June is traditionally the month for weddings, but bells won’t be ringing for some residents of the Tar Heel State. As of yesterday, North Carolina has banned gay marriage, joining 30 other states – including Michigan – that forbid same-sex couples to marry.
My first reaction was anger. Your neighbor has no right to decide who you can love. And what would our country look like today if we had waited for individual states to “allow” civil rights back in the 1960s?
My second reaction was sadness. There is not enough love in the world as it is; when we find it, love should be celebrated, not condemned. In 2008, I was proud to stand with my brother-in-law when he married his partner of 25 years, a witness to their love and commitment.
Some people feel that gay marriage is a threat to straight marriage. Well, with the current U.S. divorce rate at 50%, it seems that straight people are doing a pretty good job of threatening marriage all by themselves. When was the last time you heard someone say that we should outlaw Donald Trump, Britney Spears, or any of the Kardashians?
The word “marriage” itself conjures up images of churches, synagogues and temples, of centuries-old vows and traditions. Some religions allow gays and lesbians to marry; others do not. Either way, it is the right of that religion to decide, and the state has no business dictating otherwise.
The problem lies with the other, entirely secular meaning of marriage. The state requires you to obtain a marriage license, whether your ceremony is performed by a priest or a judge. There are a host of legal rights and privileges associated with marriage, affecting taxes, property, next-of-kin status and insurance. A civil union doesn’t provide those rights and privileges, so it isn’t a substitute for marriage — more like the equivalent of apartheid.
The bottom line: when a state bans gay marriage, it takes away legal rights from a group of citizens.
And that’s downright un-American.