Two Years Ago Today, Same-Sex Marriage Became Legal in the U.S.

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On the anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, deconstructing the common arguments against same-sex marriage.

From the moment the Fourteenth Amendment was enacted, the United States has guaranteed both due process and equal protection under the law. In the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, this equal protection was finally extended to same-sex couples in all fifty states.

The case was a culmination of the gradual shift in public opinion regarding gay couples that had been afoot for years prior. A year later, Pope Francis himself released a paper indicating a significant relaxation of the church’s stance on same-sex marriage, among other long-discouraged practices such as divorce.

However, despite the change in our national sentiment, gay marriage still has, and indeed always will have, passionate detractors.

An argument by Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, outlines the defense of traditional marriage quite eloquently. He notes that, “Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces,” and he is certainly correct that there are some biological realities to consider.

He also argues that legalization of gay marriage would, “coerce and compel others to recognize and affirm same-sex relationships as marriages.”

Thirdly, Anderson claims that a child will be disadvantaged if it is reared by a same-sex couple, a claim shared by the American College of Pediatricians. Finally, though not explicitly stated in Anderson’s article, it is often claimed that the legalization of same-sex marriage would constitute an infringement of states’ rights.

When considering the first argument, it is important to note that society’s concept of marriage is constantly shifting. The union between man and woman is merely a stage of that concept. It was not too long ago that society considered marriage to be a union between man and woman, provided both parties were of the same race. Only fifty years ago, the Supreme Court overturned a conviction of miscegenation of a white man and his black wife in Loving v. Virginia.

Anderson’s second claim, while slightly vague, could be interpreted to mean that the government would be forcing private citizens to fund tax breaks for marital couples they find morally impermissible. However, many Americans pay into a system they find immoral. Pacifists bankroll the military, white supremacists fund welfare programs for disadvantaged minorities, and indeed, homosexual couples financially support a government who grants tax-exempt status to the church.

The third claim is rather forceful when considering the concurrence of the College of Pediatricians. However, the College notes that, “Social science evidence purporting to establish equivalence in child outcomes for children raised by a married mother and father compared to children raised by same-sex couples is severely limited and, in fact, may disclose significant differences in these outcomes.”

But even if these “differences in… outcomes” are taken as a given, laws have traditionally avoided making their judgements on the basis of predicted childcare outcomes.

If we were to uphold traditional marriage for the above reason, it would follow that we must outlaw parental separation as well, an outcome that would outlandishly chill our personal liberty. The final common claim in favor of traditional marriage, related to state’s rights, is in fact errant based on legal precedent, exemplified in the aforementioned Loving v. Virginia as well as its precursor Meyer v. State of Nebraska.

Frankly, each of the arguments advanced by marriage traditionalists, while valid, fail to adequately mask their true origin.

If posed the simple question of “Why do you care?” it is doubtful that a traditional marriage advocate would cite a true feeling of involvement and care for the children raised by same-sex couples.

Instead they would reveal that their convictions are instead conveyed by a higher power. In a 2015 study, the Pew Research Institute found that “85% of those who are religiously unaffiliated favor same-sex marriage” compared to 57% support overall. Religion is the most powerful force in the history of mankind, and it still makes its presence felt on a bevy of social issues.

In many ways, the fight against same-sex marriage is reminiscent of the prohibition days. The government caves to the impassioned pontificating of religious individuals, restricts individual freedoms, then later reverses. We have long accepted the strict separation of church and state, why would we want to go back now?

Ben Katzman is a student at Davidson College.

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