Viewpoint: Marriage question tightens screws of discriminationTwo items the July 11 Bulletin formed an interesting juxtaposition: one, a news story, discussed the continuing debate over the proposed marriage amendment on this November's ballot; the other, an opinion column by Judge Galler, spoke of civil marriages
By: Joyce Denn, Woodbury Bulletin
Two items the July 11 Bulletin formed an interesting juxtaposition: one, a news story, discussed the continuing debate over the proposed marriage amendment on this November's ballot; the other, an opinion column by Judge Galler, spoke of civil marriages which, the judge explains, are sometimes necessary, for example when two people of different faiths want to marry.
Interfaith marriages are legal under our civil laws, yet no religion is or can be forced to officiate at or recognize interfaith marriages, thanks to the separation of church and state enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The same separation would hold true for same sex marriages, should our civil laws be changed to allow them; no church, synagogue, mosque or temple would or could be forced to perform or recognize same sex marriages. How can I be so certain of this? Consider civil divorce, which has been legal in this country for a very long time; has anyone heard of any Catholic church being required by the civil authorities to recognize divorce? No.
People have raised multiple objections to same sex marriage, but most prominent among those objections is the claim that same sex marriage violates biblical and religious law. Since any change in marriage laws would affect civil marriages only, and since some religious groups in Minnesota support same sex marriage, including Conservative and Reform Jews as well as some Lutheran and Episcopalian groups, those who support the amendment on religious grounds are, in effect, demanding that the government impose their particular religious beliefs on people of other faiths, a right not guaranteed by the Constitution.
Another objection to same sex marriage is the supposed harm to children, yet many studies have shown that children raised by same sex couples are as emotionally healthy as children raised by heterosexual couples. Moreover, same sex couples already can and do have children; banning marriage for those couples harms their children by preventing them from enjoying the protections afforded the children of married parents.
Another usually unvoiced objection to same sex marriage is what I call "the ick factor"; people don't want to think about gay and lesbian sexual relationships. My advice: do not think about them. No one is forcing you to think about anyone else's sex life.
The fact is, same sex marriage is currently illegal in Minnesota despite the fact the U.S. Supreme Court has declared civil marriage a basic civil right; defeating the amendment will not change current marriage laws, unfortunately. That being the case, why was this amendment put on the ballot? The reasons are simple: one, to energize the base and get them out to vote in 2012 and, two, to insidiously make an end run around any potential constitutional challenge to our existing law defining marriage as a contract between one man and one woman. In other words, we are at risk of codifying discrimination in our state Constitution to prevent a discriminatory law from being declared unconstitutional.