Marriage Equality gets a beating

I’m sitting now watching the web cast of the New York State Court of Appeals hearing on cases regarding marriage equality for same-sex couples. The hearings occured earlier today.

I’ve only watched so far as to see two of the attorneys arguing for marriage equality. In what I have seen, marriage equality has gotten a beating. Question after question from the panel of judges consistently butted against the arguments being made by the attorneys. One even started to ask about polygamy and bigamy, almost going to the point of insinuating that marriage equality for same-sex couples would open the door to marriage equality for bigamous couples.

One judge asked why a state-wide civil union arrangement would not work. The attorneys responded by saying that, of course, many of the equal protection issues would be resolved by offering civil unions, only if those benefits and privileges were exactly the same as those offered by civil marriage. The attorneys were quick to add that civil unions would not work because it creates a sense of second-class citizenship placing LGBT couples and citizens in a different class or state of being (aka, “separate but equal” – which doesn’t work, remember?). The attorneys were also quick to say that the simple word “marriage” carries with it a certain weight and honor. There is a distinct difference in society between couples being married or simply living together or being commited to one another.

A couple of judges also kept asking why the New York state legislature is not dealing with this issue instead of the court. Although the attorneys tried to answer these questions the judges would hardly give them the chance to do so, cutting their answers off only to supply them with another question.

The answer as to why the state legislature cannot deal with this issue is simple. The legislatures of almost all of our states have consistently shown bias and prejudice against same-sex couples and LGBT citizens. From failures to enact laws protecting LGBT persons from employment, housing and health-care discrimination to enacting laws (and sometimes state constitutional amendments) prohibiting marriage equality, it is clear that state legislatures are not willing to fairly deal with the issues of equality and justice for all American citizens.

The issues are often clouded in the state and federal legislatures. Many legislators and elected representatives often mix religious or faith issues into arguments based simply on civil issues. The civil institution of marriage, as regulated by the government, should not be held hostage to the religious or spiritual beliefs upheld by a certain faith group or institution.

I would go as far to say that by prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples, the government not only denies equal protection and due process for all of its citizens (as being argued by the attorneys in New York), but that it also denies freedom of religion and its free practice. While many faith groups and institutions do look unfavorably on marriages for same-sex couples, there are many other faith groups and institutions which would allow and bless same-sex couples wishing to be married, if only the government recognized that right.

By excluding same-sex couples from marriage, the government is taking sides with those religious and faith groups who hold the same views. As we all know, the government should not be using religious philosophy or religious beliefs to dictate public policy. The policy of government should be based solely on civil matters. When legislators and elected representatives rely upon arguments such as “God ordained marriage as between man and woman,” government is undeniably taking a certain religious ideology to define law. By taking out all religious arguments, it is clear to see that no other valid legal or scientific argument exists to deny marriage to same-sex couples.

If a religious or faith group doesn’t want to perform a civil marriage for a same-sex couple, then they shouldn’t be forced into doing so. If another religious or faith group was willing to perform such a ceremony, however, it shouldn’t be denied, as it is under current law.
Allowing same-sex couples to marry would provide these families with the same benefits and privileges to allow them to take adequate care of their partners and children in the same way straight couples can. Allowing same-sex couples to marry provides the full equal protection guaranteed by the federal Constitution and state constitutions.

Everyone knows that marriage equality for same-sex couples is inevitable, although the wait is sometimes unbearable for LGBT individuals and especially for those same-sex couples already waiting for the right. We all know that the anti-LGBT marriage amendment in the US Senate will fail next week. A similar state amendment is expected (or at least I hope it is expected) to fail in the North Carolina legislature.

Time will bring change. I only wish time moved more quickly.

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