Sunday, January 2, 2011

Don't Take Marriage for Granite

Why do we marry? That’s not a simple question to answer, and the responses are as diverse and varied as the couples who make this commitment. But all will agree that marriage is a commitment - a promise between two people that they will love and support each other regardless of whatever else happens in their environment.

Governments recognize this commitment by providing some economic and legal benefits to married couples - tax breaks, hospital visitation rights, and joint financial arrangements to name a few.

Several states recognize that this type of love and commitment can transcend gender, and thus allow couples to marry regardless of their gender. New Hampshire is one such state.

But this month, with the surge of the election of social bigots, marriage equality is in danger in the Granite State. Enough Republican Tea Partiers have been elected to give the GOP a veto-proof majority in the state legislature. Like almost every other state, New Hampshire has significant budget problems, but one of the first items on the GOP’s agenda is to deny New Hampshire residents their rights by repealing the year-old legislation that implements marriage equality.

As I have previously written, there are two aspects to marriage - civil and religious, and these need to be kept separate. Since the U.S. Constitution clearly prohibits discrimination based on gender, there is no legal rationale for restricting civil marriage to opposite sex couples. Yet, right-wingers, who are otherwise strict interpreters of the Constitution, compromise their position when it comes to marriage equality. On the other hand, proponents of marriage equality recognize that faith institutions may opt in or opt out on the issue, based on their religious tenets. But as far as government is concerned, all marriages should be universally recognized.

It would be a travesty if New Hampshire repeals its marriage equality statute. All over the country, couples who marry would live under a Sword of Damocles in danger that their vows could be rescinded and their rights breached by the whims of an intolerant legislature.

Unfortunately, at the national level, the incoming House of Representatives is teeming with troglodytes who would like nothing more than to treat marriage equality as a wedge issue. Repeal of the misnamed Defense of Marriage Act is not going to happen in the 112th Congress. As the nation has taken a step forward in repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, New Hampshire is about to take a step backward that will not be rectified for several years to come.

1 comment:

  1. Since you are now a strict constructionalist, perhaps you can point out to your small band of loyal readers where exactly in the constitution it "clearly prohibits discrimination based on gender".

    The only reference I can find is the 19th amendment, which pertains only to voting rights.