Since President Barack Obama’s May 9th announcement of his support for gay marriage, the issue of gay rights has once again caught the media limelight. The president stated ‘for me personally… I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.’ President Obama’s comments have reignited a debate that is essential for the United States to have. This is not only referring to the constitutional rights of gay people, but also to the big question of how much power the government has over the actions of its citizens. Clips of the interview can be viewed at http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/president-obama-affirms-support-gay-marriage-abc-news-16313266.
President Obama has also stated that he believes the issue of gay marriage is not one that is going to be solved on the federal level but rather is contingent on the beliefs and paradigms of each separate state. Implicit in this statement is Obama’s claim that gay marriage is not a constitutional issue. But is this really true?
If we look back at historical precedents for anti-discrimination rulings, a case that comes to mind is Loving vs. Virginia, brought to the Virginia Supreme Court in 1966. This case did not deal with gay marriage but it did look at another form of marriage which was frowned upon in the era- interracial marriage. The ruling in the case was that ‘marriage has traditionally been subject to state regulation… and consequently, regulation of marriage should be left to exclusive control by the 10th Amendment.’
However, the case wasn’t left under state jurisdiction, and was taken up to the Supreme Court in 1967. There the Virginia ban on interracial marriage was overturned, under the premise that it went against the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th amendment. The chief justice in that case, Earl Warren, stated that ‘marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival.’
It would seem that in the current age we are dealing with a similar problem. The state is attempting to restrict the freedom of choice that an individual has. Although the act of gay marriage is looked down on by religious organizations, what has happened to the separation of church and state? And more importantly, what has happened to protecting the age old saying, ‘the church has no place in the bedrooms of its citizens?’
There would undoubtedly be a serious issue with allowing same sex marriage to occur if there was any kind of research done proving it was detrimental to the well-being of children raised in the household, to give one example. This was the reason that the case of FLDS’s polygamy in Bountiful, British Columbia received so much attention and criticism. Nevertheless, in the case of gay marriage, a US District Court Judge, Vaughn R. Walker, investigated the claims of detriments to children in 1989 in an evidentiary hearing and found absolutely nothing to support the claim that same sex parents cannot raise well integrated and thoughtful children.
As it stands now, the United States is at a position where it should make a universal ruling on same sex marriage. There are thousands of individuals who are negatively affected by the ban on marriage, both emotionally and financially. If in fact banning gay marriage is going against the 14th Amendment, the ban must be struck down given that it is simply unconstitutional.
For more information, here are some resources to reference:
Loving vs. Virginia Supreme Court case: http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/388/1/case.html
FLDS polygamy case: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/11/15/2011BCSC1588.htm