Alice Schoneman ’13
In late February, residents of New Jersey found themselves ensconced in the middle of a divisive debate: same-sex marriage. The New Jersey legislature voted to approve a bill, that, if passed, would change the state’s definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Governor Chris Christie, not surprisingly, proceeded to veto it in an effort to pander to his conservative base. Although Christie’s decision was partially political, it is also important to weigh the other factors that may have led to hisdecision.
The debate over same sex marriage is the defining civil rights debate of our generation. Those who find themselves on Christie’s side of the argument generally justify their blatant denial of justice in several ways. The first argument prevalently used is that of the “domino effect.” Critics of same-sex marriage immediately assume that if two men or two women are allowed to marry, then soon enough polygamy will be legal. This argument is absurd; same-sex marriage does not change the nature of marriage itself. Marriage is in essence the union of two people who love each other—and even if the gender is the same, the act itself does not change.
The second argument is best summarized by a statement made by G.O.P presidential front-runner Rick Santorum: “We are made the way God made man and woman, and man and woman come together to have a union to produce children, which keeps civilization going and provides the best environment for children to be raised.” More simply, a child can only properly be raised in a home with a father and a mother. This claim is completely erroneous. According to Time Magazine, several studies have been conducted that found that children with same-sex parents have no significant differences compared with children in heterosexual homes when it comes to social development and adjustment. Santorum’s blanket statement also neglects the large number of single parents who successfully raise children. The argument completely ignores, although I do not want to go to extremes, the state of the marriages in question. Children raised by people who love them will have a good childhood. If one looks strictly at Santorum’s opinion, abusive straight households are better fit to raise children than a loving gay marriage or relationship.
Third is the “preserving the sanctity of marriage” argument. President Bush, in 2003, referred to marriage as “a sacred institution between a man and a woman.” However, it seems as if straight married couples have done even more to detriment the “sanctity of marriage” than gay couples. According to Newsweek the current American divorce rate is approximately 45%. Even ignoring that statistic, there is still much evidence to prove that heterosexuals have harmed the sanctity of marriage. Politicians such as Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Newt Gingrich have harmed it themselves by conducting extramarital affairs. The value of marriage in today’s society is not going to be harmed by whether or not same-sex couples are allowed to marry.
Last, but not least, is the religion argument. Freedom of religion is important to any free society, and I respect the rights of people to worship as they choose. If one wants to believe that “homosexuality is a sin”, and choose not to engage in it themselves, then that is perfectly acceptable. The line is crossed, however, when people begin to impose their religious views and morals on others. I find it even more reprehensible when those in the public square begin to impose their religious views on others, as candidate Rick Santorum is clearly doing and others have done in the past. Churches can choose not to perform same-sex marriages, that is not within the jurisdiction of the state, however, to use religion to justify denial of same-sex marriage in general seems extreme.
To a point, especially with the last argument, I can understand where opponents of same-sex marriage are coming from; however, when I weigh their arguments against the happiness of people whom I know and love, their reasoning will always seem absurd. Hopefully, the New Jersey legislature will be able to override Christie’s veto—and finally grant the LGBT population of this state the rights that they deserve.