Debate Forum Center: Wedding bells will ring if Ohio passes same-sex marriage amendment
By Alex Culpepper
Not that long ago in this country, it was illegal in nearly every state for people of the same sex to have sexual encounters. Law enforcement routinely attempted to stop the activity, but events like the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969 led to a movement of gay rights activism that would gain strength through the years. Further aiding their cause in the 1970s, the psychiatric and psychological professions proclaimed homosexuality to be no longer a mental disorder. In these early days of the movement, the gay rights push was mostly for personal liberty, and few had marriage on their minds. Now, same-sex marriage is legal in 12 states and 14 countries, but Ohio is not one of them.
In 2004, Ohio amended its constitution to exclude same-sex couples from legal marriage. An organization called FreedomOhio intends to change that by bringing the same-sex marriage issue to ballot either this November or in a future election cycle. They propose a Freedom to Marry amendment that would repeal the 2004 amendment and make same-sex marriage legal in Ohio. Whether this happens sooner or later depends on the support FreedomOhio can muster. Support nationally for same-sex marriage has sharply increased in the last 15 years, but people in Ohio have been giving mixed signals. Behind all of this action, the U.S. Supreme Court has two cases concerning same-sex marriage on which they will rule in June.
Supporters of the Freedom to Marry amendment argue that people should not be denied the rights of marriage regardless of their sexual orientation. Such discrimination, they claim, is unconstitutional and all are permitted the right to pursue liberty and happiness. Another problem supporters cite is further denying legal same-sex marriage promotes stigmatization of gay people and couples as inferior and deviant. Supporters believe same-sex couple should simply have the same rights and freedoms as others.
Opponents are not welcoming a new amendment permitting same-sex marriage. To them, this is an assault on the long-held tradition of marriage consisting of one man and one woman and will further erode the traditional family unit as a foundation of society. Some opponents claim this opens the door to other types of marriages, such as polygamy, incest and other alternative unions. Opponents also believe this movement would give legal, social and political merit to what they believe is a lifestyle choice among a special class of people.
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on same-sex marriage in June, and the decision will certainly affect what happens here in Ohio. Nonetheless, both sides will continue to work for their goals in the absence of a national mandate. Supporters of the Freedom to Marry amendment believe the time has come for legalization of same-sex marriage and the rights bestowed with that union. Opponents will also continue to defend what they believe are assaults on traditional marriage and the social costs that come with them.
Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at AlexCulpepper@DaytonCityPaper.com
Debate Forum Question of the Week:
Ohio’s constitution currently says marriage is between one man and one woman. Should Ohio amend the constitution to permit same-sex marriage? If so, is this the year to move ahead with that plan on Election Day this November?
Debate Left: When will we let others live their lives in peace?
Just today, as I took my morning walk along one of Dayton’s many rivers, I was noticing how inviting nature is, how welcoming and pleasant, from the softness of the grass underfoot and the leaves on the bushes along the pathway, to the pleasant feel of the wind carrying the layers of birdsong overhead. It made me think. We look around us and see that almost everything in nature is soft, beautiful, pleasant. Even newborns come into this world soft and beautiful, open and capable of giving and receiving love. Studies show that children come preprogrammed to naturally be compassionate and helpful. What happens along the way that changes that initial softness and receptivity into sharpness and hard edges? What transforms the compassion into hatred, judgment, attempted control and intolerance?
Nine times out of ten, it is, ironically, religion. That very institution that is supposed to teach love and to show us how to spread love more often than not ends up encouraging either actively or passively persecuting “the other,” whether that other is another religion, another ethnicity, another political party or another lifestyle.
Our 1851 Ohio Constitution is very clear. In fact, right up front, in Article 1 – Bill of Rights, Ohio declares, “All men are, by nature, free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety.” How can that obnoxious, freedom-limiting, disrespectful 2004 amendment even stand, given that our state says that government is instituted for the “equal protection and benefit” of the people?
Article 1 further says we Ohioans have a “natural and indefeasible right” to follow our own consciences without “any interference with the rights of conscience.” How our General Assembly was able to pass an unconstitutional amendment is unfathomable. And how it can declare itself above the federal Constitution which requires “full faith and credit” to every other state’s laws, is also beyond comprehension. This means that Ohio is technically in violation of federal law in mandating that same-sex marriages performed in other states will not be recognized here. The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution mandates that when federal and state laws conflict, federal law wins.
But law is no barrier to those seeking to control, to push their own morality onto others. In an attempt to scare others into doing things their way, we hear that permitting same-sex marriage will lead to incestuous marriages and polygamy. Scare tactics were also used to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970’s, an innocuous and fair amendment saying only that women must receive the same rights as men. Opponents said that if it passed, women and men would have to use the same public restrooms. The scare tactic worked. The amendment never made it into law.
Fear drives all bad acts … intolerance, hatred, abuse, tyranny, and war. It is employed against those who are genuinely seeking to make the world a better place, from the Occupy Movement, to the Climate Change activists, to those agitating for the labeling of GMO foods. When “news” reports scare us, it is time to look deeper and begin investigating on our own. We have come to the time in history when we must move beyond fear and loathing; it is time to reach higher and be the limitless beings we are.
Saying that banning same-sex marriage is necessary for the defense of marriage should make every intelligent person ask, “Why? How are the two related in any way?” Has anyone ever seen same-sex people try to stop heterosexuals from marrying and having children? Nothing is “threatening” traditional marriage. Words carry emotional power; it’s time to disassemble the catchphrases we continually hear on divisive issues.
On May 23, the new Pope delivered a message saying that even atheists and Christians can be “precious allies to defend the dignity of man in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples.” Giant leap! He has urged us all to “do good” and to set about the work of being loving rather than trying to be “right”. Pope Francis, leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world, was even so bold as to say that Christ’s apostles were “closed off by the idea of possessing the truth” and that an “arrogant certainty” is no way to do good as we encounter all others along our path. As the article said, it’s not belonging to a church that saves us; it’s belonging to each other. We need to find common ground, not reasons to fight. We need to tip our hats to the humanity in “the other” and treat him or her as we would like to be treated. Life is tough. People are struggling. Our choice is simple. Will we impede or facilitate each other along the bumps in the road ahead for all of us?
The same-sex marriage issue enjoys popular support in Ohio and across the nation. Let’s do what’s right, make it legal, put this injustice of denying basic human rights behind us and turn our attention to things that really matter and need addressing – hunger, climate change, poverty, education and our eroding civil rights. Let’s “slow it down” and take time to breathe and reflect, to savor and to do the most good we can for each other whenever and however we can. That would be a legacy we could all be proud of.
Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.
Debate Right: Marriage: A cultural icon
In the generations since World War II, what has changed in the body politic is the idea there are immutable principles based on not only millennia of religious tradition, but societal norms that determine human culture. With the advent of postmodern philosophy, all things are defined as relative to the time and to individual frame of reference. This includes language and definition, and by extension, cultural norms. Marriage and the marital concept is not some idea cooked up by a social planner, but is rooted on the basic concept of one man and one woman as the unifying relationship of society’s foundational unit, the family.
From the days of the cave man, roles have been determined by biological facts. Although it may be politically incorrect to state, men are generally physically stronger and have been regarded as the defender of the family when physical danger threatens the family unit. In general, women are biologically more sensitive and caring, and anyone who has not been living in a cave in isolation knows they have a more nurturing affect. Studies have shown that, on average, men are better at mathematical reasoning to the extent that in the same study, women given testosterone improved math scores on further testing. These are facts borne by objective study and analysis. Any political unit, whether a republican form, democracy or socialist tyranny is based on this fundamental unit. A man and woman supporting the children in unique and frequently complementary ways does not mean all women should be left to do only household duties while husband is out winning the bread. In the days of technological convenience, a woman – or a man in that role – does not need to spend 70 percent of their day doing household chores, as did women in the 1930s. In general, efficiency in the workplace has led to greater efficiencies in work outside the home.
Roles are not meant to be handcuffs, but guides for future generations, as has been the case since man first put tool to slate to record. Given their own devices, boys will tend to play with balls or even – horrors – toy guns. Girls are attracted to more genteel pursuits, most often focused on babies and dresses. Most every little girl wants to be a princess. A good illustration is the movie “Mona Lisa Smiles,” wherein the heroine wanted to force roles onto coeds at a prestigious eastern college. Most were supposed to look upon the girl who chose to be a wife wistfully as a failure who should have pursued a legal career, but the real lesson was that she made the choice based on an intelligent appraisal of the future. “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” a generation ago made the same point.
Such traditional roles, then, do not need to be chains of oppression. By the same design, a close personal relationship between two men or two women is recognized in our society, as it has been in most societies throughout history. Generally, American Indians regarded gay members with respect, a tendency both adhered to by religious tenets and ethicists in modern American culture. For the males to be hunters and warriors was the norm, but they regarded gay men and women as “two spirited,” with respect, but not the same as the Indian family unit. In China, which until Marco Polo’s travels was largely isolated from western culture, Confucianism ruled society, based on the family unit. This would seem to indicate certain basic tendencies including man and woman as the basic societal unit.
Now comes the idea that an alternative to multiple millennia of established cultural principle is somehow a civil right. In a country that is still living with the guilt 150 years after the end of slavery, civil rights is now applied to a variety of issues that actually demeans the separate and discriminatory behavior in the U.S. both before and after the Civil War. The idea of individuals involved in a loving relationship is a fundamental freedom which should not be criminalized, nor should engaging individuals be singled out for derision. Having that stated is not to say that such a relationship constitutes a marriage. Taken from a purely secular perspective, the state gains nothing from such an arrangement and assumes the additional risk of recognizing such in legal, financial and entitlement benefits. What is to preclude the normalization and legal recognition of one man and two women, or three women, or four men and one woman? Although such relationships may exist and are not explicitly prevented, what is to say this is not a legal marriage? History does not dismiss this with the legacy of the Mormon religion.
“Nature and nature’s God” (Declaration of Independence) have defined marriage for 5,000 years and to undo the traditional marriage bond is just the latest social fad.
Dr. Westbrock has been in private medical practice for 35 years. He was the Republican candidate for the U.S House of Representatives in 1994 and 1996. He has written and lectured extensively on the subject of health care reform and health care policy. He can be reached at Dave.Westbrock@DaytonCityPaper.com.