The Defensive Marriage Act
The Los Angeles Times is this week publishing opinions from far-right and far-left voices explaining why they feel they cannot talk to their opposites. Today’s conversation, conducted between the parties via email, is about the same-sex marriage debate.
Though I would admit that I would side with the liberal view and make many of the same arguments about the silliness of defending the right of the government and, I must assume, the “majority of the people” to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, I think the debate falls short by concluding too quickly without making one salient argument against the conservative’s view that marriage can not and should not be “radically redefined” to include man and man or woman and woman in addition to man and woman.
The conservative voice makes a loud argument about her definition of what marriage is and has always been:
Marriage reflects male and female sexual union and the complementary natures of males and females. Since male and female sexual unions are procreative by nature (if not always procreative in effect), marriage is the social recognition of that union, and the vows of fidelity that accompany it are supposed to guarantee that the children of that union know who their biological parents are and are raised and supported by them. This is something that every human society has recognized since time began, long before there were any laws regulating marriage.
I actually have no argument with that at all. If that is all that marriage is, I’m perfectly happy to allow marriage to be that.
And only that.
The problem is that marriage, as it is defined today in the U.S. and regardless of how it has been historically defined or considered, also includes several governmental issues concerning the rights, both legal and financial, of the partner.
So here’s me counter-proposal to the loud and obnoxious minority of voices scared shitless that a marriage between a loving couple that also happens to be homosexual in nature allow another amendment to the constitution that defines marriage as precisely what is listed above, stripped entirely of any other legal ramifications of the union.
In other words, if their main objection is that marriage, as an institution, may only be used to describe heterosexual unions, marriage must also preclude any other definitions including those concerning taxation, or access to loved ones in hospitals, and insurance or veterans benefits, and so on.
In addition, since marriage is only the union of a man and a woman, homosexual unions may certainly be called something else but must also contain exactly the same governmental issues concerning all those rights that are currently legally denied to partners in a same-sex union.
I’m perfectly willing to allow marriage, as a term or a word or what have you, to be something that only occurs between one man and one woman.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has nothing at all to do with defending marriage, it’s about defending the legal definition of marriage.
Section 2. Powers reserved to the states: No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.
Section 3. Definition of marriage: In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.
Note, please, that Section 2 of DOMA is very specific about how the laws of the states in regards to rights given to married individuals are not to include anyone in a same-sex partnership. This has nothing whatsoever to do with procreation or children or parenting, and only about legal rights.
Section 3, similarly, limits federal laws concerning those rights, and that they only apply to opposite-sex unions and never ever in a million years to people joined in love who happen to be gay.
What we want – all us homos and lesbos – is legal recognition of the same rights as our straight counterparts when they elect to join into a union. They can continue to call that marriage, as far as I’m concerned. Change DOMA to strip all legal rights that apply to straight partners and I’ll be tickled pink to allow marriage to continue to be owned by the conservatives who seem so concerned about its definition.
But if the real reason they want to deny same-sex couples legal marriage is to deny same-sex couples the legal rights, they should damn well stand up and say it. Because that means they think one set of people should be treated differently than another set of people based upon their sexuality.
And that, in itself, is discrimination.
February 20, 2012