The right to marry: who is really at risk?

Today, the GLBTA community celebrates National Freedom to Marry Day. Open your eyes to your opposition.

General public discourse regarding social change and progressivism in America has remained remarkably consistent over the years. For example, for the first quarter of the twentieth century, people who opposed women’s suffrage rationalized that giving women the right to vote was an abomination before God. Almost ninety years after women earned their right to pick their candidate of choice, it seems God has preoccupied Himself with other issues. His followers have now targeted controversial topics on His behalf such as abortion, perceived decency in the media and – of course – same-sex marriage.

The proponents of any laws or constitutional amendments to restrict any legally recognized union between one man and one woman – strategically described as “defending marriage” – have had the remarkable fortune of having God on their side when building their case to prove how any marriage other than that between one man and one woman is detrimental to our society. And, granted, it has been a while since God flooded the entire earth or smote all first-born sons, yet fear of His retribution is still predominant in the hearts of a large number of people who define themselves by their faith.

Those who would use the wrath of God to change social policy have been tremendously successful in the past 10 years. Of the 50 states, 26 have laws restricting marriage to one man and one woman and 19 have constitutional amendments fulfilling the same purpose. Of those 26 states, seven passed their constitutional amendments this past November.

Today the GLBTA community celebrates National Freedom to Marry Day. Though it is not an election year where the right to have one’s love legally recognized is at risk, the goal of educating people on GLBTA issues and facilitating open-ended discourse is as important as ever. Even those in the community who do not believe marriage is an institution of which they want to be a part, the ideal of social equality in the near future fuels their drive to fight for what they feel is right.

The unfortunate truth is that, regarding the issue of marriage rights, most people have their opinions and they are not likely to change soon. Many people on both sides have such a passionate stance on the issue that contempt for the opposing side is effectively polarizing individuals and restricting discourse to petty bickering and the elimination of discussion. This includes, but is not limited to, the accusation that all religious individuals are bigoted zealots on one side and the relating of the GLBTA community to socially irresponsible sexual predators.

Progress cannot be made until people are willing to listen to each other. For this year’s National Freedom to Marry Day you are all encouraged to divorce your emotions regarding this extraordinarily divisive issue in order to understand the perceived “opposition.” For those who support marriage rights for all consenting individuals, try to understand the foundations of the convictions of those who disagree with you and learn how you might dispel those predispositions. For those who would seek to strictly define the legality and the validity of a couple in the name of God or for the sake of “family values,” question your convictions and test your faith.

Your values as a spiritual person can only become stronger by testing what you believe. All you need to do is sit down and ask yourself how you can truly serve God and what in your life is truly at risk.

Justin Jagoe is a University student and treasurer of the Queer Student Cultural Center. Please send comments to [email protected].