The California Supreme Court recently overturned an eight-year-old ban on same-sex marriage, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in California. In 2004, marriage licenses were issued unilaterally by San Francisco and were later revoked by the California Supreme Court. Understandably, couples who felt disenfranchised appealed the ban. The basis of the ruling was that same-sex domestic partnerships, the legal equivalent of heterosexual marriages, by virtue of being defined as separate, were not equal and therefore unconstitutional.
However, if we assume that traditional marriage endorses a certain set of beliefs by oppressing and disenfranchising one group, the converse is also true. State recognition of same-sex marriage endorses the belief that homosexual relationships can qualify as marriage. If there is a legitimate and sincere desire for equality and a lifestyle free from beliefs imposed by others, then the appropriate ruling should have been to ban all marriage as recognized by the state in favor of domestic partnerships for all couples.
Any definition of marriage inherently endorses some beliefs over others. Even within the confines of traditional marriage, what constitutes marriage isn’t widely agreed upon. Some religious traditions recognize the right to divorce, others do not. Others recognize the right to divorce, but not the right to remarry. While marriage may be a religious institution, adherence to any religion is often ignored, and the state does not require any religious affiliation for marriage.
Given the disagreement over the definition of marriage, it seems appropriate for the state to extricate itself from marriage as much as possible in order to maintain objectivity. The majority of couples marry both publicly and privately, with the state and in the presence of others; ideally, marriage should be a private matter. Certain groups would recognize some marriages, and others would not, all in compliance with their personal beliefs.
Of course, there are several legal aspects, such as child custody, visitation rights and inheritance. By redefining both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages as civil domestic partnerships, we would essentially experience the same state of affairs as we do today. It may seem irrelevant because nominal marriage would remain and the state would effectively condone same-sex marriage. However, if same-sex couples believe that even with equal rights, the definition of marriage oppressively excludes same-sex relationships, then naming conventions do matter. It would be hypocritical to assert that labels are valid in one instance and frivolous in the next.
In my opinion, the ruling on same-sex marriage merely exchanges intolerance for intolerance. The argument for same-sex marriage could easily apply against it. I fail to understand why it is intolerant to deny same-sex couples the right to marry if it is somehow tolerant to deny others the freedom to state that those marriages contradict their religious beliefs. Oppression, whether by the majority or the minority, is wrong.
Matthew Quan is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Filed Under: Opinion