KarMel Scholarship 2008


Honorable Mention: Best Essay


By Michael Mandrell - IL



Desciption of Submission: “Equality: Are All Men Created Equal?  A discussion on Equality and Gay Marriage.


Why Karen and Melody Liked It:  We loved that he presented facts that remind us of those who have suffered before us, and the many misconceptions that surround the gay community and our relationships.



            An historic day it was, July 4, 1776.  Everyone knows of that day, there is even a famous bell, the liberty bell, which denotes its date.  Even to this day we revel the words spoken, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.  Yet, these words did not ring true then and they do not ring true today.  At the time the Declaration of Independence was signed and instituted slavery was rampant; therefore, our country’s leaders did not feel it necessary to say “all white men are created equal.”  Even as we move into 2005, the beginning of the 21st century, there are still provisions to the phrase that was written such a long time ago.  Today’s adaptation of the Declaration of Independence would read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all heterosexual men are created equal.”  It is difficult to believe that in this day and age there are individuals who would deny rights to a group of people that everyone else holds and shares.  It seems at times as if we are moving backwards from the times of desegregation in this country, that the people and the citizens of this country are irrelevant in the eyes of the government and we do not have the rights that we were intended to have. 


            Most people would be hard pressed to understand what it feels like to be unequal to everyone else, to have your basic rights held from you because of a difference you may have, because you are not the same as everyone else; the equivalent of not giving women the right to vote in the early 1900’s.  Women can now vote, hold jobs, and own property yet we do not often think of the times when they were unable to do just that.  It seems in a short amount of time we have forgotten that others were repressed in this country; after all the Declaration of Independence did not say anything about women because men were the only people who were allowed any sort of power.  I would like to believe that we live in an extremely progressive society, being one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, yet the old world values still shine through like the north star in the black of night. 


One thing that has advanced in very recent years is the acceptance of gay and lesbians in this country and elsewhere around the world.  This acceptance has grown rapidly in an extremely short amount of time, yet there are always blocks, barricades, and walls put up at some point in time for some reason or another.  In recent times, the most controversial blockade that has been placed on the gay community is the unwillingness of legislatures to allow gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.  It seems as though this country cannot accept gay couples as human; because by denying them the right to marry, in a sense you are denying their “God” given rights and in fact making them inhuman in a sense.  There are many reasons why gay and lesbian couples feel that they should have the same rights as heterosexual couples and on the flip side, there are other opposing viewpoints that would make some Americans feel as though gay couples should not have the same rights held by every heterosexual American. 


            The strongest opposing positions in this country would have to be those of the religious organizations and advocacy groups.  In a statement released by the Vatican on July 31, 2003 the Catholic lawmakers stated, “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” (Gay Marriage 726).  The religious factions in this country live and preach upon normalcy and tradition according to Connie Mackey, Vice President of the Family Research Council in Washington D.C., “We favor the tradition of a one-man, one-woman marriage” (723).  This is the basis for their continuing advocacy in discounting gay marriage in this country.  They view the history of homosexuality and gay marriage differently by emphasizing how the Bible condemns homosexuality: “thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” Leviticus, 18:22 (733).  This is one of the arguments that opponents continually use to find support in their decision of adamantly denying same-sex couples the right to marry. 


            Another issue that opponents continually contend is how children are worse off in same-sex marriages.  With all of the social science studies that have been done many conservatives have extreme views on the issue of children within homosexual families.  When the Vermont case was trying to find it unconstitutional for same-sex couples to be denied the right to marry, Attorneys for the state upheld the state’s ban on same sex-marriage purely because “preserving traditional marriage was essential to ‘legitimize’ children and provide for their security” (Gay Marriage 732).  Opponents go even further in the issue of gay couples raising children.  Mackey from the Family Research Council brings her point further by, “warning about the potential effects on children from legalizing gay marriage” (728). 


After the Vermont ruling granting same sex couples the right to marry, the United States Government overwhelmingly passed a new piece of legislature that would temporarily at least, halt the advancement of the gay marriage issue within the United States Supreme Court.  In 1996 the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law.  The legislatures used the DOMA to define what the word marriage means.  The government wanted to make good and sure that marriage had a definition of a legal union between one man and one woman.  The DOMA also gave states the right to choose whether they should allow same-sex marriages and also the power to decide whether or not they should have to allow same-sex marriage licenses from other states. 


The current President has also endorsed a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage nationwide.  The President has stated, “When judges insist on imposing their arbitrary will on the people the only alternative left to the people is an amendment to the Constitution” (Wrong Defense).  By having a constitutional amendment passed, the states would not have any legislative authority to allow nor deny same-sex marriages.  They would have to go along with whatever the federal lawmakers have decided.  President Bush goes on to state how, “If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America.  Decisive and democratic action is needed, because attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country” (Bush). 


It almost seems as though the conservative advocates against gay-marriage are running scared.  The conservatives are initiating immediate action legislation that would attempt to stop gay-marriage in its tracks, yet for what reason?  If their was enough support behind the religious and conservative views opposing same-sex marriage as they think there is, conservatives have nothing to fear.  It seems as though the Vermont decision to allow same-sex unions has the right-wing scared.  The conservative opposition has done anything and everything, whatever they could, to stop the issue dead, but it still marches forward.  While it may seem that the opponents of gay marriage do not have too much to say on their reasons why same-sex marriage should not be allowed such as simply the fact that this is what is normal and they want to keep it that way, and that they also believe it harms children.  Proponents have even more to say. 


            Advocates of same-sex marriage argue that allowing gay men and women to marry would strengthen their relationships and also give them, “Concrete legal protections and economic benefits” that they do not currently have (Gay Marriage 723).  On June 26, 2003 the United States Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law which paved the way, at least in theory, of the approval of gay marriage; although, surprisingly, the support for gay relationships dropped slightly after the ruling of Lawrence v. Texas (725).  This drop in the polls of the support of gay marriage could be due to more people realizing what this ruling could mean for gay marriage.  It is shown that support for homosexual relationships have grown dramatically within the last few decades, let alone in the last century, but there are still people who are so right-wing that they would never even consider it as a part of our culture. 


            Mary Bonauto, an attorney with the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) cited the Lawrence ruling in favor of gay marriage which she feels is the next logical step.  Lawrence confirmed what we had already been arguing—that if a right is fundamental for some, it’s fundamental for all, there’s not a gay exception in the Constitution” (Gay Marriage 725).  Some people may wonder why gay Americans want the right to marry, what would marriage provide to them that they do not already have?  The answer to this is very straightforward.  If given the right to legally marry, gay men and women would have the same rights as heterosexual couples.  Those rights include the right to access health care, medical decision-making, inheritance, taxation, and immigration among others.  “Gay people have the same needs for structure, support, and responsibility that straight people do” (727). 


            In this country it can be quite difficult for gay men and women to gain even the basic rights that heterosexual couples share.  Bill Flanigan and Robert Daniel did everything they were legally allowed to do to formalize their relationship, including becoming registered as domestic partners and also having a health-care proxy that would allow one another to make decisions regarding medical treatment.  Robert Daniel was admitted to the hospital in 2000 for complications from having AIDS, and even though they had in place a health-care proxy, the hospital still did not allow Bill to see Robert for hours until Robert’s mother arrived to give permission.  At that point, Daniel was no longer conscience and died without ever having the chance to say goodbye.  Attorneys for Lamda Legal Defense and Education Fund who represented the case stated, “We are a nation divided by discrimination in marriage, Bill and Robert paid a terrible price for that discrimination” (Gay Marriage 726).  This seems to be a pretty compelling story, but this is only one of hundreds of thousands of examples of how discrimination is detrimental to gay couples and families across this nation.  Opponents constantly bring up the issue of why we should grant special rights for gay men and women.  The counter argument from proponents is the simple fact that we are not asking for special rights, we just want the same rights that every other American shares, every other heterosexual American, that is. 


            Gay marriage and homosexuality in itself can be a very hard topic for right-wing conservatives to even acknowledge, let alone embrace.  As Ron Crews, the President of the Massachusetts Family Institute, points out, “The push for legalizing homosexual ‘marriage’ is based on at least three myths: that same-sex sexual behavior is genetic and unchangeable, that homosexual relationships are just like marriage between a man and a woman, and that children raised by same-sex couples do just as well as those with a married mother and father.  None of these myths is true” (Gay Marriage 739).  After reading this quote, it seems as though some people believe that homosexuality does not even exist.  Gay rights activists continually point out that we just want the same rights that everyone else in this country shares. 


It seems ironic that some individuals would have the opinions that they do in fact have.  For example, the Vice-President of the United States, Dick Cheney, who supports the Federal Marriage Amendment, has a daughter who not only works for the Bush-Cheney campaign, but is also a lesbian and a gay-rights activist (Wrong Defense).  It seems quite hypocritical that someone would pass a piece of legislation that would disallow their own daughter from being married. 


            Authors of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) have even fought the Marriage Protection Act from being introduced into law.  Republican Bob Barr (R-Ga), the chief author of DOMA opposes the Marriage Protection Act because, “Since state courts could rule on the constitutionality of DOMA, the chaotic result could be 50 different interpretations reached by state supreme courts with no possibility of the United States Supreme Court reversing any incorrect interpretation” (Courting).  In essence, the Marriage Protection Act would disallow the United States Supreme Court to hear appeals involving the issue of gay marriage.  It is to some a, “Risky precedent of stripping the courts jurisdiction in particular areas” (Courting).  What this act would do is to strip the authority of the Supreme Court in the matter. 


While the Catholic Church is strictly opposing same-sex marriage, how they are not even “remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”, there are other surprising proponents of gay marriage more recently in history.  The United Church of Christ who “Prides itself on being in the forefront of human-rights issues” released a statement on July 4, 2005 that sets a precedent in affirming marriage equality and civil rights to individuals of the same gender.  The President of the United Church of Christ Reverend John Thomas stated, “The church strives to have diversity without division, unity without uniformity” he hopes that, “we will not run from one another, because if we run from one another we run from Christ” (Dewan).  Surprisingly, the Supreme Courts for the most part are backing the proponents of gay marriage, at least on some issues.  One of the reasons that the opponents could be running scared is due to the Supreme Courts striking down anti-gay laws across the country.  One of the reasons that the opponents want the Supreme Court stripped of its judicial authority is due to how it is proven that state constitutional amendments are vulnerable to legal challenges.  In 2004, a federal judge ruled that Nebraska’s anti-gay marriage amendment was discriminatory under the United States Constitution because the amendment, “Denied homosexuals due process and other rights” (Swanson). 


            Massachusetts first allowed gay marriages in 2004 after a court ruling that struck down the gay marriage ban in that state.  Jerry Oullet and Richard Kaminski were legally married in Massachusetts and they have stated, “It’s made us feel equal, at least in the eyes of Massachusetts, it really makes us feel whole, equal to my mom and dad and their marriage” (Swanson).  This is the equality that gay rights advocates have been looking for over many years.  The right to be honored as equals in this society that we call the free land of America.  There are also many other religious sects who currently allow same-sex communion ceremonies and also allow their religious affiliation to preside over these ceremonies.  The majority of the religious denominations in this country has allowed and do allow the same rights to same-sex couples as heterosexual couples (Gay Marriage 726).  After all, we are the same people who hold the same jobs and mostly the same moral beliefs as everyone else. 


            Strikingly one of the opponents’ strongest arguments is also one of their weakest.  Opponents like to regularly cite the effects that homosexual relationships and families have on children.  Mackey from the Family Research Council believes that the legalization of gay marriage could lead to many other consequences.  Mackey states that, “there might be pressure to bestow marriage-like benefits on other living arrangements.  If an aunt and a niece are living together why would they not be privileged to the same tax laws?” (Gay Marriage 728).  This slippery slope argument really does not hold up.  Mackey is claiming that if gay men and women were allowed to legally marry that it would lay the ground work out for anyone who is living together to have the same rights.  If this were the case, her argument would also lead you to believe that if same-sex marriages were legal that it would lead to legalized incest, a father could marry a daughter and it would be perfectly legal.  If Mackey’s argument is this asinine, then maybe her beliefs are as well. 


Gay rights activists are not asking the government to legally sanction incest, they are asking the government to grant a group of adults the same rights that other heterosexual adults possess.  In the Vermont law suit, the court found that by excluding same-sex couples from the legal protections of marriage, “exposes their children to the precise risks that the State argues the marriage laws are designed to secure against” (Gay Marriage 730).  Both sides differ widely in their opinion of the effects of raising children in homosexual families.  Researchers have shown that children raised in gay households are more tolerant of homosexual behavior than children from heterosexual households but opponents say that this only substantiates their argument that gay parenting is bad for children.  In a friend of the court brief, a coalition of mental health and social welfare organizations told the state high court that it is, “beyond scientific dispute that children of gay and lesbian parents are as well adjusted and psychologically healthy as those of heterosexual parents” (Gay Marriage 730).  Stereotypes abound in the instance of gay parents raising children.  Many right wing people think about the gay man as a child molester who should have no rights to have children when in fact it has been proven that children of gay parents are no better or no worse than children of heterosexual parents.  If anything, children learn to become more tolerant of others which is probably what most people do in fact need, tolerance. 


            Acceptance is something that is far reaching in our society and can take a long time to get.  Some advocates of gay marriage point out how it will not be an easy nor quick fight to have gay marriage legal.  Using precedence as the point in their argument they cite how it was not too long ago that interracial marriages were illegal in this country.  After a long legal battle, the Supreme Court finally ruled that it was unconstitutional to discriminate between couples of different racial background.  So hence, the attorneys for GLAD feel that it is only a matter of time before the initiative passes and gay men and women are granted the same rights as every heterosexual person in this country. 


It comes to show and I must ask the question, what are heterosexuals afraid of?  Are they afraid of giving someone the same rights they themselves enjoy?  Or is it more of a reality issue to them.  If gay marriage was allowed to occur, it would mean that yes, gay men and women are people too, and this would mean that they would have to accept the fact that people are actually gay and that we would have the same rights.  It seems as if conservatives want to leave something over our heads, that something we cannot reach and be equal to them for some reason or another.  It is very disheartening to feel as if your community and your very country does not want to recognize nor accept you for who you are.  The morality issue is inconsequential.  Our morals are set on our beliefs, what the normalcy is in this country and what we should do and should not do.  


I was recently watching an episode of The West Wing, a popular television drama on the presidential branch of government.  On this particular episode, a military officer and his wife were brought the White House to speak for the President’s upcoming bill on hate crimes.  The reason they in particular were there to speak is the fact that their 17 year old gay son was beaten to death because of his orientation.  The President’s Press Secretary was worried that the officer would be embarrassed to discuss his son’s homosexuality, but when it came to the point to discuss this issue, it was not that at all.  The officer stated how he is not embarrassed because his son was gay; he was ashamed of his government because they are embarrassed of his son’s orientation.  At some point in time in my life I would like to have children and have the same rights as everyone else who has children in this country.  But at the same time, I would not want to have to explain to my children why the person that I love and share my life with is not allowed to marry me.  It is almost telling them that their parents are not really parents because the law and our society do not allow it in this country.  The opposition can claim that their reasons are because it has historically always been a marriage between a man and a woman, but we do not live in the past.  It is us, the future of this country and of our society, who are going to set the path for the future and while we cannot change the past, we can advocate and fight for our own futures. 


Works Cited

"Bush and the Gay-Marriage Ban." Chicago Tribune 18 Jan. 2005, sec. Editorial: 18. Chicago Tribune. News Bank. 03 July 2005. Keyword: Gay Marriage.

"Courting a Bad Precedent." Chicago Tribune 25 July 2004, sec. Editorial: 8. Chicago Tribune. News Bank. 03 July 2005. Keyword: Gay Marriage.

Dewan, Shaila. "Gay Marriages Get Church_Blessing UCC Strongly Backs Equal Rights for Same-Sex Couples." Chicago Tribune 5 July 2005, sec. News: 8. Chicago Tribune. News Bank. 7 July 2005. Keyword: Gay Marriage.

"Gay Marriage: Should Same-Sex Unions be Legally Recognized?" CQ Researcher 13.30 (2003):  721-748. CQ Researcher. 05 July 2005. Keyword: Gay Marriage.

Swanson, Stevenson. "In Other States, Opposition Solidifies in the Year Since the 1st State Legalized Same-Sex Weddings, the Backlash has Been Widespread." Chicago Tribune 17 May 2005, sec. News: 1. Chicago Tribune. News Bank. 03 July 2005. Keyword: Gay Marriage.

"The Wrong Defense of Marriage." Chicago Tribune 13 July 2004, sec. Editorial: 18. Chicago Tribune. News Bank. 03 July 2005. Keyword: Gay Marriage.