The pursuit of happiness

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Ashley Yarus

Keeping Perspective

The debate over same-sex marriage has been batted between institutions for decades. In 1996, former president Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage to be between a man and a woman. In 2008, California passed Proposition 8, which restricted marriage to heterosexual couples. Then, in 2010, California’s Supreme Court declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional. This week, the Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of both Proposition 8 and DOMA.

Nine states and Washington, D.C. recognize same-sex marriages. The list of states is varied, but is composed of predominantly liberal states: Connecticut, Maine, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington.

Still, more states recognize same-sex marriages under different names, with a range of associated legal rights. However, there is no federal stance on the issue of same-sex marriage besides that of DOMA. To put things into perspective, Denmark recognized same-sex unions in 1989. Since then, ten additional countries have legalized same-sex marriages. Yet, here we stand, unable to take a firm stance, unable to even draw a line in the sand.

The greatest fear of same-sex marriage supporters is that this latest Supreme Court case will dissolve, and the Court will dismiss the case. After a twisted series of laws, propositions, and bans have redefined and then dismissed the rights of homosexual citizens, this Supreme Court case may do little to clarify the rights of same-sex partners in the U.S.

However, I believe that a change is coming. A recent CNN poll found that 53 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. It also found that 57 percent said that a family member or close friend was homosexual. The issue of same-sex marriage is hitting closer to home for citizens across America. More than that, the image of homosexual couples is starting to melt into that of the nuclear family.

Looking at the crowd outside of the Supreme Court, one can’t help but notice how commonplace all the protesters seem. Yes, many of the women support cropped hair and the men wear rather stylish glasses, but they look like average Americans. More than that, they seem like nice, happy, enthusiastic people. Most are smiling and seem to emit an aura of optimism. Their signs are sincere and peaceful, most simply tout slogans of love and equality. With such meager demands, I find it hard to believe that anyone would deny these people their basic rights.

The ideas that support the gay-rights movement are simple and clear: if people are in love, they should be given the right to marry. Same-sex partners are just like any other citizens: they pay taxes, they have jobs, and they wish to share their happiness.

Separating the views of religion from the actions of state, it seems wholly unconstitutional to deny citizens their rights. Whether every American believes that their emotions are true and righteous doesn’t really pertain to the matter of people’s right to marry and receive the benefits of a legal marriage.

A Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 and DOMA isn’t expected until June. In the meantime, the supporters of same-sex marriage can at least hope for the best. If nothing else, a case regarding same-sex marriage has reached the Supreme Court. This alone can be considered a major step in the direction of change for the gay-rights movement. Even if the step is small, perhaps the mere recognition of same-sex marriage as worthy of the Supreme Court’s consideration will mean that a change is on the horizon.

Ashley Yarus is a freshman studying Chemical Engineering. Her ability to doodle anchors has increased exponentially within the last week. She is feeling slightly crushed now that magical snow no longer covers the campus.