If you caught the last Republican presidential candidate debate, or have been living anywhere in this country for the past 10 years, you will have noticed that gay marriage is going to be one of those “hot-button topics” for the next election. (Has anyone ever actually touched a button that was hot? Can we come up with a new phrase? Really, we’re going to be quite sick of it by 2012).
One of the fundamental questions surrounding the gay marriage debate is whether or not gay marriage is a right or a privilege. Again, for those who have been living under a rock: gay marriage opponents say it is a privilege and therefore not extended to everyone (aka people wishing to enter into a same sex marriage), proponents say it is a privilege and therefor open to everybody.
If we all flash back to elementary school, we can remember how teachers used to love to say the phrase, “_______ is a privilege, not a right.” “Going on field trips is a privilege, not a right.” “Sitting with your friends at lunch is a privilege, not a right.” We are born with rights; we are granted privileges later in life.
So let’s say that marriage is a privilege. What do you have to do to “earn” that privilege in, oh let’s say Virginia, cause that’s where I got married and those are the laws I know.
You have to be over 18 and have parental consent. You have to pay $30. You have to do it in person. You have to not be married currently. You have to be one man and one woman.
There’s definitely not a lot you have to do to “earn” it, besides wait 18 (or heck 16 years if Mom and Dad are on board) and come up with $30 sometime in the meantime. Being of a certain gender? Well that’s not really something you can control.
Heck, there isn’t a lot you can do to lose this “privilege” either. Even a death row inmate can get married. A prisoner who has lost most all of his other rights such as the right to life, right to liberty, still somehow maintains the privilege of marriage?
Our sexual preference is something that is inborn, according to the APA and you know, virtually everyone else. If the courts decide that an inborn trait is determining whether or not we are suitable for the privilege of marriage then the courts are asserting that all people, are in fact, not created equal.
Granted, Loving v. Virginia already decided this “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival.”
(If you really wanted to, you could argue that the courts by not including gender-incusive language established that only male same-sex marriages are legal as that right was only given to “man.” Just saying. Let’s update our language a bit.)
A privilege is something given to us or earned by us after birth. A right is something we are born with. So how can our genetically decided sexual preference at birth decide what our future rights and privileges are? Is that a precedent we really want to set in our country?
Rights are given to people, no matter what circumstance they are born into. Marriage is a right as established in 1967. To deny the right of marriage to same sex couples is to decide the state has the power to decide what freedoms we deserve based on our genetic code. That’s a road I don’t want to go down.