Massachusetts took a bold step by declaring that same-sex marriages, not unions, should be allowed because singling out same-sex couples would lead to segregation and would be unconstitutional. This decision, in what may very well be the most prominent civil rights issue of our generation, broke new grounds for gay and lesbian rights in the United States.
After declaring its 4-3 ruling Wednesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a statement to give the reason behind the decision. “The dissimilitude between the terms ‘civil marriage’ and ‘civil union’ is not innocuous,” the court said, according The New York Times. “It is a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex, largely homosexual, couples to second-class status.”
The court is right in coming to this conclusion. Only two generations ago, citizens were not allowed to get married if they had different skin color. A black woman was not allowed to marry a white man, or vice versa. If they did a jail sentence was likely.
These laws may seem antiquated today, but the same outcry that the mere suggestion of same-sex couples cause today is very similar. People have to realize that two people who wish to spend their lives together as a married couple cannot be prohibited to do so because they are of the same sex. This includes barring them from all rights and duties that such a union brings with them.
Defending the right to marriage as being a “sacred” thing does not hold up if the high divorce rate is considered. If individuals of the opposite sex are allowed to marry indefinite times, there is no basis to say couples of the same sex cannot even marry once.
Almost every religion condemns homosexuality. Yet the state must protect the rights of every citizen, not just those of the majority.
The division between church and state, guaranteed by the constitution, should grant gay couples the same rights as every other citizen.
By granting such rights the state is not forcing beliefs on any religion. Countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and some provinces of Canada give gay couples the legal right to get married. This does not mean, however, that the Roman Catholic Church, for example, adopts the local laws into its beliefs in these countries. But just like the state cannot dictate the code of conduct in a religious group, religious faiths cannot be allowed to dictate the behavior of individuals wo may not even belong to their faith.
A gay wedding ban, as President George W. Bush suggested in his State of the Union address, is therefore not only unnecessary, it is unconstitutional for the reasons the Massachusetts court cited. Just because the majority does not approve of them cannot mean a large group of United States citizens is demoted to second-class status.