The United States Supreme Court has recently heard two historic cases regarding same-sex marriage. On March 26 and 27, the Supreme Court looked at whether equal rights should be extended to same-sex couples nationally or whether it should be the decision of each individual state.
The debate of same-sex marriage has long focused on political, religious and cultural issues in the United States.
“As a member of the LGBTQ community, I believe the cases in the Supreme Court are a progressive step towards equality,” said Jacqueline Wiswall, president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBTQ) club, Rainbow Alliance, on campus.
“I believe Prop 8 and DOMA are not constitutional because they do not give us the freedom to live how we so choose,” Wiswall added.
LIU Post’s Rainbow Alliance discusses political issues involving the LGBTQ community as well as how the media portrays lesbians, gays, bisexu- als and transgender. They also remain alert on any possible LGBTQ discrimination. One of the issues the club has addressed is whether Post is moving towards gender neutral bathroom for transgender students.
“Our club is also a safe, non-judgmental zone for any student who is ‘in the closet’ (not openly gay yet) and welcomes any allies of our community,” said Wiswall.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s many states amended their constitutions to forbid gay marriage. However, before that, in 1996, the federal government passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents the federal government from recognizing any marriages between gay or lesbian couples for the pur- pose of federal laws or programs, even if those couples are considered legally married by their home state. In February, republicans signed a legal brief stating that gay people have a constitutional right to marry. The friend-of-the-court, amicus, brief was submitted to the Supreme Court in order to be used in the current case on same-sex marriage.
With the differing opinions on the topic of same-sex marriage, many people in the United States see this as the defining civil rights issue of the generation.
“It’s remarkable how important age is to this issue. One of the strongest predictors of support for same sex marriage is being younger,” said Brian Sweeny, assistant professor of Sociology at LIU Post. “Young people simply attach different cultural meanings to homosexuality. Age is one reason I believe strongly that same sex marriage is inevitable. The younger generations will, over time, become the older generations.”
Michelle Morey, a sophomore Journalism major, states that she supports same-sex marriage. “I think it should be nationally legalized and not in the hands of the states,” she added.
In November 2008, California passed the Proposition 8 ballot that banned same-sex marriage in the state. Only marriage between man and woman would be recognized. The validity of California’s Proposition 8 was the first case heard by the Supreme Court.
Currently, same-sex couples can become legally married in nine states: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Washington and Vermont.
“This problem needs to be fixed on a federal level,” said Potoula Anagnostakos, a sophomore Journalism major. “Marriage equality needs to be spread across the country.”
In addition to Proposition 8, the Supreme Court considered the constitutionally of DOMA, the federal law.
“I am for equality as long as it doesn’t affect the church,” said Rafe Tangorra, a sophomore Broadcasting major. “I personally don’t support same sex couples but I do believe everyone deserves equal rights.”
Leslie Zurita, a senior Criminal Justice major, stated, “As a Catholic, my religion calls for me to be against it. I have friends who are gay, but I personally don’t feel comfortable when I find out intimate details. I accept people for who they are rather than what they do.”
According to Sweeny, many people are increasingly looking at anti-gay marriage groups critically, as hateful, misguided, or not “open-minded,” rightfully or not. “I think the anti-gay marriage groups are currently caught off guard by the swell of support for gay marriage and no longer so sure how to approach the issue,”
Sweeny added. “Religion calls for compassion, acceptance, and charity,” said Wiswall. “If this is true, why are you so hostile to me just be- cause I would rather marry a girl than a boy?”
Families and the notions of marriage are always changing. Both of these are social institutions that are constantly in flux, being worked out privately and publicly.
“I believe it’s a mistake to say that marriage has ‘always’ been between a man and a woman,” said Sweeny. “Such a statement, while accurately reflecting the dominance of heterosexuality in our culture, ignores the fact that marriage, gender roles, and sexuality have changed radically throughout history.”
Recently, the American Sociological Association filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court regarding same-sex couples raising children. According to the brief, children fare just as well when they are raised by same-sex parents when compared to children raised by opposite-sex parents.
“Thinking two men can’t raise a child is asinine. To say gay marriage would tear the foundation of traditional mar- riage is plain false,” said James Grady, a sophomore Criminal Justice major. “If your foundation of marriage is high divorce rates, domestic abuse, then one should further examine the topic at hand.”
According to Wiswall, the biggest challenge, aside from dealing with people’s crude comments, is watching a population divide against each other over marriage equality. “Marriage should be a celebration whether with a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man, or anything in between,” she added.
“Intimate relationships, anthropologists and sociologists will tell you, are often subject to the most intense norms and rules for regulation,” said Sweeny.
The Supreme Court’s decision on the same-sex marriage cases is expected in June. Share your thoughts with the Pioneer: firstname.lastname@example.org.