Staff Editorial: Gay marriage and American University

In today's society, if a black man was not allowed to sit in a predominately white restaurant, the outcry would deafen ears. Yet today, millions of gays are not extended the same rights as heterosexuals - the right to marry the one they love.

The legality of gay marriage has the same implications of discrimination that the nation faced in the 1960s. And just as much of the civil rights movement gained momentum through the schools and college campuses, our generation is called upon to fight another form of discrimination.

Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. Advocates for gay marriage say that this ruling will allow gays to marry as early as mid-May. Opponents of gay marriage believe that this decision will lead to the destruction of marriage by implying that the institution is not just between a man and a woman.

Naturally, this decision has large-scale ramifications for the country and this November. On this campus, where there is a large non-straight population, it affects our future in ways that were inconceivable only 10 years ago. Over the next few years, our non-straight students will be able to marry and enjoy the rights of marriage, just like our straight students.

We believe that this issue is very complicated and requires serious thought. We lament that this issue, which is personal and spiritual, is a political issue that requires the government's approval. It is ironic that our Constitution was crafted so that the Church and the State were separated to prevent a powerful Church from interfering in the affairs of the State, and today the State is forced to rule on an issue that was born in the Church.

But we also recognize that the State has played a role in marriage with justices of the peace, who provide the same legal rights to married couples as the Church. It is from this precedent that we must consider the consequences of gay marriage. Secular marriages would afford equal rights for gays without infringing on the rights and beliefs of private churches, should they choose not to marry a gay couple. This way, gay marriage would be possible but would not necessarily impede the local autonomy of spiritual institutions and leaders, many of whom are opposed to the idea of gay marriage.

Government intervention in the right of marriage for gay couples is a positive, progressive trend toward equal rights in America. When people look back 30 or 40 years from now, they will be appalled at the mistreatment of and debate over gays and gay marriage, just like citizens today are appalled at the mistreatment of blacks during the Civil Rights era. This decision is especially important for AU students, given the relatively open gay population on our campus. Most students are not ready to marry yet, but they're not necessarily far from marriage either. The decision on gay marriage will have long-lasting implications for AU students and for the nation.

It is The Eagle's hope that our fellow gay students will be able to share the same marriage rights that our straight students already have. The debate about gay marriage is today's equivalent of the Civil Rights debate 30 years ago: a minority of citizens is denied the rights that the majority of citizens in the country have.

In an age where Britney Spears can have a sham 55-hour wedding and parents divorce over tiny differences, we ought to applaud people who want to better themselves and their partners in the sanctity of marriage. Furthermore, for those who believe that marriage is in danger of extinction from this ruling, a simple question must be asked: Is their marriage in any more danger of extinction today than it was yesterday?

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