Banning Same-Sex Marriage
Violates Church-State Separation

by Allen Snyder
March 15, 2004
First Published in Op Ed News.com

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The same-sex marriage debate currently raging is arguably deflecting a moth-like publicís attention away from some of BushCoís more egregious failures like the mess in Iraq and the sagging, jobless economy, but itís nevertheless an issue being taken very seriously by both supporters and opponents.  Some government officials, most notably in San Francisco and New Paltz, New York , are bucking trends, civilly disobeying, and marrying hundreds of gay couples.  The state courts and legislatures are now involved and it looks to be a long and emotionally hyperbolic debate.


BushCo, the Christian Right, their Roll-O-Dex full of loyal fundamentalist hacks, flacks, and pundits, as well as other sundry neurotically homophobic ignoramuses are howling that when gays marry, itís certainly the end of all civilization as we know it.  As a permanent solution to this plague of decadent and morbid love, caring, and commitment, some of your more backward states, like Kansas (they hate evolution, too), are furiously and fervently fast-tracking constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages.  There is even some high-minded talk on Capitol Hill of similarly amending the US Constitution, that same crazy document that accords equal rights and individual liberties (gasp!) to all Americans under the law.


Most gay marriage supporters rightly argue such an amendment ought to be soundly defeated, since it curtails rather than expands individual rights, something the US Constitution has never before done (fractions of black slaves notwithstanding).


Not really a good legal argument.  A more fruitful strategy would be to argue the proposed amendment is  prima facie unconstitutional; not because it writes blatant discrimination into the law, but because it violates the constitutionally recognized separation of church and state.  The Christian rightís disguising this issue as a moral and social one conveniently obscures its patently religious roots.


Consider.  Opponents of gay marriage believe the amendment is necessary to protect marriage.  More specifically, it will protect the sanctity of marriage.  Well, what is sanctity anyway?  What does it mean to sanctify a marriage or consider the practice itself as sanctified?


One look at any decent English dictionary quickly demonstrates that "sanctity" in every way, shape, form, tense, or variation, reeks of religious influence and connotation.  Under "sanctification", Christianity is even mentioned specifically.  Also found are references to the "sacred", the "Sabbath", "baptism", "holiness", and "piety".  These are all readily recognizable contents of the true religious believerís bag of semantic mumbo-jumbo.


The proposed Constitutional amendment really amounts to little more than protecting a practice mostly religious people believe has some hallowed, sacred, ultra-special, and spiritually important place in their little God-created and directed grand scheme of things.  Presumably, marriage is one of those human behaviors God has arbitrarily seen fit to rubber-stamp as a "right" or "moral" choice Ė as long as itís a hetero marriage, that is. Homos, as we all know, are terrible sinners, for they all choose wrongly.  God cannot abide by (or sanctify) their marriages.  All in all, an illogical, but sadly effective, line of faith-based nonsense.


One could argue such an amendment, since it doesnít promote, favor, or establish any particular religion, does not constitute such a First Amendments violation.  The establishment clause is widely interpreted as prohibiting the intervention of government in religious matters and vice versa.  The sanctification of marriage is a strictly religious matter.  While right thinking Americans donít want to see either included in the US Constitution, adding or including one of them, namely religion, is clearly forbidden.


The only way to avoid a church/state violation would be for amendment supporters to change course and argue the amendment protects something other than the sanctity of marriage.  But if it doesnít protect marriageís sanctity, then itís unclear exactly what it does or would protect.  Either way, amendment supporters face what, for their stunted intellects and narrowly bigoted minds, will be a monumental philosophical challenge.


Do they keep spewing spurious crap about how gay marriage degrades the institution while popular reality shows mock and disparage it on prime time TV and divorce is as trendy as ever, or do they join the rest of us in the 21st Century, leave behind their Neanderthal prejudices and antiquated ideas that homosexuality is a conscious life choice, somehow a function of our God-given free will?


Any amendment banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional; not because it injects the Constitution with discrimination, but because it injects it with religion in the form of sanctity.  So if and when this pitiful amendment comes before voters or undergoes serious judicial scrutiny, supporters can argue its unconstitutionality on First Amendment church/state separation grounds.


And when equal rights, personal liberty, and gay love inevitably win out, we can all remind the remaining fundamentalist homophobes and hate-mongers that another apropos derivation of the word "sanctity" is "sanctimonious".

Allen Snyder is an instructor of Philosophy and Ethics. He can be reached at asnyder111@hotmail.com. This article is copyright by Allen Snyder and  originally published by opednews.com but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.

Other Articles by Allen Snyder

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* Bushís Education Policies Aim To Undermine Democracy and Dumb Students Down
* Is Florida Run By Sadists?
* Finally Fascist
* 16 Words + 28 Pages = 44 Distractions



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