I share articles on Facebook about opposing Minnesota’s proposed “Defense of Marriage” amendment quite often, and now that I’m engaged to be married myself, the relevance of this issue strikes even deeper. I recognize that there are emotional, moral, and religious dilemmas surrounding the issue. For the purposes of my argument here, I’ll stick to strictly the constitutional aspects surrounding it. If you support the “Defense of Marriage” amendment, and by that I mean plan to vote “yes” on November 6th, please take a moment to read.
Our founding fathers created this great country with a few simple principles. One of those is freedom of religion. Part of the first amendment is the Establishment Clause, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This works two fold in regards to the “Defense of Marriage” amendment.
The Establishment Clause works to the benefit of those religious establishments who feel they are defending marriage, it prevents the state from forcing them to do things against their beliefs, such as marrying gay couples or recognizing said marriages. Regardless of the passage or defeat of this amendment, that will remain true. However, it also prevents the state from establishing laws which would *prevent* churches from being allowed to marry gay couples if they so chose. While many Christian religions prohibit same-sex religious unions, there are many other religions and non-religious organizations that do not. Even if every religion prohibited it, that’s not the point. Our constitution isn’t supposed to be a codification of the bible or any religious teaching. It’s supposed to be devoid of specific religious influence, and protect the basic civil and human rights of its people.
While the essence of democracy is majority rule, our founding fathers were foresighted enough to put protections into our government system to ensure that the majorities rule could not encroach onto the rights of others. The passage of this amendment would violate one of the very principles of our constitution by preventing religious expression of those establishments that accept same-sex unions.
Next year I’ll be marrying the person I love: a wonderful asian woman. As recently as 1966, this would have been illegal. Many states had Jim Crow laws which prohibited marriage between races. In the case of Loving v. Virginia of 1967, it was determined that marriage was a “basic civil right of man.” My thanks goes out to those brave men and women who stood up to the persecutions of the past, so that I can marry the love of my life now. Denying marriage based on race was wrong then – denying it based on sexual orientation is wrong today.
The “Defense of Marriage” campaign is focused on opposing a “redefinition of marriage” to exclude same-sex couples. When our founding fathers laid out the constitution of our great country, the idea of a “civil union” was hardly a concept, let alone something one could outwardly practice. The word “marriage” was the obvious choice for describing unions between two people, and to establish the benefits thereof. I believe wholeheartedly that if they had seen todays outcome of using the word “marriage,” they would have opted for “civil union” for everyone – you would have gotten “married in a church” and “unioned” in the state.
However, even with the formation of civil unions as an alternative to marriage in some states, Minnesota does not allow civil unions between same-sex couples. Furthermore, in states that allow civil unions, the couples engaged in them are still be denied benefits at both a state and federal level. For a complete outline of exactly what benefits they are excluded from, check out the link below.
By legally defining the word “marriage” to strictly require a man and a woman, we will have excluded same-sex couples from hundreds of laws and benefits that are predicated on the word “marriage”. This would include all the federal and state benefits that apply to marriages. Modifying the laws to include “civil unions” and “marriage” would not only be difficult, it would ultimately create the “separate but equal” situation deemed unconstitutional during the civil rights movements of the past.
Other states have passed similar amendments. California and Massachusetts are tied up in expensive legal battles regarding the passage of similar “Defense of Marriage Amendments.” They have been deemed unconstitutional in both state courts, are on their way to the US Supreme Court.
This amendment issue *not* about the redefinition of a word. Its about continuing the conversation on expanding the meaning of that word to everyone – love, commitment and family. And that is why, this November, I am voting no to the “Defense of Marriage” amendment.
Boston Court rules Defense of Marriage unconstitutional
Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
An Overview of Federal Rights and Protections Granted to Married Couples