Same-sex marriage opponents should review history

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The same sex marriage issue appears on a regular basis in the news lately. Currently there are 17 states plus the District of Columbia where same-sex marriages are legal. The most recent headlines are regarding Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. It was found to be unconstitutional in December 2013, but the Supreme Court put the ruling on hold on January 6, 2014 until further appeals could be heard.

Marriage Equality sign found on Facebook and is on many personal as well as group pages.
Marriage Equality sign
found on Facebook and is on many personal as well as group pages.

Anonymously I have spoken with people who oppose same-sex marriage and some of their reasons are based on a poor understanding of ballot measures and an overall misunderstanding of history. These conversations mostly took place online in chat rooms.  If the following opinions are any indication of how people are thinking about this subject, then opponents should review both their ballot measures and history.

Some people voted against bills regarding the approval of same-sex marriages because they think the laws will force their church to marry people of the same gender in church ceremonies. Church and state are separate here in the United States. The marriage laws are regarding civil laws. If a law is passed in your state granting people of the same sex to marry each other, then this ceremony can take place civilly. This law does not force any church to perform a marriage in their house of worship.

It is the same in reverse: getting married in a church does not mean a couple is married in the eyes of the law. The only way people married in church are legally recognized is if the couple files for the proper licensing in their state, meet the age requirements (of their state) and so on.

Lady Liberty photo found on many Facebook pages.
Lady Liberty photo found on many Facebook pages.

There are many people who have been married “in the eyes of God,” but are not legally married. Rules of the Church do not dictate to the state what they need to require for civil marriages and civil marriages do not dictate to churches regarding their marriage laws.

One of my favorite “reasons” I hear why same-sex marriage should not be legalized is because it is “unnatural.”  Interesting, I seem to remember reading similar reasons given for why whites and non-whites should not be legally allowed to marry one another. This was the case as late as 1967.  There were laws on the books stating that not only was marriage between a white and non-white against the law, but even cohabitation was a crime, or more specifically, a felony.

These laws, known as anti-miscegenation laws, ended up being repealed due to a case in 1967 known as Loving vs. Virginia. The Supreme Court overturned these types of laws stating that anti-miscegenation laws were a violation of the 14th Amendment and therefore unconstitutional.

Here is a brief summary of the 14th Amendment: Citizenship was granted to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” This also included slaves who had recently become free. Moreover, the amendment forbids any state from denying anyone “life, liberty or property, without due process of law,” or to “deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Thanks to the ratification of the 14th Amendment back on July 9, 1868, the civil rights of all Americans were greatly increased.

Notice the amendment extends to all people. There is no language that states it only protects whites or heterosexuals or those people who follow the laws of the Bible. The language of the amendment states that its coverage extends to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” This may be shocking to some people, but homosexuals born or naturalized in the United States would fall under the protection of the 14 Amendment.

Art created by Tim Forkes
Art created by Tim Forkes

Based on the wording, “deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws,” how could anyone question any human being’s right to get married in the United States?

There was a time in this country when whites and non-whites were segregated. This is no longer the case. There was a time when men of color could not vote. This is no longer the case. There was a time when children were considered no more important than a farm animal; this is no longer the case. There was a time when women could not vote or own property in their own name. There was also a time when it was quite acceptable for a man to beat his wife and not fear any type of repercussions. However, those laws have long since been repealed.

The day is not too far off when all people will be allowed to freely marry any person of their choosing, whether that person be their same-sex, same ethnicity, same color or not.