Like clockwork, Republicans have begun to unleash their usual meaningless issues to bring their base out to polls this fall to ensure their continued dominance of both houses of Congress. On June 7, the Senate rejected a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Bitterly divisive, the amendment failed to move out of an initial phase of debate with 49 votes for it and 48 votes against it. While 60 votes are required to send the amendment to the states for ratification, the amendment fell short of even a sizable majority.

Angela Cesere

But the mere fact that more senators voted to deprive gays of rights granted by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ridiculous. Because the debate is framed as a struggle to “save” heterosexual marriage, those who wish to allow gays to marry are put on the defensive and cannot make their own attacks against oppressive religious puritans who want to reverse society to a pre-Enlightenment stage.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) expressed my feelings perfectly after the vote: “Why is it (that) Republicans are all for reducing the federal government’s impact on people’s lives until it comes to these stinging litmus test-issues, whether gay marriage or end of life, (when) they suddenly want the federal government to intervene?”

Is the right of gays to marry specifically mentioned in the Constitution? Nowhere in the Constitution does the phrase “and gay marriage shall not be prohibited” appear.

But the following passage from the 14th Amendment intrigues me when I confront those who oppose gay marriage:

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

So, are gays to be excluded from “equal protection of the laws”? In Lawrence v. Texas, when the high court struck down anti-sodomy laws, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in a concurring opinion that the law, because it outlawed only gay sodomy and not heterosexual sodomy, did not qualify for the rational-basis test and thus violated the Equal Protection Clause. Banning gay marriage is a similar constitutional exercise to the Texas anti-sodomy laws. If only gay marriage is banned and not straight marriage, it is only a matter of time before such bans will be tested in front of the court.

But this is all hypothetical conjecture. The issue we are all forgetting is probably the most important one of all. Unlike abortion, where a logical argument exists to ban it – though I disagree with such an argument – banning gay marriage has no logical basis.

The roots of animosity toward granting equal rights to gays do not lie with a genuine concern for the public good, but rather in religious dogma. Again, while I disagree with such sentiment, we cannot control what other people believe. People are going to be bigoted for whatever reason, and it would be foolish for us to expect them to stop just because we want them to.

But our country is not ruled by religious dogma. The framers specifically wrote the First Amendment to guard against such oppression. While certain people may object to gay marriage on religious grounds, a rational and compelling argument against it does not exist. Outlawing gay marriage just because the Bible says to do so is neither rational nor constitutional.

Such a ban is religious bigotry at its worst, and I challenge anyone to show me “evidence” that homosexual marriage is worse for families than heterosexual marriage. A country with such a high incidence of divorce has no authority to preach to anyone about the “sanctity” of marriage.

Goldberg can be reached at jaredgo@umich.edu.

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