Why Marriage Matters

I suppose that after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the California marriage equality bill, it is kind of a semi-legitimate question, asking why anyone would care. And I don't just mean straight people, but also LGBT Californians. Why would anyone care? I mean, it's not like same-sex families in California don't already have some of the most generous recognition of any state. The advances we have made in getting closer to equality under the law has been amazing. Same-sex domestic partners are now entitled to all the state rights and responsibilities that married couples are, except for filing joint tax returns. So what is the whoopla all about? So we can file joint tax returns? Allow me to say why I care. When it comes to civil rights legislations, it is about much more than legalese or technicalities. It is about humanity and human dignity. It is about being able to hold my head up high and say that I am no less as a human being than anyone else. It is about this simple fact being recognized into the laws of a just society. Benefits and legal papers matter. Being able to visit a partner in the hospital is invaluable. Being able to share insurence from the employer matters. But what matters more is dignity. When the law says on behalf of a society that two people who are in love and are willing commit to each other for the rest of their lives cannot marry simply because they happen to be of the same gender, it says something about the values of the society. It says that our relationships with our loved ones are somehow less - and less worthy of recognition - than heterosexual people. It says that somehow we are less dignified as human beings - individuals and couples - than other members of society. It says that as a society we assign dignity and moral worth not on the basis of the content of one's character, but based upon the gender makeup of our families and who we fall in love with. It says that our love and commitments are not as good as, as valuable as, or as worthy of protection as that of others. Fundamentally this is about values. As a society, do we value equality or discrimination? Do we value justice or bigotry? Do we, as a society, value human dignity for every single person or not? Do we value love and commitment? If weare a just society, as we believe we ulmitately - albeing very imperfectly - are, then the answers of these questions are easy. Dignity, justice, love, commitment and equality wins over bigotry, discrimination and demonization. I would be naive to ignore the other impacts of equal marriage rights such as vast advancement of LGBT rights accross the country if California - the largest, most populous, and most diverse - state granted equal marrigae, such as a force for changing discriminatory federal policies towards immigration, the military, and in more than 1,000 areas of the federal laws that discriminated on the basis of love. But all of it has a higher moral purpose. A purpose of human dignity, respect, and equal justice under the law, all founding principles of a great society.


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