I have heard and read many times the idea that same-sex marriage should be allowed because marriage is a civil right. The problem with this claim is that it very conveniently ignores the opposing argument, which is that the real issue is the definition of marriage. It makes no sense to discuss whether marriage is a civil right until we agree on how marriage is defined.
So I’m actually undecided on whether marriage qualifies as a civil right, but I’m not very concerned about the question because I think it’s irrelevant, or at best premature.
Out of curiosity, I have been searching the net for explanations of why marriage should be considered a civil right, looking at blog posts, articles, and court cases. In nearly all instances, people simply repeat the assertion that marriage is a civil right, without any kind of justification.
The closest thing I’ve found so far is traced back to a 1942 decision in the case of Skinner v. Oaklahoma in which it was declared that sterilization should not be allowed as a punishment for crimes.
We are dealing here with legislation which involves one of the basic civil rights of man. Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.
This decision was referenced by the Goodridge v. Department of Public Health case in which the Massachusetts state supreme court declared that same-sex marriage should be allowed. (The other Massachusetts case cited on this subject is that of Milford v. Worcester, but the text of that decision doesn’t seem to be easily available online.)
Finally, an explanation for this civil right idea. But I don’t buy it. Why not? For an explanation, I’ll use the words of the Hawaii state supreme court, in a case which is actually mentioned by the Massachusetts court, even though as far as I can tell it argues against their interpretation of Skinner v. Oaklahoma.
Whether the [US Supreme] court viewed marriage and procreation as a single indivisible right, the least that can be said is that it was obviously contemplating unions between men and women when it ruled that the right to marry was fundamental.
That was my reaction exactly. To use Skinner v. Oaklahoma to support same-sex marriage discards the entire context and severely manipulates the original meaning.
So I’m still looking for an explanation… but still, only out of curiosity. I still believe that the definition of marriage is the real issue, and I firmly believe that gender, as a fundamental characteristic of the human race, is and should be a vital part of that definition.