The American Government: For the People, By the People?
Every year millions of Americans vote on various laws. After all, our government motto is "for the people, by the people". However, how many of our choices are actually represented by the laws that are made? In recent years there have been many crucial debates concerning issues that represent the beliefs of a group of people, predominantly Christian. These issues concern topics such as same-sex marriage, using the word evolution, and abortion. Several states have made rulings on behalf of these issues, rather, largely on behalf of the religious Christians in their states. However, the First Amendment of the Constitution states that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" (www.usconstitution.net). The beliefs of many other people are unfairly not represented in these rulings because they are not the majority. Although our country institutes laws based on majority rulings, the government should not be allowed to institute laws that are biased against certain groups of people merely because morals are at stake.
In a country that is often engaged in major international problems, the issue of gay marriage still manages to stir even the calmer people in the United States society into becoming irate. In the 1770’s when we were fighting for independence from England, one of our countries prominent reasons for starting the American Revolution was in order to gain freedom of religion, and civil rights. Now, almost 300 years later religious orders are fighting to make sure than gay marriage does not become legal because their religions say that it is not morally right. Society’s general attitude toward legalizing gay marriage is based on religion and "moral values", rather than on the politics and constitutional rights that we as a people chose for our country. Issues that will augment this case consist of religious beliefs versus politics, security, child welfare, and gender discrimination.
Many religious activists state that gay marriage is not moral and that marriage is a sacred communion between a male and female, that can naturally result in the life of another human being. I do not feel that religion should be mixed with politics. It outrages me that so many people put all their efforts into making sure that it never becomes legal, when there are more valuable problems that they could be concerning themselves with in order to make a much more worthwhile difference in the world.
In the past election eleven states passed anti-gay marriage amendments to their constitutions. The majority of Bush voters cited moral values as their reasoning for voting for President Bush (Witkowski 1) . Many of those moral values stem from religious beliefs. Legislations in various states have used moral values as reasoning behind banning same-sex marriages, sidestepping around the sensitive separation of church and state issue. Many advocate that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman. Ironically, many of those same people think that divorce is okay. In my opinion those people do not deserve to call marriage sacred when they will also be the same people to have affairs, get separated, or decide to divorce after twenty-five years of marriage. Therefore, they are not people who should have the right to say that marriage is such a "sacred" thing.
Marriage, legally, is something that is mandated by the state, not legally by religion. A justice of the peace can legally marry any male and female. A marriage does not have to be related to a religious order. Therefore, why are some marriages restricted? It should not matter what gender the two people are, whether the same or different. Gender discrimination is illegal in our country. However, our own laws seem to violate and contradict each other, especially after the recent election.
Another aspect of the situation is that many areas in our society grant married couples certain rights or privileges. For example, if a woman’s husband were to die when they were only thirty years old, than that woman would still be entitled to receive his social security years later when he would have been of age. However, gay couples are deprived of this security in their relationships (with the exception of a few states such as Vermont and Massachusetts) merely because of their type of relationship. The issue of a gay couple having children also brings up another point of security within their relationships.
Although, I personally believe that every child should be entitled to a mother and father, that does not change the fact that gay couples can adopt a child through various ways. Thus, if that is taken into account, if the guardian gay parent dies, does our government really want to take that child out of their home because the other gay parent was not legally their parent? There should be laws that protect the welfare of the child, and if the parents were given the legal right to marry than there would not be a whole series of legal problems if one of the parents were to die.
Not only is gay marriage not allowed, but school officials in Austin, Texas have called upon the publishers of a school-used textbook to change the wording of it to unmistakably state that marriage is "between a man and a woman" (Official 1). The textbooks have stated "’asexual stealth phrases’ such as ‘individuals who marry’ instead of husbands and wives" (Official 1). Robert Ellis, the executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas said that the officials are tying to institute a "religious rights agenda" into the students’ textbooks (Official 2). People
So why is gay marriage truly illegal? The real reason does not lie in any sort of rules or regulations, but in the prejudice of the people who make those alleged "rules and regulations" in the first place. People, who I believe let their own personal values and morals, or rather their own religions stand in the way of what should be simply a political matter and nothing more. The reasons gay couples should be allowed to marry outweighs the reasons they should not, especially considering all the reasons that they should not be allowed to marry consist of beliefs that stem from a person’s own morals. Legal issues should not be mixed with religion. It is every citizen’s right in this country to have our own beliefs, and thus gay people should be allowed theirs instead of being discriminated against.
In addition to marriage disputes, religion is appearing in other areas of the classroom. In Georgia the state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox proposed earlier this year to remove the term "evolution" from science curriculums in public schools. She said that the term "changes over time" would be more suitable. The proposal never went through but the underlying meanings are critical. Religion is now not only limiting marriages; it is limiting what students learn in school. Currently a federal lawsuit is being heard in Georgia over school officials placing a disclaimer on high school biology texts that said, "Evolution should be critically considered" in 2002 (Some Worry 1). Science instructors argued that the disclaimer made the state look "backward" and that it sends the meaning that evolution did not happen. Wes McCoy, a high school teacher, said that he was afraid that "college admissions counselors would think less of their science educations, thinking they hadn’t been taught evolution or something" (Some Worry 2). Carlos Moreno, a molecular biologist at Emory University, said that the prestigious northern universities look down upon southerner’s educations, due to issues like these. Why is it such a big deal? Parents like Marjorie Rogers think that the evolution theory is atheistic and insults the intelligence of the students because they are taught only evolution, and not the religious reasons. The evolution theory may be atheistic, but it is science and it is proven. Perhaps, the Bible should be the book with the disclaimer.
The latest United States Commission on Civil Rights, an assessment of President Bush’s civil rights record, was put the Internet in September. Of Bush’s public statements about civil rights, only seventeen have actually outlined plans of action. Over half of those have pertained to "faith initiatives" (NYTimes.com). With a President running our country who is guilty himself of mixing state and church, how can our society hope to keep the two separated? While the country was formed with freedom of religion as one of its foremost attributes our President in 2004 seeks to impose his own religious beliefs upon the whole of our country. In 2002, the CIA World Factbook published the percentages of religions in the U.S. Fifty-two percent were Protestant, twenty-four percent were Roman Catholic, two percent were Mormon, one percent was Jewish, one percent was Muslim, ten percent made up other religions, and ten percent were of no religion. Although approximately half of the population may be Protestant, and another quarter has similar "moral values" no one should be able to impose an order’s religious standards on people who do not believe in them when the Constitution states, "no law should be made respecting a religious establishment". Even if the changes are made under the guise of "moral values".