Should states have the power to decide marriage rights?

Infographic by Stephanie Kang Infographic information:

Kat Sarafianos

[heading size=”20″ margin=”10″]Step off states: ‘Right to love’ is for everyone[/heading] Freedom is an idea held central to American beliefs. The freedom to say what you want, believe what you want and, to a safe extension, do what you want. As citizens we are entitled to these freedoms, also known as civil rights.
A civil right, according to Cornell University Law School, is “an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury.” As of late, we’ve seen a movement to expand those civil rights within the gay community, specifically gay marriage.
So far, 37 states have legalized same sex marriage, and the 13 that still have bans are being pursued by gay rights advocates.[heading size=”20″ margin=”10″]National supremacy ignores states’ rights[/heading] We can speak, think and believe; freely. As Americans, we are provided with the privileges offered in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. However, the national government jeopardizes Americans of these elementary rights in the debate of gay marriage.
Gay marriage is an issue that continuously appears on the national agenda. Despite this, it is an issue that each individual state, not the national government, should address.
Same-sex marriage should not be legalized on a federal level; rather it should be allowed or banned according to state laws, which allows for citizens to hold and express personal opinions.
In fact, support has never been higher, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, six in 10 Americans support same sex marriage.
However, with as much support and encouragement for same sex marriage, the opposition continually tries to keep existing marriage bans. One of the most prominent arguments used in the support of these bans is that legalizing same sex marriage impedes people’s right to religious freedom and states should decide for themselves if gay marriage should be legal. However, this opposition to gay marriage on the basis of religious freedom and protection can be refuted by historical and legal examples.
The 13th amendment was adopted to abolish slavery, but despite the amendment, many southern states adopted “black codes.” These codes were meant to limit the civil rights of newly freed slaves, but were countered by instituting the 14th amendment.
This amendment, also known as the Equal Protection Clause (EPC), declared that no state “shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States… [or] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
These “black codes” are perfect examples of how states were able to bypass a federal law that ensured civil rights by making a state law that acted as a loophole to it. This is why constitutional amendments and congressional laws are so important to upholding civil rights, and it’s especially crucial to understanding why we need a national precedent that will override unjust state laws in order to guarantee gay marriage.
Currently, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments for whether or not the constitution guarantees same sex couples the right to marry. Arguments on the opposing side, including from Justice Scalia, claim, “The issue, of course, is not whether there should be same-sex marriage, but who should decide the point,” to which he claimed it was the state’s people and their elected representatives decision.
However, this argument disregards the constitution itself, for the EPC ensures that everyone is treated equally under the law. Saying some people have the right to do something and others don’t is in direct violation of that and claiming that you want “the people” to decide doesn’t help. “The people” aren’t in the place to decide if someone is allowed a civil right.
Now, yes, states should be able to decide how to best rule their citizens, but to say that states have the power to dictate whether someone should have civil rights and that that decision can be based off of personal views and beliefs, beliefs not everyone shares, is a direct violation of EPC and the government mandated separation between church and state.
The separation of church and state has been routinely used by Supreme Court justices as a way of defining the wall that must exist between religious involvement in government and vice versa. This wall is needed to protect citizens from a government mandated religion or government involvement in religious groups.
This separation is relevant when discussing gay marriage because it’s such a prevalent argument people use when in favor of having states vote on gay rights. They claim it’s an attempt to protect their religious beliefs and that the government is infringing on their beliefs by having a federal law giving people this right.
However, the Establishment Clause rules out these kinds of religiously based rationales. Just as the state can’t prohibit the teaching of evolution even though evolution may go against certain religious views, the state cannot limit marriage just to opposite sex couples because people disagree with it.
It is no one’s place to decide who does and who doesn’t get civil rights; as American citizens we’re entitled to them. As we move forward as a country, and as future voters, we must keep this idea of equality for all in mind no matter the circumstances.
By Kat Sarafianos
American citizens enjoy the privilege to express their own opinions, which can be religiously rooted. However, too many GOP members use “it’s in the Bible” as a reason to oppose gay marriage.
This statement is not a justifiable defense of gay marriage on a political level, as the United States is not a theocracy, and politically, the Bible is not a constitutional source. Regardless, religion is the root of many citizens’ personal opinions.
Republicans must face the truth: the truth being that, in a society that is modernizing and sprinting away from traditional values set by the church and consumed by government, more American civilians will support gay marriage rather than oppose it. Already, 37 states have legalized gay marriage.
The political trend that leans towards the liberal spectrum is quickly growing in the United States. Instead of shunning and ignoring the movement, which members of the GOP party seem to be doing, Republicans should accept the movement and respect it. After all, accepting and respecting something is not the same as agreeing with it.
Gay marriage should not be legalized on a federal level. The national government should not have the power to control each state’s laws or the opinions of a state’s residents.
The United States prides itself on providing its citizens with the right to have and express their opinions. However, if gay marriage was legalized on a federal level, this privilege would be stripped instantaneously.
The First Amendment states that Americans have the right to express their religious beliefs. As a result, if a citizen’s religion disapproves of gay marriage, that citizen should have the right to defend their opinion. However, they would be unable to defend their opinion if gay marriage became a law instituted by the federal government, resulting in an infringement on individual rights.
The national government would provide citizens with a voice, rather than allowing for citizens to speak for themselves. Instead, Americans should be able to have their own opinions and defend their opinions, whether it be religiously, morally or politically based. These are the basic rights guaranteed to all citizens, and to silence a constituent’s belief with another law would just strip them of their original rights.
In order for citizens to receive the rights they deserve, gay marriage should be allowed or banned according to each state’s policy. Thus, if residents believe their faith opposes gay marriage, they should have the right to live in an area where their beliefs are fulfilled.
Another reason why the legalization or banning of gay marriage should be a law implemented according to states, rather than the federal government, is the financial consequences experienced by taxpayers – taxpayers who may not be in support of the law.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the federal government would spend nine million dollars over the next 10 years if the federal government legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, mainly because of the employment benefits that would be given to same-sex partners. All of the money spent would come out of taxpayers’ pockets.
If certain citizens do not support gay marriage for moral or religious reasons, the federal government should not force them to financially bolster those who support gay marriage.
Gay marriage should be allowed or banned at the state level. Currently, a large majority of the country has legalized gay marriage. However, the remaining states that have not approved of gay marriage should not change the law.
These states should continue to promote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and allow for citizens to hold and express their own opinions. As these states reject the legalization of gay marriage, the federal government should stop pushing for the national legalization of gay marriage.
By Ji-Ho Lee