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In the past 35 years, impressive strides have been made toward achieving equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. By 1973, the American Psychiatric Association no longer considered homosexuality a mental disorder. Since then, homosexuality has been gradually de-stigmatized, and the antiquated laws restricting the rights of LGBT people have been re-evaluated. Still, the most significant recognition — the right to marry — is denied to same-sex couples in all but two states.
Many who oppose legalizing gay marriage understand the institution as a “sacred union between a man and a woman.” This is not a valid definition for our government to use. The government, required by the First Amendment to avoid interference with religion, cannot be involved with anything of a “sacred” nature. Such a definition may remain in churches, which are private establishments, but it does not suffice for public policy.
We are then left with a definition of marriage as a “union between a man and a woman.” Such a definition might seem practical, since most couples are heterosexual, and their relations allow for the reproduction of our species. But the fact that most relationships are heterosexual does not necessitate that all marriages be so. The Constitution stresses majority rule and minority rights. Furthermore, marriage does not exist for facilitating reproduction; otherwise, infertile women and sterile men would be forbidden from marrying.
Others argue that the traditional family unit is the foundation of our civilization, and that to aid homosexuals in forming families by granting them marriage rights undermines the government, national security and the health of America’s children. On the contrary, the American Society of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and others have all concluded that children raised in same-sex households are as healthy and loved as those in heterosexual households.
If we take out all offending parts, we are left with a definition of marriage as “a union between two people.” We cannot deny LGBT Americans their right to pursue happiness in this fashion other than by defining them as somehow less than people.
It is sometimes suggested that same-sex couples should be given all the rights of marriage. But in order to leave the earlier definition intact or to avoid conflict, it should be called a civil union. But are civil unions and marriages really equal? Does “marriage” not have a more positive connotation, and, if so, are we not endorsing heterosexuality?
The Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” By that reasoning, we cannot justify having different institutions for people of different sexual orientations.
Shaun Poust is a freshman journalism major. E-mail him at email@example.com.