(Printed in the Towanda Daily Review on 5/30/96.)
Editor: Recent polls report that most Americans oppose same-sex marriages. However, poll results often depend on the framing and sequence of the questions. Significantly different conclusions might be drawn about same-sex marriages if the questionnaire began with the following: If you were a member of a minority, would you want a majority to have the power to deny you rights already granted by our Constitution? Do you agree that our Constitution protects the rights of a minority from an oppressive majority? Should selective interpretations of religious documents be allowed to influence legislation?
Because most Americans oppose same-sex marriages is no reason to deny this "civil institution of legal obligations, rights and privileges," commonly known as marriage, to a minority, particularly when the denial of these rights would be impossible to justify with "compelling reason" as must be shown in the landmark Hawaii case still in the courts.
Disregarding public opinion in favor of human rights and the "pursuit of happiness," the following positive events occurred. In March, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the largest Reformed group, passed a resolution endorsing legal same-sex marriages. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court in Romer vs. Evans struck down a Colorado law banning gay-rights laws. Justice Kennedy wrote, "A state cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws." In a solo courageous move even though he opposes same-sex marriages, Governor Roy Romer of Colorado vetoed state legislation against same-sex marriages.
And as usual, disregarding human rights in favor of public opinion, a few members of Congress have drafted a bill titled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which would allow each state to decide its own position on same-sex marriages, and would further define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Curiously, under implication of the federal "Full Faith and Credit" clause, a marriage recognized in one state must be recognized by all. Also, according to Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, Congress has no power to create exceptions to this clause. Regardless, President Clinton said he would sign DOMA.
Opponents of same-sex marriage argue for the sanctity of marriage and its primary goal of procreation. Logically, Congress should then pass legislation requiring progeny -- if she's not knocked up in two years, bring in a substitute. As for the sanctity, according to the Chicago firm Overlooked Opinions, same-sex relationships last longer than heterosexual ones: 7.1 years for male/female, 8.9 years for males, and in excess of 20 years for females. In Denmark, where same-sex marriages are legal, the Washington Blade reported a 1.31% divorce rate for homosexuals, and 2.95% rate for heterosexuals. According to the Baltimore Center, the divorce rate for U.S. heterosexual marriages is 3.86%.
Popular support or approval isn't necessary, only tolerance and the realization that homosexuality is a normal part of nature. Claims, mostly empty rhetoric, that it is not "natural" or against "family-values" are based on homophobia and selective interpretation of the Bible, neither of which have any place in our legal code.
John L. Ferri