Marriage is a fundamental component of society. It is through marriage that we are able to understand the confines of community and to comfort ourselves in the arms of support that comes in the form of family. Throughout the history of mankind, family has served as a cornerstone for the human story. Since man came forth from the cave thousands of years ago, humanity has refused to award civil rights to all without exception.
Considering the fact that marriage is fundamental to society, and furthermore that marriage is a fundamental right, it would seem only ordinary that marriage would be a right for all couples. It seems however that my logic, although rather simplistic, has encountered a "Berlin Wall" in America's courts, legislatures, Church pews, and even living rooms. If love is a supernatural force, and if marriage is a fundamental right, then how do we as a "society" justify denying the existence of love between two people and their natural right to commit to each other in marriage?
In 1776, our Founding Fathers penned words which would define the origins of what was supposed to be the world's first democratic republic. The reality though was that America was solely an experiment, in fact it was an experiment in progress. It was amidst this experiment that countless Americans would be denied the very rights that our Founding Fathers had set out to protect. African Americans, Asian Americans, Women, disabled Americans, and countless others would be denied the core precepts of what America had claimed to guarantee in 1776.
Sadly even today as we sit together around dinner tables with family, other families seated together around similar tables, are not awarded the equality that was supposedly ensured in 1776. Some stand behind pulpits on Sundays preaching that same-sex couples are an "abomination," or "abnormal;" the question though for these preachers is, what is normal? Is there truly a definitive explanation of what God intends? Do we as human beings have the ability to determine what Jesus might say about homosexuality? With an in-depth read of the New Testament, the common reader can quickly determine that Jesus never utter one phrase about homosexuals.
Perhaps it was because Jesus practiced a ministry that was inclusive, that was open and affirming of all who listened. I felt compelled to address the religion issue, solely for the purpose of preparing for the arguments that are likely to ensue. It is clear to me that the religious right is entrenched in its view that Christianity is defiantly against homosexuality at its core; however, the stark reality is that the founder of the faith, the savior of Christians, that being Jesus, never uttered a word about homosexuality.
In terms of the legal nature of marriage though, religion has little to do with the discussion. American laws are separate from American religious life. The Constitution protects each of these institutions from the other, for to separate Church and State, is to ensure that each operates without the undue influence of the other. With such said, it is more than apparent to me that same-sex marriage is protected under the current Constitution of the United States and two important Supreme Court cases from the 20th Century.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the freedom of speech and the right of assembly. Isn't marriage a form of speech and the expression of love between two individuals? Is marriage not a process by which family and friends "assemble" to recognize the love between two individuals? It seems clear to me that if we are to interpret the Constitution as written, rather than exercise what conservatives might deem as "legislating from the bench," that the law protects the people's right to wed.
The question of love, is not only implied in the First Amendment, it has been cited in multiple Supreme Court cases. In the 20th Century, the case Loving v. Virginia determined that laws preventing interracial marriage were contrary to the rights as established under the United States Constitution. Yes, that is correct there was a time in the United States when interracial couples were denied the right to marry. Now you may ask what does this case have to do with gay marriage? The reality is that this case's decision was further expanded in the decision of Zablocki v. Redhail, in which the Court ruled that the right to marry was a fundamental right of the people.
It is in the context of this decision that I am confident that existing case law justifies gay marriage. It is under Zablocki v. Redhail that the right for gay and lesbian couples to express their commitment in the form of marriage is already protected. We are a society which commends itself for serving as the forbearer of freedom, yet we deny our own people rights that have been clearly protected in the founding documents of our country, and even more explicitly in the halls of justice.
It is imperative the America serve as a beacon of hope, not only in the sense of freedoms written in black and white, but also in the sense that freedom must be written in blue, in red, in purple, in yellow, in green, and in all of the colors that define the diversity of American culture. We must stand up and acknowledge the dignity of all of America's families, of all of America's couples.
America must fulfill its promise to be a place where equality prevails and civil rights are ensured. Gay marriage is the next steps towards ensuring that America protects the natural rights of all its citizens. Gay and lesbian Americans can no longer be marginalized, it is time for America to acknowledge the existence of all its citizens and award all its citizens the full benefits of equality.
Marriage is a fundamental component of society; marriage does not discriminate, it is a natural right, and for that reason it must be ensured for each and every American couple regardless of sexual orientation. Perhaps this is one of the freedoms that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of when he wrote "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
I demand equality.
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Joseph Amodeo, 21 years old, is a student at the University at Albany. The Advocate magazine named Joseph one of seven "Future Gay Leaders of 2006." He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, American Society of Church History, American Political Science Association, the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center and a member of the APSA Section on Health Politics and Policy. He will begin graduate studies in January 2009 at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy with research interests regarding HIV/AIDS policy.