As I consider the issue of gay marriage, I find myself mulling over the definition of “law.” I understand that doing such a thing is nearly a study in psychopathy considering the fact that laws are defined by dominant culture, customs, beliefs, hope, fear, etc. Still, I mull.

In the case of gay marriage, I puzzle over why this matter is up for a vote at all.

Legally, marriage is a contract with the State–a State which allegedly separates itself from church matters. While the existence of God can be argued forever, what can’t be argued is that, in America, you have to get a license to get hitched. Just like you need one to drive a car.

Now, in order to get a driver’s license–a State contract–you need to pass certain tests–providing a birth certificate, social security card, knowing the laws of the road, an eye exam. If you screw up, you can get your license revoked.

All of these measure are taken in the interest of public safety, which is reasonable. Improper use of a car can kill people. If someone wanted the necessity of driver’s licenses placed on a ballot, they’d be laughed out of town.

So what of marriage? Do two men or two women getting married pose a threat? Is there a fear that they’ll take their marriage careening into a flea market while not producing children?

Why are people so quick to revoke a right from people who haven’t done anything other than not be heterosexual? And, since we feel so strongly about marriage, why aren’t we trying to pull other peoples’ cards? Why don’t we penalize people who get married and have no intention of having children? As my NewsOne goonie Ashton Lattimore noted

There are gay couples who do perpetuate the species–and civilization–through methods such as adoption or in-vitro and so on, regardless of whether they genetically produced the child together. By raising another presumably productive and loyal citizen together–particularly one who might otherwise have been left an orphan–they’re making the same contribution to the species as any heterosexual couple who adopts or uses a sperm donor, egg donor, surrogate, whatever.

If the State–that’s considers itself separated from the church–and others say marriage isn’t about procreation, what is it about? Is it about curbing the spread of disease through monogamy? If so, doesn’t monogamy of any kind prevent that?

With a divorce rate at nearly 55% and a declining birth rate, maybe we’ll bring the sanctity back to marriage by making the license a little harder to come by. Or maybe we should stop handing out marriage incentives altogether.

Let’s get basic: Isn’t the “public interest” factor really just based on prejudice? And my use of prejudice isn’t directed at “other” people; it includes you, me and everyone. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote on the matter today and he had this to say

I think prejudice is part of who we are as humans, and thus as Americans. Following from that, I think prejudice is one of the many forces that influence how we vote.

I don’t necessarily hold prejudice against people (though one could probably argue that I’m prejudiced against the prejudiced). I do, however, take exception with those who are not able to separate their beliefs from what is actually harmful/good for the collective.

Yes; you are free to feel however you wish. Yes; there may be large numbers of people that feel the same way. But that only proves agreement; it doesn’t prove being right.

(And yes; I could use this very argument myself, but think–in this instance–it doesn’t hold water because of my stance on State contracts and perceived harm to the public good.)

Still, I’m trying to understand, and I’m trying to do so through the lens of law. In attempting to understand how the civil right of individuals can be voted upon,  I’ve decided to try and come up with a definition of Law. Here goes nothing…

Law: A set of rules and guidelines–defined by people who get to decide these sorts of things–based on customs and beliefs that they agree are pretty good for the whole society, but are subject to change over time–especially if people make a big enough deal about it.

How’d I do?

Related Posts with Thumbnails