Argentina has become the first Latin-American country to legalize same-sex marriage. The Argentinian Senate approved a measure Thursday that grants same-sex couples full marriage rights and benefits. The Argentinian president, Cristina Fernandez, was a strong supporter of the measure, and vowed to sign it into law.
Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….“
Perhaps no words are more central to the ideal of what the USA is supposed to be than those penned by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. Ideals, of course, are difficult to achieve. It was not until Jan. 31, 1865, that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was passed, abolishing slavery. It was not until August 26, 1920, that the 19th Amendment was passed, granting women the right to vote. Now, Argentina has beat the USA in granting the right of same-sex couples to marry.
I dislike this idea of “granting rights.” In my mind, rights are “inherent and inalienable.” Our government has too long withheld rights from people. In 1809, Thomas Jefferson said, “[The] best principles [of our Republic ] secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights.” Our government should be seeking to guarantee the rights that are ours, not unequally dividing rights.
I see us moving forward in the USA toward same-sex marriage. When the Stonewall riots took place in 1969, homosexual men and women faced a hostile society and laws that made them guilty of crimes for simply being who they were. Since that time, laws have been passed in many places to protect people from discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. Society moves more slowly than laws, but we have progressed.
And it’s not just the US. Germany criminalized homosexuality with Paragraph 175 of the Reich Criminal Code in 1871. In 1929, a committee in the Reichstag voted to repeal Paragraph 175. The repeal was prevented by the Nazi rise to power. Allied troops liberating inmates from concentration camps did not release those imprisoned for homosexuality. Instead, these people were forced to serve out the full term of their sentences under Paragraph 175 of the Germany legal code. The law would remain on the books until 1968 in East Germany and 1969 in West Germany.
Reverend William Johnson became the first openly gay person ordained in any Christian organization: the United Church of Christ in 1972. In that same year, the Evangelical Luthern Church of the Netherlands agreed to allow gay men and women to serve as pastors.
In April 2000, Vermont legalized same-sex unions, thus entitling these couples to all the rights and responsibilities of married couples. And so it continues with cities, states and countries allowing same-sex unions and same-sex marriages. The recognition is growing that people who have been together in a loving relationship for 10, 20, and 50 years have a family. It just may not look like ours.
In 1994, King Sihanouk said gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry. In that same year, George Bush proposed a constitutional amendment banning it. Same-sex marriage became legal in Belgium in 2003, in South Africa in 2006.
As time moves, the world at large and American society has become more accepting.of same-sex marriage. While some still fight the idea, each time the issue is placed before the voters in the US, the percentages are shifting more toward accepting it as a fact.
Marriage is a right. As such, our government has too long denied a basic right to too many. Same-sex marriage doesn’t change what any of the heterosexual couples I know have. It simply acknowledges that equal rights are important. Thomas Jefferson said it well, “The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.”
Viva Argentina! They got it right.
Declaration of Independence: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/images/vc51.jpg
Ratification of Amendments: http://www.usconstitution.net/constamrat.html
Life For Homosexuals in the USA Before Stonewall: http://www.newsweek.com/1994/07/03/life-before-stonewall.html
United States Holocaust Museum: http://www.ushmm.org/research/library/bibliography/en/gays/paragraph175.php
Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,112012,00.html