I think this is one of the most divisive issues facing the people of this country today. Gay marriage has been outlawed in 32 states, including Hawaii, where the denial of a marriage license to gay couples was ruled as unconstitutional in 1993. That state passed gay marriage legislation in 1998. Massachusetts is currently the only state to allow gay marriages, and their Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that this would only apply to residents. Vermont is the only state that allows Civil Unions, and Arizona recently rejected a same sex marriage measure. The only states that have not addressed the issue with any sort of statute or amendment to their constitutions are: Arizona, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, Massachussetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The Federal government enacted the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 (signed into law by President Clinton), which bars any same sex couple from the receipt of federal benefits. With an issue as volatile as same sex marriage, it is understandable that few solutions have been proposed.
It is with this wave of legislation, and in discussion with conservatives, that I believe I have an understanding of the real issue. The question I have been asking is whether or not the issue is purely religious, or is it out of a genuine desire to deny same sex couples equal benefits. The resounding answer has been that the only problem conservatives really have with gay marriage, is a religous one. Being an atheist, this is obviously hard for me to understand. What I have been trying to do, rather than stay the course (couldn't help myslef), is to find real solutions for the problems we are facing today. I think that if more people tried to do that, then we might actually start seeing change, and people could start to have faith in something more than their god, they could start having faith in their government.
With the same ferocity that religious groups fight the idea of gay marriage, homosexuals understandably reject the idea of civil unions. The thought that any American is denied a right is repugnant, but marriage isn't a civil right. If it were me, anything less than what another is offered, is unacceptable and discriminatory. This is what makes it so hard to understand how so many people in this country approve of bans on same sex marriage. How could anyone deny something as personal as marriage to another, after all, isn't what happens in the bedroom off limits to legislation? But what I've come to understand is that the right doesn't see marriage as something that CAN be offered to homosexuals. Their faith doesn't allow it, and so they can't understand the idea either.
If it truly is a religious issue, then I believe I can offer a solution. Marriage is a religious instituion. It was founded within organized religion, and is mired with its rituals and rules. At some point along the way, the institution became one recognized as a secular one. It offers us tax incentives, and has an entire court devoted to it. The concept of family itself is only granted by someone holding a license, who is married someone else with a license. I can certainly understand why incentives are offered to families. The median household income in the United States hovers around $50,000. The keyword being household. If families are to ever make it, and if children are going to get the opportunities they deserve in order to become useful, productive members of our society, then we owe it to them to help in any way we can. However, the presence of children is not what defines a family, just as Marriage doesn't. So I offer this. Remove government from marriage altogether. If it is a religious institution, then let it be. No more licenses, no more state sanctioned marriage. Let the church marry who they believe can be, or should be, and everyone else can obtain a civil union, whether it is a man and a woman, a man and a man, etc. If benefits are not an issue, then extend them to everyone, whether that is a product of a marriage or a civil union. If the Church chooses not to marry homosexuals, then maybe that should be a clue as to what they should believe, but they would be on equal ground with everyone else who obtains a civil union. No person should feel like they are less than another in this country, and it's unfortunate that their are institutions like organized religion that preach this everyday. I'm hopeful that one day I will live in a country where no person is discriminated against by this government.