The issue of same-sex marriage is an argument that all of us have heard, and most of us have strong opinions on. I know very few people that don’t have a preference of legalization or not. Personally, I believe that homosexuals should be granted the same rights as heterosexual couples. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “marriage is a basic human right. You cannot tell people they cannot fall in love.” While he said this in reference to marriage between races, the same can be said about homosexuals. Who are we to allow some people to get married, and tell others they cannot. However, regardless of my beliefs, I would first like to provide some background on the history of same-sex marriage.
Years ago, homosexuality was unacceptable. Most that were gay hid it from others and did not act upon it. They married the opposite gender to live out a “normal” life. There are many instances of homosexuals being prosecuted and discriminated against. At one point, homosexuality was considered a mental illness as recognized by the DSM of Psychology. Slowly, being gay became more acceptable, and homosexuals fought for more rights, and eventually the right to marry.
The fight for the allowance of same-sex marriages has been a long process, and just recently the issue is coming more into the light of current politics. In 1942, in Skinner v. Oklahoma, the US Supreme Court ruled that marriage is one of the basic civil rights. Civil Rights are rights that cover all genders, no matter the sexuality of the individual. Another Supreme Court case in 1967, Loving v. Virginia, affirmed that “the freedom to marry has long since been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” These court cases have paved the way for same-sex couples to fight for equal marriage rights, and were the catalysts that gave homosexuals some hope to right for their right to marry.
In 1993 in Hawaii, Judge Kevin Chang ruled that there was no good reason to deny marriage licenses to gay couples. Although the Hawaiian legislature then amended their constitution to ban gay marriage, this was the first instance where a decision was made in favor of it. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to grant marriage licenses to gay couples. Since then, 9 states plus Washington D.C. have legalized gay marriage. Some states, however, can’t seem to make up their minds on the issue of same-sex marriage.
California is for most of us the state that comes to mind when the issue of same-sex marriage comes about. California especially has held an extremely irresolute stand on the issue. In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Newsom ordered marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples, although these were later deemed invalid. When the Californian legislature passed a legalizing bill, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger immediately vetoed it. In 2008, the Californian Supreme Court ruled that marriage must be equally available to all types of couples, and same-sex couples were allowed marriage licenses until Proposition 8 was passed, again banning gay marriage. These events illustrate the strong divisions between supporters and opponents of the issue. California seems to be teasing homosexuals, getting their hopes up only to tear them back down again. Could they please just make up their mind already?
On a more federal level, Bill Clinton passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which stated that the federal government defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but does not require any states to accept this definition nor does it ban any state from allowing same-sex marriage. However, federal opinion can greatly sway the opinions of state legislatures. Opponents of same-sex marriage have been trying to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment to the US constitution, officially defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, but have (luckily) failed to gain support.
Supporters of gay marriage have fought a long battle, and gone through lots of ups and downs. Hopefully, in the next years, gay marriage will be legal, and we will see it as Dr. Martin Luther King once dreamed we would see marriage between whites and blacks-a completely normal.