Staff Editorial; Inalienable rights need no redefinition

By Duke Staff

 

When the Supreme Court heard arguments last week on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, the nation watched with anticipation.

These two laws are at the center of the United States’ marriage equality debate. Gay and lesbian rights are not a new issue; the fight began decades ago following the sexual revolution of the ‘60s. The debate of equal rights for all is also not a new topic. As a nation, we’ve been arguing the same basic issue since the birth of our nation – are all men, and women, created equal?

According to our Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence, all people are equal. Everyone has certain inalienable rights — the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and are privy to equal protection in the eyes of the law.

If everyone is equal, why are we still debating whether or not gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people should have the right to marry whomever they choose?

Twenty years later, the Supreme Court is tasked with
either upholding this federally defined idea of marriage or striking it down as an unconstitutional error.

In 1996, Congress passed DOMA with a 427/81 vote with Republicans and Democrats on the same side of the debate to define marriage. When President Bill Clinton signed it on Sept. 21, 1996, the federal government clearly, explicitly stated that a marriage between a man and a woman would be the only ones valid in the eyes of the law.

Twenty years later, the Supreme Court is tasked with either upholding this federally defined idea of marriage or striking it down as an unconstitutional error.

Similarly California’s Proposition 8, which bans any same sex marriage in the state, is coming under fire in the Supreme Court. Passed in November 2008, Proposition 8 has been a point of controversy for its entire existence. It was first found to be unconstitutional on Feb. 7, 2012, by a federal appeals court and is now being examined on the national stage.

A survey of the American people tells a different story though. According to the Washington Post/ABC News poll from March 25, 2013, the American population’s support for gay marriage in 2004 was only 48 percent. Nearly 10 years later, the population’s support is now 58 percent.

Nine states have already legalized same sex marriage. With it clearly outlined in many of our nation’s founding documents, why are the last 41 states denying residents those basic inalienable rights?

The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens and under our most basic laws, all citizens are privy to equal protection of their rights, no matter their gender, race, beliefs or sexual orientation.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!