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Marriage laws should change with times

Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize marriages between two people of the same sex July 15, joining the ranks of only a handful of nations worldwide that have done the same.

Why can’t the U.S. be a part of that select club that offers equal marriage rights to all people? As one of the world’s most progressive nations, America should be at the forefront of human rights. While there are significant cultural, legislative and religious barriers to equal marriage rights, what happened in Argentina can and should happen here.

But the fight will be difficult. After all, won’t allowing homosexuals to wed undermine the sanctity of the institution of marriage? No, not really. Massachusetts, bastion of sin and home to the liberal elite, actually has the lowest divorce rate in the nation. Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004.

Consider, however, the states where divorce rates rose during the same period. Of the 19 states that experienced increases in divorce, 15 have amended their state constitutions to ban gay marriage. So much for the sanctity of marriage. Isn’t there a saying about rocks and glass houses?

Some might say that homosexuality is immoral. However, that is a personal belief and should stay that way. The fact that many states codified discriminatory bans in their laws and constitutions is concerning.

In 1998, Alaska instituted the first constitutional amendment against gay marriage, and many other states have followed suit. It can’t be that there were no homosexuals in the U.S. before then. Those amendments were seemingly geared to discourage the natural flow of civil rights.

Resistance against gay marriage rights exists in Argentina. Before last week’s historic vote, the Catholic church and evangelical groups coordinated a concerted campaign against legalization and brought 60,000 marchers to bear on the Argentine Congress, according to the Associated Press. Yet, that opposition was overcome via the democratic process.

What happened there can happen here. In 2003, a Pew poll found that 59 percent of Americans opposed gay marriage, nearly double the 32 percent that supported it. Yet in April 2009, only five years later, an ABC/Washington Post poll found support of gay marriage exceeding its opposition for the first time – 49 percent to 46 percent.

This tremendous upswing in support for gay rights indicates an open-mindedness that didn’t exist even a few years ago. Indeed, five states now allow same-sex marriage, and eight others allow civil unions.

Similar civil rights’ struggles took time and caused much social conflict. Expect the fight for gay marriage rights in America to be no different, but expect it to succeed.

Vincent DeFrancesco is a junior majoring in mass communications.