described the intent of the First Amendment as being to build “a wall of separation between Church & State.”

  29. Yes, Stef, plenty of people have read the First Amendment – including a host of Supreme Court Justices. The intent of the First Amendment is made abundantly clear by a wealth of supporting documents from the founding fathers, and by bills such as the Treaty of Tripoli – “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..” (Passed unanimously and without any dissenting comment).

    But I have a modest proposal. How about if you “strict constitutional” conservative geniuses have some integrity. Just abandon your hypocrisy and tell all your women they can’t vote – after all, it’s what the founding fathers would have wanted.

  30. @stef You are right that it protects religious freedom, but did you miss the first clause?

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

    This is the clause that infers “a separation of church and state”. If you read the actual original source of the that phrase, you will notice it is directly connected with this clause. See Thomas Jefferson’s original use of the phrase as archived here:
    http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpre.html

  31. Just get the goverment out of marriage! One more thing it shouldn’t have any business in.

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