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The sanctity of marriage

BY GUEST OPINION | JANUARY 31, 2011 7:10 AM

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Today, members of the Iowa House of Representatives are expected to vote on the Iowa Marriage Amendment, which would force a public referendum on the legality of same-sex marriage.

It is incredibly insulting to have civil rights put up to a popular vote. This measure is just as absurd as voting on the legality of interracial or interfaith marriages.

Marriage, in the context of our government, is a civil contract separate from any religious institution serving to ensure a couple’s ability to file joint tax returns, obtain inheritance rights, adopt children, acquire discounted insurance, visit each other in the hospital, and reap Social Security benefits. Just as importantly, marriage is perceived to embrace stability and societal respect with its focus residing in a couple’s love and commitment.

Some consider marriage to be an immutable institution that has remained static for centuries. In fact, this is far from the truth: Marriage has changed throughout history to better reflect the ideals of society.

In America, the land of liberty and justice for all, the change has been rapid as society distances itself from a Biblical interpretation. We have embraced the acceptance of interfaith and non-religious marriages as well as the establishment of divorce to allow the unhappily wed to part ways.

Even in recent times, marriage has been revised for the better. In 1967, the US Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia, ruled in favor of eliminating all forms of race-based legal restrictions on marriage. No longer does race serve as a barrier to marriage. In 1993, North Carolina became the last state to criminalize marital rape. No longer can one have sex with her or his spouse against the spouse’s will.

While these changes are explicitly prohibited by some religions, our society has grown to support these attributes as ways to better foster happiness for all. Did changes result in the upheaval and destruction of marriage? No; they improved it.

It’s been argued that protecting families and children is best accomplished by upholding “traditional” marriage — restricting its definition to one man and one woman. But in a relationship of love and commitment (the foundation of marriage), a couple’s gender should not serve as a barrier.

There is no better way to protect families than to encourage committed and loving couples, regardless of sex, to enter into marriage. Same-sex marriages protect children by providing an option for orphanages across the country seeking a stable, supportive family to raise children.

Conservatives often balk at the notion of pride parades with gay people brazenly flaunting their sexuality. This is exactly why conservatives should be thrilled to know there are gay people who want to marry and change the gay stereotype. Conservatives should be pleased that gay people are embracing the values of family to such a degree that they wish to create one of their own.

Here in Iowa, we’re aware that over the past two years the reputation of marriage has not been tarnished by including gay people. Thousands of joyful couples have benefited from the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling prohibiting a ban on same-sex marriage.

Let’s be proud that Iowa was leads the way on equality, but we must also understand that the freedom to marry will not be retained without support and awareness.

Ryan Teahen is a student in the UI College of Dentistry.


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