State of marriage

5/31/2012

Even though the population of the United States continues to increase, the number of marriages is going down -- both in raw numbers and rates. In 2000, the marriage rate per 1,000 was 8.2. In 2010, the rate was 6.8.

Divorce rates also are retreating, moving from 4.2 divorces per 1,000 population in 2000 to 3.6 in 2010.

The rates from the National Center for Health Statistics reaffirm the long-term trend of roughly half of all marriages ending in divorce. One might be tempted to believe that if the government could legitimize any involvement in the institution of marriage, it would be to address a 50-percent failure rate.

But that would be common sense. Instead, states continue to push legislation that further narrows the field. More than 30 states, including Kansas, have passed laws defining marriage as possible only between a man and a woman. Gay Americans need not apply, unless they happen to live in one of six states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriages are allowed.

The most common argument against allowing same-sex marriages is because of the Bible's Old Testament references to homosexuality being an "abomination." Of course, the same label was given to eating shellfish or engaging conjugally with a menstruating woman, but nobody is up in arms about outlawing those acts.

Be that as it may, the majority of organized religions frown upon gay people. As private organizations, they have that right. And gay individuals have the right to associate with them or not.

But there is a secular component to the rite of marriage as well. Beyond public affirmations of love, one's marital status affects insurance benefits, property ownership, tax filing, medical decision-making and many other aspects of daily life.

Beyond banning marriages with family members or those under the age of majority, we're not sure what else could or should concern the government. Murderers on death row can marry. So can pedophiles and wife-beaters. Been divorced 10 times? It matters not. But proclaim your love for a member of the same sex, and most of these united states will turn you down.

We cannot fathom how much longer such blatant discrimination will last in this country. The First Amendment to the Constitution is pretty clear regarding the use of religious doctrine in governance. Churches should be more concerned about retaining their tax-exempt status despite such discriminatory practices rather than lobbying legislators to protect what "God has ordained."

Precisely how one's private activities have any effect on another's life is undetermined, yet is cited frequently by proponents of one man-one woman marriage. So is the slippery path to legalizing polygamy and bestiality. Such far-fetched notions likely reveal more about the people making the charge than whomever they're talking about. There's also the spirited debate regarding whether gayness is a chosen lifestyle or simply biological fact. When considering the results of such a "choice" can result in legalized discrimination, rejection by family, open hostility from community, beatings by gay-bashers, and your own church instructing you'll be going to hell -- it doesn't sound like a choice most rational people would make.

Recent polls suggest the tide might be turning.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week showed 53 percent of those questioned say gay marriage should be legal, a new high for the poll, while 39 percent, a new low, say it should be illegal. Both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden recently announced their support of same-sex marriages. In fact, Obama is the first president in history to take such a stand on this important civil rights issue.

The poll, and others like it, reveal 55 as the average age where opinions change. The majority of those under 55 support same-sex marriage; the majority of those older are against it.

As older Americans tend to vote more regularly, this explains why so many states have adopted laws and constitutional amendments that impose restrictions on gay people living their own lives.

While it has taken an incredibly long time for America to believe in its own words that all men are created equal, full civil rights eventually will be bestowed upon gay Americans.

We believe it is time for them to join the ranks of women, black people, differently abled, American Indians, those with Japanese ancestry, and every other minority group that has been blocked legally from enjoying the full rights of the U.S. Constitution.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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