Thanks to the ruling of U.S. district judge Michael McShane, Oregon shall be the 18th U.S. state to recognize the rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, to share their lives with one another in a legally recognized union. This recognition of same-sex marriage is perhaps most important to the many Oregonians who were already in committed relationships to one another but were unable to access the rights that legally recognized civil unions of heterosexual couples automatically receive.
Although this most recent civil rights victory in Oregon is a huge step in the right direction, there is still a great deal of misperception about same-sex marriage in popular dialogues across the country. With Congressional mid-terms on the horizon, there is always a chance for voters and candidates alike, even supposedly liberal ones, to classify the issue of same-sex marriage as a “social issue,” which often groups it in with conversations about everything from hunting permits to legalizing pot.
It’s not to say that hunting permits, substance regulation or other social issues are not of importance, but the right to marriage for same-sex couples should not be looked at as mere campaign confetti comparable to legalizing substances, but a serious human rights issue every bit as important as racial equality and women’s rights.
Those who speak against it from a “moral” perspective often rationalize their claims with religious doctrine, beliefs primarily concerned with any sexual acts involving fewer than two genders. The concept of legally recognized same-sex marriage as a threat to heterosexual marriage is actually a contemporary idea pushed by political candidates in countries all over the world, not one that can be traced back to religious writings of old. The relevancy of religious objections doesn’t have legal authority concerning people’s sex lives in free countries. Given that fact, they definitely should not have authority over legal marriage.
Most important of all, same-sex marriage isn’t even about sex. It is about the fact that people who decide to live together, raise children together, and be there for one another in their lives over an extended period of time deserve legal recognition of that. That is something of both moral and practical weight, and has nothing to do with sex. That is what a legal marriage is. There are certain kinds of insurance that you can’t file for if you are not legally married, particularly health insurance. Additionally, hospitals extend certain visitation rights only to family members and spouses. Spouses are also the ones who are granted the right to decide elements of each other’s medical care if one becomes incapacitated. It even affects the creation of a will.
The legal reasons go on, but what’s perhaps most shocking about the same-sex marriage conversation today is how it often overlooks interracial marriage in the U.S., an issue that was just as controversial with different state laws just a few decades ago. That sounds absurd today, yet somehow same-sex marriage is still up for debate in some circles.
But whether one is discriminating against people for their religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation, human beings all deserve to have the same civil rights as their fellow humans. In a democratic country, any exception to that cannot be based in logic, but in personal opinion, or simple ignorance. If people truly are concerned about morality, they should be concerned with all human beings being treated the same in the eyes of the law, not about sex.