On Tuesday, North Carolina voters passed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. This is nothing new; the last few years have seen an increase in anti-gay sentiments from state governments, and we even saw an overtly anti-gay presidential candidate run for office and actually do well.
Why are gays so discriminated against? They consider homosexuality unnatural, or against God. Homosexuals can’t love in the same way as heterosexuals can, they argue. People not willing to invoke these somewhat antiquated arguments say homosexuals will use the legal rights to financial advantage, or that gay Americans can’t be trusted to raise a well-rounded child, or even that the biological incapability of members of the same sex to produce a child should be justification enough of the protection of traditional marriage. Gays shouldn’t be allowed in the military because even if it didn’t disrupt unit cohesion, we can’t afford to experiment with our nation’s defense force. Argument after argument is thrown by opponents trying to justify the notion that change is bad because nobody can prove that it’s good.
We’ve all heard these arguments, and sadly they’re merely symptoms of a far more debilitating disease. There’s a more insidious sentiment that lies in the distinction between same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions in many states, such as Illinois, where civil unions are legal while same-sex marriages are not. Moreover, the legal rights associated with each are essentially the same. Yet there is also a law in Illinois that explicitly prohibits same-sex marriage. Why would the state recognize a civil union with the same rights as a marriage, but not be willing to call it a marriage?
There may be many answers, but a quite alarming one can be established simply by asking same-sex marriage opponents: There is an element of status associated with marriage, and gays should not be allowed to claim it. The moral supremacy of traditional marriage is still a deeply rooted idea in the minds of a substantive quantity of Americans and is as destructive to a resilient social fabric as any and all arguments that oppose equal rights and the 14th amendment. Some segments of the population have come a long way: New York legalized same-sex marriage and President Barack Obama’s cabinet are putting increasing pressure on Obama and the Democratic Party to take a hardline stance in favor of gay marriage.
However, for as long as such fundamental, institutional opposition as moral or social supremacy exists, we can’t possibly hope to make gay rights a given and get to work on legitimate problems.
Gregori Kanatzidis (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a junior majoring in mathematics.