The gay community had an unexpected victory last Tuesday when a Oklahoma federal judge deemed the ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. In particular, Judge Terence C. Kern, who was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1994, purported the state’s ban on gay marriage was inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause, calling it “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.” This again turns gay and straight marriage into a federal issue.
Times for celebration are also times for reflection, especially in regards to a matter as polarizing as gay marriage. Specifically, one side wants to restrict the definition of marriage to an extent that excludes a significant fraction of the population; whereas the other side wants to loosen the definition of marriage in order to receive federal benefits. Yet both parties involved often grant the same underlying assumption; namely, that the government ought to certify a marriage license.
The gay marriage debate originally set sail with the recognition that gay people do in fact exist. This recognition may seem trivial; however, for many generations, homosexuals were regarded as perverted straight people acting out of norm. Recognizing that homosexuality was not a malady in need of remedy, but an innate aspect of human nature, was a major victory for the gay-community. This is most noted by the fact that even if all the world’s homosexuals suddenly disappeared, future generations of homosexuals would still emerge. By acknowledging the existence of the gay-community, it was inevitably ask, “How do we meld this community with the rest of society?”
The heart of the debate tends to be centered upon the precise meaning of “marriage.” Opponents of gay marriage want to narrow the definition of marriage as a religious ceremony between a man and a woman. Gay rights activists want to broaden the definition of marriage as a civil-union between two people in order to receive federal benefits. The former group argues that marriage is a religious ceremony that society infringes upon, yet given this line of reasoning, marriage would have to be restricted to only those who share the faith—excluding atheists as much as homosexuals. The latter group argues that denying federal benefits to other yokes is anti-family.
The assumption that a marriage license should be issued by the state goes unwarranted by both camps. Why should the federal government be deemed an authority on such grave matters? The system never intended the federal government to act as an authority on this issue, whether the marriage is gay or otherwise. In a truly free society, a resolution to this matter would be found in the first amendment: the right to free speech. Let two people or more call themselves married so long as their definition of marriage is not imposed on anyone else. Problem solved. Debate and frigid discourse only begin to ensue once the state is involved.
The realization that homosexuals do in fact exist was a major stepping stone for the gay-community. Perhaps the next great recognition for society is realizing that a license for every aspect of life. Until then, despite the progress made in Oklahoma, debate and frigid discourse regarding the precise meaning of marriage will continue to ensue, and neither straight nor gay marriage should be a federal issue.
Editorial By Nathan Cranford