Friday, October 22, 2010

Debating Gay Marriage, Part II

As promised, I'm now posting my closing statement from the gay marriage debate I had in class last year (click here to see the opening statement). As I gave my closing statement second, it was my responsibility to respond to my opponent's claims, and so these remarks may make decidedly less sense if you are unfamiliar with what her claims were. However, I am presenting this as a sort of how-to for those of you who plan on challenging those who believe that civil unions are enough for the LGBT community.


My opponent and I agree on one very important thing, and that is that we have a problem here. The status quo cannot stand; something has got to give. Now, we agree that there is a problem, but where we fail to agree is with regards to how we go about solving that problem.

My opponent first argued that marriage in itself violates the separation of church and state. Frankly, I couldn't agree more. But it's a moot point; for better or for worse, marriage is now a matter not only of church, but also of state: it is in our federal law one thousand and forty-nine times. To take away straight couples' already-existing right to marry under the law is unfair. How do you tell a straight couple that has been married for thirty years, like my own parents, that their marriage is no longer recognized? In the five states that currently allow gay marriage, religious institutions that do not want to perform such ceremonies are not obligated to do so, thus keeping the church and state separate. This is a win-win situation.

Second, my opponent argued that civil unions for everyone would allow equality. This is also true, but also a moot point. Civil unions would allow equality, yes, but so would civil marriage. And given the previously-mentioned General Accounting Office report, which states that married couples receive one thousand rights that couples in civil unions do not, I would rather see us equal and well-protected under the law.

Lastly, my opponent argued that gay marriage is too unpopular to support. While I unfortunately am obligated to agree with the facts, I do not think that this should stop us from striving to achieve full marriage equality. Minds can be changed. Hearts can be opened. If we have a healthy dialogue such as this one, people will see that we need to keep the church out of what has in fact become a governmental institution and allow all couples to have the same rights under the law.

What it comes down to is that civil unions are not civil marriage. We cannot let civil unions be the last word on the matter of marriage equality. We must strive to allow all couples, gay or straight, to enjoy the institution of marriage equally, and receive the same legal rights and protections under the law.

Our founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Our founding fathers, from the time of this nation's birth, had a notion of equality. Now, back then, equality was for white male landowners. But as our nation has evolved, so too has our definition of equality.

In 1863, it meant that no human being could own another human being.

In 1920, it meant that women could have a role in the process of choosing our elected officials.

In 1964, it meant that separate institutions for separate races is not equal.

And in 2003, it meant that any person, gay or straight, could practice their sexual preferences in the privacy of their own homes, without fear of retribution.

Equality is not a singular event. You aren't going to wake up one day and say, equality is here. Rather, equality is an eternal struggle, an eternal march towards an ideal. Equality in the institution of marriage is the next step in that march. As members of the George Washington University, one of the most politically progressive schools in the nation, I hope you will join us in that struggle, join us in that march. We would be happy to march alongside you. Thank you.

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