Accept people for who they areEnd intolerance and support equal rights for all

On August 30, 2007, Polk County Judge Robert Hanson stuck down Iowa’s ban of same-sex marriage. Although his decision was soon overturned, it has caused a disturbing amount of tension in central Iowa for the last six months, with a recent rally against same-sex marriage at the state capitol as the most striking example. While The WEB respects the right of people to peacefully express their opinions about such issues, we feel that rallying against a certain group of people’s right to marry is counterproductive and offensive. A united America is not possible until citizens put their biases aside for the common good, and allowing same-sex couples to freely unite in marriage is a vital part of this sacrifice. The arguments against the legalization of same-sex marriage are both numerous and nuanced, but most are based more on ingrained prejudices than sound logic. The most evident in our society is religious opposition. It is fruitless to argue that people cannot be morally opposed to same-sex marriage—to do so would undermine citizens’ freedom to hold their own religious beliefs. It is however, unfair, oppressive, and unconstitutional to use those beliefs as a rationale to defend or oppose marriage laws. The fundamental right to pursue happiness is denied when a homosexual couple is told they can’t marry because it would violate the values of others. It would make just as much to arrest someone for eating meat on a Friday in Lent, or having sex without proper contraception. However, outdated marriage laws still apply today because of fear of political backlash. The outcry against Mr. Hanson was a sobering reminder of this. Another argument against same-sex rights is that since civil unions are already legal, the step of marriage is unnecessary. This is far from the truth. Being legally married has over 1,000 government benefits according to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, including rights to hospital visitation, social security benefits, health insurance, living together in nursing homes, retirement savings, and survivor pension benefits. The possibility of having to front the bill for many of these benefits is another compelling reason for the government’s reluctance to award homosexuals equal rights. The effectiveness of a same-sex household for raising children has also been questioned. However, every major research study has concluded that the parent’s sexual orientation is unrelated to the child’s development. A study 2001 entitled “How Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?”, published in the American Sociological Review, stated that the most important factor is quality of the relationship between parents, and that children with same-sex families preformed equally well in areas of academic achievement, psychological well-being, and social abilities. In addition, most leading child welfare and health organizations have issued policy statements declaring the irrelevancy of a parent’s sexual orientation to child-raising abilities. Despite all the facts and technicalities, though, same-sex marriage is a personal issue, and one that is very dear to the homosexual community. The arguments mentioned in this editorial are reflective of the most respectful dissenters; much of the “dialogue” regarding this issue is unfortunately done through deconstructive hate speech. Some is subtle, some abhorrent, but all is hurtful. An especially disgusting example was from Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern, who said, “Homosexuality is a bigger threat to our nation than terrorism. . .it’s deadly and it’s spreading, and it will destroy our young people, and it will destroy our nation.” The comment provoked a letter in response from a high school student named Tucker whose mother had died in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings. Tucker wrote, “As someone left motherless and victimized by terrorists, I say to you very clearly you are absolutely wrong. . .I’ve spent 12 years in Oklahoma public schools and never once have I had anyone try to force a gay agenda on me. I have seen, however, many gay students beat up. I’ve been called gay slurs many times and they hurt. . . Every openly gay and suspected gay in the school had to walk together Monday [after Kern’s statement was released] for protection. They looked scared. They’ve already experienced enough hate and now your words gave other students even more motivation to sneer at them and call them names. . .I have not had a mother for nearly 13 years now and wonder if there were fewer people like you around, people with more love and tolerance in their hearts instead of strife, if my mom would be here to watch me graduate from high school this spring.” The WEB is behind Tucker. We realize that is impossible to completely change public behavior through legislation. However, where institutional biases exist, personal biases will follow. Legalizing same-sex marriage is both overdue and necessary; it would provide thousands, even millions of people with opportunities that their parents or grandparents may have only dreamed of. More importantly, it would send a clear message that America is ready to accept its own people for who they are.