Columns / Discourse / November 7, 2012

Gay rights: not a fad

Although talk about same-sex marriage has decreased a bit due to the closeness of the presidential election, same-sex marriage remains a hot-button issue for many. With the majority of states having considered the issue on their ballots in the last decade and a half (and four states asking their electorate this year), it is clear that the political issue will not be going away anytime soon.

It’s not surprising that the question of whether two people of the same sex should be allowed to get married has drawn the attention of religious and secular groups alike. By now, most readers have heard many of the steadfast arguments both sides hold dear, and odds are have made up their mind to a certain extent. I, however, believe there to be only one problem with the movement to get same-sex marriages legalized.

The issue is simple: it goes way back in the history of the United States. The problem of legalizing same-sex marriage is that America, as a whole, would once again have to admit that it was on the wrong side of equality.

One of the founding principles of this country is, surprisingly, the principle that has caused the most problems throughout its brief history. America started out on what today would be considered incredibly unequal and biased laws. These laws dictated that during the country’s first presidential election all the way up to the mid-19th century, only white, male property owners were allowed to vote. The passage of the 15th and 19th amendments that finally allowed men and women of all races to vote did not happen until the 1920s.

While it took a long time, Americans finally understood the simple act of not allowing all citizens to vote denied them equal rights. Looking through the prism of today’s thinking, it seems incredulous that it took so long for America to rectify those rights. Years from now, many will wonder why it took us so long to accept same-sex marriage.

Another parallel to today’s fight over same-sex marriage is that of interracial marriage in the mid to late 20th century. This comparison does an important thing: it refocuses us on what is actually being fought over — human rights. The rhetoric that same-sex marriage is about “ruining marriage,” “redefining gender roles” or simply “a fad” is ludicrous.

There are over 1,000 federal rights, benefits and protections granted to persons legally married in the U.S., ranging from tax breaks to the granting of citizenship. These are rights given only to those legally married in the United States, something that two men or two women cannot legally do.

The issue of same-sex marriage has nothing to do with religions’ intrusion or societal breakdown. It is all about allowing every American to exercise the rights entitled by the federal government. The problem with gay marriage is simple: we as Americans must admit that yet again we have been on the wrong side of equality. We’ve been wrong in denying people voting rights and civil rights. But eventually, America came to understand that these philosophies were fundamentally incompatible with our values  and needed to be corrected.

There have been pushes across the decades to ensure our fundamental equality, and it’s time to make a big one for gay rights. The end to segregation took sit-ins, marches and an overwhelming outcry for equality. What will it take for same-sex marriage?

Payton Rose
Senior Payton Rose is a political science major with minors in creative writing and Spanish. This is his first year working for The Knox Student as discourse editor. He has written a political column for TKS for two years.

Tags:  gay marriage rights same-sex United States vote

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