In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, the debate over national legitimacy of gay marriage has heated up. The debate is certainly not a new one and the positions are clearly defined. The left generally says unreservedly “YES!” while the right generally says unreservedly “NO!” Ultimately the issue will have to be settled in court.
In the past, when most states had anti-sodomy laws on the books, homosexual intercourse was considered illegal. A previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick, upheld the constitutionality of such laws. Religious conservatives applauded that ruling as an affirmation of traditional moral values, while the left in general, and homosexuals in particular, condemned it as a violation of their privacy rights. Of course, I must point out that in Georgia (whose sodomy laws were in question in that case), state law defines sodomy as any form of sexual act differing from the missionary position. In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court did one thing of tremendous significance beyond the specific issue of search and seizure that was at the center of that case: it declared as unconstitutional all remaining anti-sodomy laws, in effect decriminalizing homosexual conduct and overturning its previous ruling in Bowers.
The fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution affords all American citizens equal protection under the law. With all sodomy laws invalidated, homosexuality can no longer be considered a criminal act and therefore someone who is engaged in such acts is no longer considered a criminal in the eyes of the law. To this end, there really cannot be a legal basis for denying same-sex couples the same legal benefits and rights afforded to heterosexual couples within the framework of marriage. There can only be a moral argument which in the end won’t influence the law one way or the other.
Having said all that, I do not believe that this type of union should be called a “marriage.” A “marriage” should be, linguistically speaking, a term that refers to a union between a heterosexual man and woman. A union of that type between same-sex couples should be called something else, a “Civil Union” perhaps, since the basis of it is of a legal nature. So, is gay marriage a foregone conclusion? I believe it is, although we should call it something else.
Scott Wacholtz is a senior majoring in political science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org