The decision of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to allow the city courthouse to issue same-sex marriage certificates on Feb. 12 in what some are calling an act of civil disobedience is a positive step towards equality for homosexuals.
In a society where gays and lesbians are becoming increasingly more visible in the media through hit mainstream television shows such as ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ and ‘Will and Grace,’ legalizing same-sex marriage could quite possibly be the last defining moment for gay rights.
Throughout history, it has taken acts of so-called civil disobedience by oppressed minorities to give rise to social change.
During the civil rights movement Rosa Parks gave way to true equality for African-Americans, refusing to be a second-class citizen by ‘breaking the law’ and sitting in the front of the bus. Similar actions paved the way for women to gain the right to vote and to be treated as equal to men.
Every politcal and social opposition to gay marriage can be legitimately dismissed.
First, for anyone to use religious reasons for denying gays equal marital rights is illegitimate under the societal and legal mandates that ensure the separation of church and state.
Gays and lesbians may be going to hell from a religious standpoint, and their union may be interpreted as an immoral sin under the eyes of God, but through the legal prism of the separation of church and state, they should be allowed to sin legally.
To define marriage in the U.S. Constitution as a union only between a man and a woman explicitly advocates discrimination. That is like saying only white males have the right to vote and to own land.
From a social standpoint, homosexuals are no more a threat to the union of marriage than are heterosexuals. With a divorce rate of more than 50 percent, one can argue that heterosexuals are sending the message that they do not respect the sanctity of marriage.
There are many legal benefits same-sex couples can gain through marriage. Marriage will allow them to have joint custody of an adopted child so if one of the adoptive parents dies, the surviving parent is legally secured the right to act as legal guardian to that child. If a spouse is receiving life-threatening medical attention, the other spouse will have all the rights allotted to a blood family member including visitation rights. Also, same-sex partners could file joint federal taxes rather than just joint state taxes.
Giving gays and lesbians equal marital rights is just the next step towards social progression and equality. Interracial marriages, a past cause of social unrest, are becoming increasingly more prevalent and increasingly socially acceptable. Soon a day will come when gays will not have to trek from all parts of the United States to get married in a nine-day window of opportunity.
Though it may be unclear exactly what the legal significance is of the nearly 3,000 marriage certificates, when this issue will be finally settled is even more uncertain.
Although President Bush and Gov. Schwarzenegger want to put a stop to same-sex marriages, San Francisco continues to marry gay and lesbian couples by appointment only.
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