The future of gay marriage: will it ever become constitutional?

Sabrina Leung, Editorial Director

With gay marriage bills introduced in Congress and the House calling for a vote this month, many states have once again found themselves amidst the political battleground that is the national debate over same-sex marriage.

The recognition of same-sex marriage has been an on-going political, social, civil-rights and religious issue, and disputes continue to arise over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry or be limited to subjacent forms of legal recognition, such as civil unions.

“I support gay marriage because I believe love is love, and I am vehemently opposed to bigotry, hatred, and oppression of any kind. It is unjust to deny rights to other people just because of their sexual orientation,” stated junior and Co-President of Carlmont’s Gay Straight Alliance club Kalila Kirk.

The U.S. Supreme Court entered the national debate over same-sex marriage in 2012, bringing to question whether same-sex marriage was constitutional and, if that were so, whether or not same-sex married couples should be granted the same benefits and rights as heterosexual married couples. Until a ruling is made, same-sex marriage will continued to be banned by federal law.

On Nov. 6, 2012, however, Maine, Maryland, and Washington became the first states to legalize same-sex marriage through popular votes. This was the first time same-sex marriage was approved at the ballot box, after being voted down more than 30 times prior.

Furthermore, as of Jan. 2013, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and District of Columbia will have also legalized same-sex marriage. In addition, Rhode Island currently recognizes same-sex marriages validated in other states. California, which granted same-sex marriages for a brief span of time in 2008, now recognizes them on a conditional basis. According to the U.S Census Bureau, 50,000 to 80,000 same-sex couples have been married legally in the U.S.

One case, from California, could potentially establish or deny a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Another case, from New York, challenges a federal law requiring the federal government to deny marital benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow such unions.

These debates have led some to questioning as to whether same-sex marriage should be subject to legislation on the state or federal level. Some students here at Carlmont hold elaborate opinions pertinent to this quandary.

“As America, we need to continue to display our motto of ‘freedom’ and let the people get what they want within reason. I personally think it should be a federal issue, but it would be better to let the states to decide what they want to enforce,” commented senior Jordon Pon.

“Gay marriage should be federal issue because gay and lesbian marriages should be protected by the government the same way as heterosexual marriages,” said junior Lily Zheng.

The movement to obtain marriage rights and benefits for same-sex couples in the United States began in the 1970s, but became more prominent in U.S. politics in 1993 when the Hawaii Supreme Court declared the state’s prohibition to be unconstitutional in Baehr v. Miike, a lawsuit that involved three same-sex couples who argued that lawsuit that Hawaii’s prohibition of same-sex marriage violated the state constitution. The ruling led to an amendment of the state constitution that allowed the state to reserve marriage only to opposite-sex couples.

Prior to 1996, the federal government did not define marriage. Any marriage recognized by a state was recognized by the federal government, even if that marriage was not formally recognized by other states.

However, with the enactment of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, marriage was explicitly defined by federal law as the union of one man and one woman. This act prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and allowed each state to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Same-sex marriage became a reality in the U.S in 2004 in a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court concluding that it homosexual couples’ right to matrimony was ensured by the equal protection clause of the state’s Constitution and the Tenth Amendment. Currently, DOMA has been found unconstitutional with respect to issues such as employee benefits and taxes in eight federal courts, two of which being federal appeals courts. Five of these cases are currently pending review by the Supreme Court.

During the 21st century, public support for legalizing same-sex marriage has grown. According to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll, 51 percent of Americans are now in favor of same-sex marriage.

“I think gay marriage will become legal because society as a whole is steadily becoming more progressive and prejudice falls under a progressing society,” commented Zheng.

Despite the growing public support of same-sex marriage, some people continue to believe that the definition of marriage should remain the same.

“The Bible states in Romans 1:26-27, ‘[Men] burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error.’ The only way to reflect a godly union is for a man and a woman to be together. If we continue to change the definition of marriage to fit the needs of gays, then it will go against what this country was based on,” stated Pon.

Although some religious groups are against gay marriage, they believe that everyone should be treated equally and fairly that is acceptable under their religion’s moral laws.

“Christians do not hate gays. We just disagree with their actions and sexual orientation. We are called by God to love everyone no matter what,” added Pon.

Similarly, others note that their religion is a factor of whether they are in favor or against same-sex marriage. However, they believe that the government should not include religious beliefs as a factor to define the status of marriage.

“The Constitution states that it would not pick one religion over the other, so it should not have anything against gay marriage,” said senior Alexander Lee.

Acknowledging the conflicting views over same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court is continuing debates over the constitutionality of DOMA and will potentially establish a ruling March of this year.