Should Voters Be Heard on Gay Marriage Bill?

By Allison Schoenauer  

Elm Staff Writer 


Last Thursday, March 1, saw Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a law legalizing gay marriage in the state.  This makes Maryland the eighth state in the union to legalize gay marriage and the second jurisdiction underneath the Mason-Dixon Line (the other is our little but powerful neighbor, Washington D.C.). This, simply put, is awesome.

What is not awesome is the threat that this could all be taken away. The Civil Marriage Protection Act, the law that legalizes gay marriage in Maryland, could be put on the upcoming November referendum.  If the voters so choose, they could vote to negate the bill and rescind the right to a legal marriage—and all of its emotional and legal perks—to same-sex couples.  If this happens, it would be a disappointing and devastating blow to the gay rights movement and to the advancement of human dignity in the United States.

The fight for gay marriage has been long and hard, with significant advances—such as the legalization of gay marriage in D.C. three years ago—being hindered by crippling denials—such as California’s infamous Proposition 8 and, more recently, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoing the gay marriage bill that had been passed through both the state senate and state House of Representatives.

The case in New Jersey is slightly different, however, than what happened in California in 2006 or what might happen in Maryland in November. New Jersey’s bill was defeated by a single man with an extreme party allegiance and who secretly wants to be the Republican presidential candidate in a few years. California let its population decide, however briefly, the fate of its gay marriage bill. Maryland might be doing the same.

It’s fair to let citizens have their say in the bills that get passed in their states.  I believe that, as part of a country whose foundation is the participation of the citizens in their government, referendums are a healthy and needed  expression of that foundation.  And if the Civil Marriage Protection Act gets put on a referendum, that means its opponents are acting on their own right to express their displeasure in government proceedings.

What’s disappointing about this entire fiasco may partly sprout from my naivety and kind-heartedness, which wonders why in the world people are even fighting against gay marriage.  What harm does it bring to Sam if Bob and Joe get married?  What offense does Jane perceive when she sees Sally and Becky exchanging marriage vows?  Are they jealous?  That’s probably it—they’re jealous.

From my understanding of the arguments against gay marriage, they all seem to boil down to the same goal: protecting the sanctity of the tradition of marriage, be it the religious sense of spiritual bonding or the secular sense of familial and economic benefit.  The tradition of marriage, however, has changed with the ages; starting as a need to ensure the genetic purity of a family’s offspring—we don’t want land disputes or rampant incest, do we—and evolving into business arrangements between families that was validated by religion to perpetuate a working system, and then romanticized in recent years as an expression of love.  For all intents and purposes, the new tradition of marriage is the romantic expression of love between two consenting individuals.

The romanticizing of marriage evolved around the same time as the first stirrings of the Women’s Rights Movement.  As dignity was given to one partner in traditional marriage, the definition of traditional marriage changed.  A similar trend can be seen during the Civil Rights Movement, when interracial marriage was legalized.  And now a new group, starved of dignity, wants the rights of the majority.  Gays and lesbians want to be a part of this new tradition.  And opponents are falling back on archaic definitions of tradition?

The fight for gay marriage is no longer a discussion over what defines marriage—we know what defines marriage.  What it is now is a fight for the dignity of people who have suffered for a single aspect of their lives. If marriage and society have bent to the dignity of others, why can’t it bend to the dignity of gays and lesbians?

3 thoughts on “Should Voters Be Heard on Gay Marriage Bill?

  1. No, it is not fair to let citizens vote in referendums on questions of who has what rights. That pits one group of citizens against another group. One of the very basic foundations of our Constitution is that everyone has the same rights and to let one group vote on the rights of another group opens the door to “tyranny of the majority,” something the founding fathers adamantly opposed. During the Civil Rights era and during a time when interracial marriage was against the law, there was NEVER a time when the citizens got to vote on such laws. You get a chance to vote for your representatives in congress, both Representatives and Senators—that is where you get to vote. Direct referendum on civil rights is one of the worst possible scenarios, and I oppose it. It’s a terrible and destructive precedent.

  2. I think its great that Maryland will no longer stigmatize people who want to marry same sex.
    Its a no brainer. As many conservatives like to point out, this is the land of the free and home of the brave.
    The state does NOT grant us rights. As our founders recognized, these unalienable rights were endowed upon us by our creator, who ever that may be.
    In a truly free society the state wouldn’t even be involved. This wouldn’t even be an issue. Gay marriage would have gone on and nobody would have cared.
    Its not hurting anyone else, its just denying another human being freedom.
    I can’t believe people dedicate their lives to oppressing the rights of others.
    I shouldn’t even be saying gay marriage. Just marriage, just humanity, just dignity, just freedom. This is the USA, i didn’t know we had religious tests.

  3. Some people here in Maryland see the referendum vote as a final hurdle to marriage equality in Maryland.
    Regardless of the outcome of the vote, fair-minded straight and gay Marylanders will not rest until marriage equality is the law of Maryland. The tough and the hardy amongst us will merely continue (as we have every year in Maryland) to lobby our legislators in Annapolis for Maryland marriage equality if the vote prevents marriage rights from becomng going into effect in Maryland.

    We refuse to be cowed by a voter repeal of this marriage equality law and we will continue onward until a Maryland marriage equality law is finally here to stay.

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