Now, more than ever, same-sex marriage is at the forefront of American politics. And for that reason, I’ve been hesitant to tackle this issue in a column of its own. Because same-sex marriage is prominent in people’s minds when they think of LGBTQ issues, I wanted to use this column to discuss topics that haven’t had as much of a spotlight. But after the amazing victories we’ve seen in the past couple weeks, I just had to make an exception.
Two of our European allies are making strides to pass marriage equality in their parliaments. In France, the National Assembly approved the “marriage-for-all” bill that legalizes same-sex marriage as well as adoption rights for same-sex couples. If this bill passes the Senate, it will be a big win for Socialist president François Hollande, who was a huge advocate for marriage equality during his campaign in last year’s election.
Just across the English Channel, marriage equality is also making its way through British Parliament. The House of Commons voted in favor of legislation for same-sex marriage earlier this month. If the bill passes, same-sex couples will be able to get married in both England and Wales.
Back here in the States, Illinois just passed a marriage equality bill in its Senate. If the bill makes it to the desk of Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois will become the tenth state, including the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex marriages. That would mean a fifth of our country would allow same-sex couples to marry, which would be an amazing feat for the LGBTQ community.
At the end of March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on both Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, on March 26 and 27 respectively. This is a monumental moment for the LGBTQ community and same-sex marriage advocates, because this will be the first time the Supreme Court will discuss the issue. If the Supreme Court rules Proposition 8 unconstitutional, then same-sex couples will once again be able to marry in California. If the Supreme Court rules the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, the federal government will have to recognize same-sex marriages in the states that allow them. But if either of these rulings go the other way, it will be a devastating loss in the gay rights movement.
Considering how this nation has advanced tremendously in the past 100 years in securing equal rights, I’m flabbergasted that in 2013 we are still debating whether or not we should allow a minority group the same rights that have been given to the majority.
In 25 states, first cousins have the legal right to wed, yet in only nine states are same-sex couples allowed that same freedom. That statistic seems to be an apparent contradiction in the argument that allowing same-sex couples to marry “destroys the sanctity of marriage.”
Also, the notion that civil unions are a reasonable alternative to marriage for same-sex couples is unacceptable. Civil unions do not grant the same rights marriages do, such as health-care benefits, differences on filing taxes and Social Security survival benefits. On top of these discrepancies, civil unions are not recognized in other states or on a federal level.
Even though same-sex couples can be in committed, honest relationships similar to those of their heterosexual counterparts, they aren’t treated equally under the law. That injustice cannot stand. One day we will live in a world where marriage is not restricted by heteronormative legislation and ideology. We must continue in our fight to secure marriage equality so that day can come sooner rather than later.