Gay marriage: Majority opinion shouldn’t matter

Those of you who went to last week’s debate among the various campus political groups heard the Republicans justify their opposition to same-sex marriage (and, to an extent, civil unions). Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I could not respond to their points there, so I decided to do so here in print.

To begin with, there is an argument that because the majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriage, it should not occur. This is strange, because it assumes that justice depends on what the majority believes at a given time. If we followed this logic, Brown v. Board of Education was an unjust ruling, since the majority of Americans opposed it at the time.

This is not to say that gay marriage is as important as desegregating the public school system, but it does illustrate how rights are not contingent upon the rule of the majority. Slavery is not wrong merely because the majority of Americans view it as wrong; slavery is wrong because it is a violation of people’s fundamental rights. If an argument against gay marriage is to advance, it should not be based simply upon the fact that the majority of Americans is against it.

Perhaps more unusual is the opposition to same-sex marriage on the grounds that marriage is a religious institution. This is an interesting claim, for a variety of reasons. It is absurd to run a government that promotes a separation of church and state with religious beliefs. It displays a tendency to favor some religions over others, which is deeply disturbing.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, an organization that consists of Reform rabbis, declared in 2000, “We do hereby resolve that, that the relationship of a Jewish, same-gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual.”

The United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, numerous Quaker meeting groups and several ecumenical groups, such as the California Council of Churches, have taken a stance in favor of same-sex unions. Together, the members of these organizations number in the millions. Why should their religious views not be considered valid?

Fortunately, our Founding Fathers had enough foresight to recognize that the government should not involve itself in religious disputes, a course of action that today’s government should recall.

A debate on same-sex marriages should be based upon whether they would harm or benefit society. The argument is rarely presented by those opposed to it, however. Since I am unwilling to speak for others, I cannot say whether it is because they realize there is no rational reason to oppose same-sex marriage, or because they simply feel that such arguments are unimportant, compared to making sure that their religious views are the law of the land.

I leave it to readers to decide which they find more plausible and more disturbing.

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