On September 21, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, a bill proposed by Republican Bob Barr of Georgia in order to prohibit the marriage of gay and lesbian couples.(CWA) Although this bill cannot be called "unconstitutional", by forbidding the marriage of same-sex couples the government is taking a stand on an issue that does not require its lofty opinion and judgment. Marriage has long been an institution that was based on the love of two individuals and their future together. While procreation is also considered in the definition, there are no laws in our society stating that it is necessary, or even important. With this bill, the United States government is not defending the "tradition of family" but instead, enforcing prejudice and hatred against a group that is already struggling to gain equal rights and acceptance in a society that has long closed its collective mind to homosexuality.
Since the dawn of American history, equal rights among U.S. citizens has been a hotly debated issue. With the Civil War and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, slavery was prohibited. Women gained the right to vote with the ratification of the Constitution's nineteenth amendment on August 26, 1920(Cooke, 157). Although African Americans gained suffrage through the fifteenth amendment in 1870 (Cooke, 151), it was not until the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that they were actually freed from discrimination by the government(Cooke, 150). Why is it then that in today's modern American society, an institution that prides itself on being "the home of the free and the land of the brave", a vast number of Americans are hiding beneath a shroud of ignorance when it comes to the issue of homosexuality? It seems that the gay community is being attacked out of fear and intolerance with this new bill, the same vices that threatened African Americans and women. It is disturbing that even today, as we prepare to enter a new millennium, such primitive forces are still at work.
Even the title of this bill is offensive, "The Defense of Marriage Act". It implies that the tradition of marriage must be defended against corruption. This notion is ridiculous considering that a marriage today should be based on love between two individuals. There are countless heterosexual marriages that end in divorce everyday. If people are to argue that the gay community will destroy marriage, they are mistaken. Marriage has been long destroyed since the advent of divorce.
Another argument in favor of this bill is that marriage should be a union between a man and a woman for the sake of procreation. This is also unreasonable because there are many couples today who opt against having children for various personal reasons and yet no one is trying to force these couples to have children. Alas, there is no reason why a gay couple should not be allowed to adopt a child. Just like marriage, raising a child requires unconditional love, patience and responsibility, virtues that all peoples, regardless of sexual orientation are capable of fulfilling. The groups supporting this law also argued that gay love and marriage is not an example of "family values". The government does not have the right to decree who is living up to this standard and who isn't. Simply because a couple happens to be of the same sex, does not mean that they should not be allowed to raise a family in peace. There are too many homes in today's society that are in shambles for the government to be denying anyone the right to marry.
Why the government has all of a sudden felt a need to create yet another stigma/prejudice against gays evades me. If the powers that be feel that they can legislate way gays after they have only recently been afforded the opportunity to express themselves they are sadly mistaken. I believe that homosexuality is innate and not a personal "choice" as so many seem to think it is. Homosexuality has prevailed through thousands of year's of persecution and discrimination and now that our society finally is beginning to accept homosexuals, they are letting their voices be heard. As to why the government or anyone for that matter feels threatened by homosexuals is a mystery to me. They have never hurt us before, and what makes people think that by allowing them to marry it will cause harm to our society? If two people love each other, it should be of no one's concern.
Above all, this bill is grossly unnecessary. In a poll taken this past May, it was found that thirty-nine percent of American people found this bill superfluous while another thirty percent of the population were not even sure. Also, seventy-three percent thought that there were more important issues to attend to. Only thirteen percent found that passing this law should be a priority (Mellman).
Aside from The Defense of Marriage Act being unnecessary, it is unfair and prejudiced as well. Laws such as this will separate our country even further and cause even more internal strife. If by enforcing this law the government and conservative groups think they can end the practice of homosexuality, they are mistaken. People are not going to change their sexual orientation because of intolerance. It is only through the education of closed-minded groups that any change for the better can come about. Until this occurs, America is going to sink deeper and deeper into the swelling mire of hatred, all because of two people in love.
I look forward to the day when the government comes to it's senses, or rather is forced to do so, and it nullifies this bill. As the homosexual stigma continues to wane due to the education and acceptance of the public, the voice in opposition to this bill will continue to grow. For those out there who truly feel threatened by homosexuals, I pity them, because now that the ball has begun to roll, it will not be stopped until it reaches it's goal, that being when homosexuals receive the respect and acceptance that has been denied them for ages.
Cooke, Edward F. A Detailed Analysis of the Constitution. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield P, 1995.
The Libertarian Party Of Alachua County, Florida. "Reject ' Defense of Marriage Act,' Libertarians Urge Congress." <hhtp://www.afn.org/
~libparty/960605.htm>. June 5, 1996.
The Mellman Group. "Recent Poll Data On the Defense of Marriage Act". <http://www.hrcusa.org/feature1/marpoll.html>. June 4, 1996.
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