BY: Michael Mason
Marriage is a legally binding contract entered into at the behest of two individuals who love one another. For the government to deny a marriage license based on someone’s particular minority status is a violation of their most basic and essential of human rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In the supreme court decision Loving v. Virginia (1967) marriage was deemed to be a “fundamental right” which places it in a class of similarly integral American values such as the freedom of expression, the right to privacy, and other benefits of the social contract that we as Americans all expect to have access to.
Imagine the fit of public outrage if were we as a society to deny these rights to an entire class of people based on some other immutable characteristic such as hair color or race; it would never be tolerated.
Yet, in the case of gays and lesbians this fundamental right is still denied to this day in a prejudicial class-based fashion to a sizable percentage of our nation’s population, all because certain elements of society vilify and hate other people for simply being themselves.
No one chooses to be gay, it is not a so-called “lifestyle choice.” People are born or mature into their sexuality and to anyone who questions that fact I ask, “When did you choose to be straight?“
The protection of a minority from the tyranny of the majority is one of the primary values upon which America was founded and allowing discriminatory practices within our public institutions is invidious to those very core values.
To the argument that giving rights to gays takes rights away from the majority, which was so recently published in this very paper, I call on any rational person to try replacing the word gays with blacks, or with women, and then attempt to justify it.
This is the same argument brought by extremists against every civil liberty movement in the past century. It is an old line of rhetoric and the argumentation behind it is pedantic and flawed, as is the inherent bigotry on which it is based.
And regarding the irrational attempt at exclusion by definition, at one point men were solely defined as white landowners by the courts. This is perhaps best illuminated in the infamous supreme court case of Dred Scott in 1857, which makes it quite clear that definitions evolve and change as society does.
Finally, regarding the Anglo-Saxon tradition argument, it is my understanding of America that we are a blend of cultures, a bastion of freedom and liberty, founded on the principles of equal representation and the first amendment guarantee against persecutory religious law. These are the traditions with which I am familiar.
Should the state of Alaska today decide to stop denying the right of gay or lesbian couples to have the same benefits, protections, and equal treatment under the law as straight couples, there would be no loss to the straight couples whatsoever. They would still have the same right to wed who they choose, just as they had before.
dsIn the effort to secure equal civil liberties and protections under the law for all citizens regardless of sexual orientation gay and lesbian citizens do not seek to push their opinions on others. Instead, they merely seek to be free from having other’s religious beliefs or opinions pushed on them through abuse of the rule of law.
What matters most is whether we as Alaskans can stand by and allow inequality to persevere. In this state we have an extreme problem of suicide, particularly amongst our youth and in rural areas where it can be hard for someone questioning their sexuality to find support or help.
What kind of message do you think it sends to someone growing up struggling with their sexuality who is consistently told they are going to hell by smugly superior religious authority figures? Who daily face discrimination and harassment by their peers? And who know that in the eyes of their own state they are seen as worth less than those same peers?
It is morally reprehensible for us to continue allowing hate speech to masquerade as religious speech, and Christ would agree.
“Whilst ye may judge of the flesh, I judge no man,” Jesus Christ, John 8:15.
For an argument to ethos more pertinent in a secular debate however, one need look no further than the words of wisdom found in the very first section of the first article of the Alaska Constitution, which describes everyone’s natural right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But it goes even further.
“All persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law; and that all persons have corresponding obligations to the people and to the State,” is printed in Article 1, Declaration of Rights, in the Alaska State Constitution.
A fantastic orator Mark Hamilton once said, “Responsibility means that if you have the ability to respond then you have the responsibility to speak.”
It is my contention that as part of our shared responsibilities and obligations, we Alaskans owe it to the tradition of our great State to help build an Alaska that accepts all of its citizens and provides every one of us an equal opportunity to learn and grow from our respective diversity. For it is in that diversity one may find the true tradition on which America’s strength was founded and upon which it still stands today.