NOTE: This post was originally written on Saturday, April 4, 2009, and published on another site.
In a wonderfully unanimous decision on Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the state’s law banning same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Iowa, the state famous for corn and the kicking off of the presidential primary season every four years, is the first state in America’s heartland — and the third in the nation, joining Massachusetts and Connecticut — to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The Iowa Supreme Court’s decision is in every way so very, very American. It’s all about equity and equality, which makes the whole debate about same-sex marriage so puzzling.
Why does it matter to so many whether same-sex couples marry? It’s not like those in traditional marriages have some corner on happiness or success, especially when you consider that over half of all marriages end in divorce. Over half!
Who are we kidding?
Marriage retreats, couples counseling, living together before tying the knot — it all seems for naught when the success rate of modern American marriages hovers right around 50 percent — the same rate it’s been for the past three decades.
Who is to blame for the dismal state of matrimony in our country? It certainly isn’t the gay community.
Some say the whole point of marriage is procreation, but I disagree, especially these days when the stigma of out-of-wedlock births is all but gone. Same-sex marriage, like “one-man, one-woman” marriage, is about financial security and access to health insurance, making medical decisions and visiting loved ones in the hospital, being recognized by the community, loving and being loved.
No one — not even those of us who go through the nastiest of divorces — enters into marriage without the very best of intentions. If any of us knew the future, we might make different decisions in the present, but we don’t come equipped with crystal balls.
When it comes to huge life decisions — like marriage — we Americans shrug off the arranged unions of old and choose instead to go with our hearts. We decide whom we marry (and divorce). It’s our decision, based on the information we have at the moment and the longing of our hearts. Denying anyone the right to make these decisions seems oh, so wholly un-American.
Our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is what makes our country great.
In this spirit, we must reconsider the point at which our religious or private beliefs infringe on the liberty of others, people who want nothing more or less than what all other Americans have.
There was a time in the United States when interracial marriages were against the law. There was even a time when the government felt it was OK for some people to own others.
It’s hard for young people today to comprehend a time when women couldn’t vote or own property or have credit. There was also a time — not all that long ago — when certain religions preached that women who used birth control would end up in insane asylums.
Thankfully, mercifully, times change.
Gays want the same rights as heterosexuals. They want the right to choose to enter into legally binding marriage, with all the perks and responsibilities that come with saying, “I do.” They want to love and be loved, and they want to do so just like the rest of the country.
How does that hurt me? How does it make me less married to my husband? How does it shake the foundation of marriage?
The truth is, it doesn’t.
The truth is that the “one man, one woman” people in the U.S. are doing a fine job of shaking marriage’s foundation all on their own.