Thursday, May 10, 2012

...and it's about time! Obama on Gay Marriage

President Barack Obama has finally landed on one side of the debate.  It's about time, and I'm glad he went the way he did.

In my humble opinion - there is no such thing as a humble opinion, but that's how the phrase goes - this should never have been a debate in the first place.

There are recorded instances of people marrying strange things: their dogs, a llama, what have you.  I've never been certain whether these instances were publicity stunts or not, because the people doing them were usually rich and charitably described as "eccentric."  They were uncommon and a little strange, and viewed as entertaining and essentially harmless.

But now, with the greater coming-out of the nation's homosexual population, there are more and more people who, having come to grips with the fact that they're gay, are wondering why they aren't entitled to the same rights as other people.  It's strange we can look quizzically but without rancor on some dotty old rich lady marrying her prize Schnauzer, but get all up in arms when two perfectly normal, younger people want to commit themselves to each other.  Both people being the same species, you'd think it wouldn't be that big a deal.

Take note of those words: "entitled," and "rights."  We'll dig more into those in a moment.  Another word that's pretty important is "marriage."

For the longest time, the word "marriage" wasn't defined in a sex-specific way.  The word simply meant the legal union of two people in an ongoing commitment.  It doesn't speak to emotions or sentiment.  It only describes a legal state.  Genders of participants aren't discussed.  Biological prerequisites aren't part of the marriage terms.  It's more of a economic definition than anything else.

What comes with the legal recognition of marriage?  Well, not much.  A different taxation scheme for starters, certain advantages when shopping for insurance.  It doesn't add up to a lot, but it's real.  There are certain privileges under law that married couples enjoy, which are not extended to unmarried couples. I say unmarried couples, regardless of orientation.

Here's where things get hairy.

As soon as you start to try to legally define marriage as a one-man-one-woman thing, it starts to smack of sexism and unequal rights.  That's hard to defend.  If you try to back it up by bringing the Bible or any other religious text into the mix, that starts to look like mixing a little church in with your state.  Can't do that either.

Well, you can - Islamic countries do it all the time.  There's a model we're all just dying to emulate, right?  Okay, maybe not.

Here's where I come down on this whole silly issue: who are gay people?  They're Americans, right?  Sure, they pay taxes, join the military (don't tell anyone!), vote...all the stuff other citizens do.  They shop and read newspapers and go to church or don't bother.  They're people.

I thought people who were citizens of this country had equal rights under the law.  All of them.  Women can vote, gays can serve in the armed forces, et cetera.  So where, exactly, do we draw a line saying gay people can't get married? 

Either give them every right they're entitled to - entitled under the law, the law that applied to them as soon as they were born - or tell them to their faces they aren't actually people.  Because the law and the rights apply to people.  Not gay people, not black people, not chosen people.  ALL people.  All the rights apply to all the people, or none of the rights are worth anything.  They're either rights, or they're privileges arbitrarily awarded by the government.

And you sure as hell don't want the government to start thinking our rights are actually privileges. 

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