Thursday, February 23, 2012

Love Is Natural, Hatred Is Learned

Two alcoholic heterosexuals get married. They produce a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. This marriage has the blessings of both state and church. Two men or two women who want to marry each other, who are upstanding members of their communities and have adopted and raised productive children, are prohibited in most states and allowed civil unions, which are inferior to marriage in fact and in law, in a few.

This is equality under the law?

Marriage equality will be the law of the land sometime in the future but, for most gays and lesbians, justice delayed is justice denied. How can this be? How can a country that promises freedom and civil rights for all of its citizens continue to deny basic rights to a sizable group?

Opponents say that being gay is unnatural and that there's something inherently wrong with loving someone of the same gender. That's exactly wrong. Love is one of the most natural processes humans have. You don't even have to think about it. It just happens from the time we're born and lasts throughout our life.

Hatred and discrimination, on the other hand, are unnatural. We need to remember that people are not born anti-gay. Discrimination and hatred are learned behaviors and most children learn them from the very adults who claim to be fair, just and responsible. And why are these adults anti-gay? Some are frightened or threatened or jealous or ignorant or all of the above. Some use a rigid cultural definition of what constitutes a family. Some are offended by how other people show their love. Some use a deity as a weapon to threaten and marginalize.

The religious argument strikes me as utter hypocrisy. How can we love the sinner but hate the sin? Isn't that attitude responsible for sanctioned discrimination and actions against homosexuals? The same goes for the social argument that the right wing peddles. How can the party that lives on freedom and keeping the government out of our lives continue to preach that government should deny marriage equality? Both groups have made the claim that allowing gays to marry would damage heterosexual marriage. In fact, the opposite is true. Marriage has been shown to make families more stable and productive, strengthens commitments to social values, and provides for economic expansion as people make purchases for different stages of life. Gender preference has nothing to do with how we love our family members or how firmly we commit to them.

The more compelling democratic argument is that every adult should be able to marry the person they love, adopt children and be protected by all laws and rights that all other adults have, including economic rights and privileges.  A federal court decision on Wednesday used an employment benefits case to determine that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White was unambiguous in its defense of liberty and equality:

"The imposition of subjective moral beliefs of a majority upon a minority cannot provide a justification for the legislation. The obligation of the Court is 'to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code,'" White wrote. "Tradition alone, however, cannot form an adequate justification for a law....The 'ancient lineage” of a classification does not render it legitimate....Instead, the government must have an interest separate and apart from the fact of tradition itself."

 On February 7th, a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that:

“Proposition 8 (which denied homosexuals the right to marry) served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California."

These courts have it exactly right. Denying citizens their full rights because of who they love is utter nonsense. The history of the United States shows us to be a country of inclusive rights. To have candidates for the highest office in the land proudly proclaim their preference for discrimination, hatred and disdain is obnoxious, offensive and backwards. Marriage equality is on its way. Let's make it sooner rather than later.

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