Marriage Equality: It’s About Human Rights, Not States’ Rights

Maria Vargas and Maira Garcia wait on line to get married at the City Clerk's office in Brooklyn, New York, on July 24, 2011, the first day gay couples were allowed to legally marry in New York state. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

President Obama’s courageous statement today in support of marriage equality was a boon to the human rights movement. The president’s announcement was especially heartening following the news yesterday that North Carolina passed a ban on marriage for same-sex couples and other partnership agreements and that Republican state legislators effectively blocked the Colorado Civil Union Act from going to a vote.

The president’s statement is also an important act of global human rights leadership that will no doubt lend hope to lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in countries like Saudi Arabia, Uganda and Cameroon who face threats of execution, torture, imprisonment and persecution for their sexual orientation.

Marriage equality for LGBT people is a human right, and as such should not be left for states to 'decide the issue on their own.'

President Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to take a stand in favor of marriage equality, and to do so during an election year was a bold and principled act among several, including ending the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and the administration’s directive to advance the human rights of LGBT people internationally.

Yet we must remember that marriage equality for LGBT people is a human right, and as such should not be left for states to “decide the issue on their own,” as President Obama suggested today.

These policy debates have big real-life implications, ranging from additional logistical burdens that complicate the wedding-planning process to access to health care that could make the difference between life and death.

“My partner and I plan to get married next summer,” said Emilie Segal, a rancher in Laramie, Wyoming. Although the state recognizes civil unions people enter into in other states, Emilie and her partner will have to travel outside Wyoming to get married, and they cannot purchase a family health care policy. Furthermore, neither their civil union nor their impending marriage would be recognized by current federal law.

“It’s an issue of economic and social justice. A couple with resources can move to a gay-friendly state, but those without resources cannot. We shouldn’t have different rights and freedoms based on where we live or our economic status.”

It was moving to hear the president speak of how his daughters’ experiences had influenced his views on the issue—a sign that, in some parts of the country, at least, a sea change is underway. But LGBT people in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin—all states that have laws banning marriage for same-sex couples—should not be denied their human rights just because their state legislators have not had similar epiphanies.

Indeed, the rights of LGBT people on a range of issues, including marriage, hospital visitation, adoption, housing, and employment, vary wildly from state to state. Human rights are by nature inherent and universal—not regional—and we must continue our work to advance this understanding at all levels of government.

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31 thoughts on “Marriage Equality: It’s About Human Rights, Not States’ Rights

  1. It's frustrating that this is even an issue in the United States. Civil unions should be legal everywhere in the U.S, let religious organizations decide if they want to allow it within their organization or not, call it a day, move on to the next issue!

    • I agree with you if, by "civil unions," you mean civil unions for EVERYBODY–gay or straight–then allow churches to decide whether or not they want to perform "marriages." That's fine, if the word "marriage" is too controversial for people to accept. But everyone needs to be treated the same by the state. If they issue "marriage licences," they must issue them to all of their citizens without discrimination; if they register "civil unions," they must register them for everyone. Seperate is not equal.

  2. I hate how North Carolina voted yes for Amendment one. The amendment not only hurts single Mothers, gays, but others as well. I'm ashamed to be a North Carolinian. It makes me ashamed to even be a Roman Catholic. Let people have their rights.

    • Anonymous: Don't be too ashamed. After all, it wasn't North Carolina that fired on Fort Sumter. And Roman Catholicism is nothing to be ashamed of, either. Legions of nuns have "walked the walk" of serving the spirit of Jesus through merficul service to the sick and poor, for a very long time. Stand your ground, and take strength in your faith. Remain compassionate. I was joking about Ft. Sumter, but I'm not joking about your present state of upset. If all else fails, you can always move up here, to allegedly Godless Massachusetts. where there's a Catholic church on every other street corner.

    • Is anyone really surprised that the Jim Crow South is united once again in discrimination? (I say this as a Southerner myself.) All the bigots have really accomplished is that they have plucked the last of the low-hanging fruit (no pun intended). Keep this in mind, though: if discrimination can be written into a constitution, it can be taken out. In the 60s there were state constitutions which forbade inte-racial marriages. That sad history has since passed, and this will too–though it won't happen automatically. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it requires the pull of those who are concerned and active.

  3. I will never support same sex marriage because it is not natural family couple because they never beget any child of their own, so If they want to live together then fine but they will have no right to live with normal marriage family or society.

    • So you're stating that any couple that cannot bear children should be denied marriage. I am assuming this includes if a woman is barren? What about when a woman gets her tubes tied, or becomes too old to bear a child? According to your logic, the marriage should be immediately annulled.

      Of course, you COULD say "well, they already have kids", but there are ways to have children as a homosexual couple. Adoption and artificial insemination are both options. Furthermore, some have children from previous failed relationships. Also, you would have to ban adoption in general, since that would mean even a straight couple would have children "not of their own."

      Also, with how many children end up in orphanages and unwanted, having more parents to take care of them seem a better thing, not a worse thing.

      • Thank you for this very rational response. I would just like to add, Rez's logic would not only have to be applied to women who are unable to bear children, but also to sterile men.

    • Elderly couples and infertile couples may not beget any child of their own either. They are still allowed to marry.

  4. Frist Of All It Seem Like If Your Not Gay You Don't Have Any Rights At All So To Make A Statement Like single Morther Is Also Hurt By Not Leting Same Sex Marriage Bill Pass Is Crazy & Everyone Knows But Is Turning A Blind Eye To The & Law Of God That It Is Man & Woman Not Same Sex It Is A Sin & Not Lawful By God Only Man & Everyone Who Support Will Be JUDGE & Then Will That Son Of Man The Lord Jesus Christ Is Real So Let's All Stop Acting Like We Don't Know & Pray Prau Pray For Change For The USA Cuase GOD IS Judgeing America Hard Very Hard & The Is Near Just Remember No Man Knows The Date Nor The Hour So Let's Be Ready & Let's Stay Ready For The Coming Of The King Of Kings & Lord Of Lords So On That Peace Be Still In Jesus Mighty NAME The Above All NAMES JESUS JESUS JESUS JESUE JESUS JESUS!!!

    • Merlinda: Allow me to recommend Harold Bloom's "The American Religion." It might help you to refine your argument even further.

    • Are you serious, people this is 2012. For one I can hardly read your scribble scrabble, caps lock, non punctuated, misspelled jibber jabber run on sentance. Secondly religion has nothing to do with anything! Marriage isnt a religious institution, as athiests get married as well as people apart from the christian faith. Wake up, get your head out of your 1950's mentality and move on. I absolutly love how christians fled Europe from religious persecution only to persecute any and everyone who does not believe what they do. Absolutly hipocritical!!!!!!!!!! I tell you, If there was a god I'd say GOD save me from your followers, but alas he has been absent for ………………….. ever!

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  6. I agree that all people should have equal rights as far as state care, health benefits etc, but I do disagree with the idea of marriage for same-sex couples. Marriage is sacred and something that is ordained of God (I realise not everyone will agree with this statement, but please respect the views of those of us who do), and homosexuality is clearly stated as something not condoned by God in the scriptures. If LBGTs want a civil union, that is their choice, and while I disagree I respect their right to make that choice. But pushing for marriage to be open to LGBTs completely ridicules and scorns those of us who hold it as sacred.

    • i hope you don't find this disrespectful just a thought. ill assume you your one main monotheistic religions, which i agree frown upon such relationships, but can someone of say pagan god's (by which mean say local tribal gods or the like) be married and be still be "sacredly ordained" by said god and therefore be accepted as a married couple?

      in which case if a LBGT friendly god ordained such a marriage would you respect the said gods wishes and accept and give full legitimately to that marriage?

    • im glad you believe all ppl wealth civil partnership or marrage should have same rights. im not being disrespectful, its just a thought i had and maybe something you should consider. i will agree most mainstream religions forbid homosexual relationships (as a general rule)

      i will go with your concept that god ordains marriage and therefore it is sacred. is it only sacred if its your god that ordains it or can other god ordain it and make it sacred. e.g a tribal couple go through a sacred ritual say there vows ect, would you be happy if they called themselves man and wife and get all the privilages and respect that comes with your god marriage ceremony??

      if that is the case would you be happy if there was a LBGT friendly god that also has a sacred ceremony and vows for that couple to be Mr&Mr jones or Mrs&Mrs smith??

      if not then should atheists be allowed to married and be called Mr&Mrs(all be it without the religious side of it)? if they are then why cant LGBT's?

    • Guest on May 10, 2012 at 5:01 PM said, “Marriage is sacred and something that is ordained of God (I realise not everyone will agree with this statement, but please respect the views of those of us who do)… ”

      You seem to misunderstand the Constitution of the United States, according to which you are free to believe as you wish, but you are not free to impose your religious beliefs on those who are not members of your particular religious group. You ask others to respect your views; I ask you in return to respect the religious views of those churches, synagogues, and other religious groups which DO perform same-sex marriages. Are they not entitled to the same freedoms as your religous group?

      Gay and Lesbian Christians also believe that marriage is a sacred institution, and that’s why it is important to them. What right do you have to deny your fellow citizens the same rights you enjoy–you can choose to be married or not, why should they be denied the same opportunity? No church will be forced to change it’s doctrine as a result of marriage equality. There are still Christian churches today which preach (and/or practice) racial segregation, and they are still tax exempt.

    • You say, "But pushing for marriage to be open to LGBTs completely ridicules and scorns those of us who hold it as sacred."

      These are some of the most offensive words I've ever read on this subject. As though allowing same-sex couples to marry somehow "ridicules and scornes" the institution of marriage. As though anyone who believes in marriage equality somehow doesn't think marriage is sacred. What a depicable thing to say! It gives the impression that you think gay people are lesser human beings (or perhaps even less than human). Jesus never treated people like that.

  7. There is no provision in the United States Constitution for any form of second-class citizenship. The arc of American history has marked the confirmation of this principle, by slow but steady degrees.Yet freedom of concientious objection to social change remains intact, as it must. If you believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, then marry someone of the opposite sex, and honor your marriage vows till death do you part. I salute your fidelity, and will defend it to any extent necessary, short of violence. But I doubt that that will be necessary. The arc of history has my back. Remember when inter-racial marriage was considered an abomination? I do. What kills me about the so-called culture wars is the notion that people seeking equal rights and protections under the law must have some subversive "agenda." If you believe that homosexuality is an abomination, don't have homosexual relations. If you believe that abortion is murder, don't have one. If you believe that euthanasia is a mortal sin, suffer till your last breath. I respect and support your choices. No one, on the other side of the fence, wants anything else, or anything more. Thus are the "culture wars" a chimera.

  8. Gay couples shouldn't be allowed to have kids, because Gay couples raise only gay babies, just like straight couples only raise straight babies…Oh, wait, no. If the girls on those 16 and pregnant shows are allowed to take care of a life, why shouldnt a responsible gay couple have the same opportunity? Leave it to states like North Carolina, where you can marry your cousin, as long as it's not gay, to show the workd how the US makes very little cultural progress

  9. I don't recall actually finding anything in the Bible AGAINST homosexuality, but if there is, you can be sure that's one of the many contradictions you also find in there, especially in those parts which are not direct quotes from Christ. Interesting how CHRIST NEVER DISCRIMINATES AGAINST *ANYONE —- Not against a Samaritan, nor ANY woman, nor anyone else —- REAL CHRISTIANS DO NOT DISCRIMINATE —— God created everything, in all that glorious variety, right? How dare anyone then question the variety in His Nature, in Earth, especially that which DOESN'T HARM ANYONE —– LIVE & LET LIVE, PEOPLE —– IF IT'S REAL LOVE, IT'S MORE THAN MANY HETEROSEXUALS HAVE —– GOD IS LOVE, not hate.

  10. I am glad the president has taken a stand for human rights by stating marriage should be allowed to everyone. Makes me proud to have a President that stands for equal rights for every human being.

  11. Love is love and marriage has nothing to do with religion, it is about how you feel about the person you want to make a vow to. I donnot understand what the problem is. If you don’t agree with gay marriages, then don’t marry a gay person.
    If people spent as much energy trying to fight gay marriages on positive things, like fighting poverty, ignorance, child labour, general injustices through out the planet, the world would be a better place. Try and love and understand each other instead of closing your eyes putting your hands on your ears and screaming your head off in idiotic blabber.