On Election Day, Maryland, Maine and Washington state legalized same-sex marriage, joining six states and the District of Columbia that had already legalized same-sex marriage. It’s a step in the right direction toward giving every citizen the undeniable right to marry whomever they choose — a right that should be extended to everybody regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. While the approval of same-sex marriage in these three states is an excellent step forward, it’s disappointing that other states haven’t taken similar steps. While marriage should be a completely undeniable right, states do have the power to decide if same-sex marriage is legal. And at the very least, states should not be able to deny recognition to same-sex couples.
According to a May 14 Gallup poll, 54 percent of Americans believe that same-sex marriage is morally acceptable, increasing from 38 percent in 2002. In addition, 63 percent of people now believe that relations between gays and lesbians should be legal, up from 52 percent in 2002. In fact, according to a Nov. 9 article in The New York Times, Washington’s same-sex marriage opponents have officially conceded and acknowledged the tremendous strides that the gay rights movement has made. These are significant milestones in the past 10 years. Gay rights are becoming increasingly normalized in the United States, as the prevalence of shows such as “Modern Family” and “The New Normal” in current popular culture suggests.
While it seems that a majority of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal, the 10th Amendment gives states the power to decide whether they’ll allow same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 signed by President Bill Clinton does not require that states recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states; under the contentious section 3 of DOMA, states do not have to confer federal benefits, like Social Security, upon gay and lesbian couples. Yet, The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution mandates that each state respect the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”
The country should respect the Constitution in this matter. Just because a state can refuse to perform same-sex marriages doesn’t mean it should be able to deny the recognition of a same-sex marriage. Marriage should be recognized across the country regardless of which state it was performed in. The repeal of DOMA would prevent states from denying rights that marriage gives same-sex couples. States recognize driver’s licenses from other states — recognizing a marriage between two people of the same sex from another state is no different.
It’s only a matter of time before same-sex marriage will become legal in all states. For this to happen sooner rather than later, states should give their citizens the opportunity to vote for it to become legal. Or at the very least, states should recognize these marriages. Many countries, such as South Africa, Belgium and the Netherlands, already have legalized same-sex marriage. Even countries with predominantly Catholic populations, including Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil, have approved same-sex civil unions and marriage. If countries that are largely religious allow equal rights, there’s no reason that the United States shouldn’t do the same. Marriage is an undeniable right that should not be denied to any adult, and as the general population increases its approval of same-sex marriage, states should follow suit.