A Conservative Case for Marriage Equality

In early May, President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage in an impromptu interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, completing his often-parodied evolution on the issue. On Sunday of that week, Vice President Joe Biden had forced Obama to address the issue after a candid appearance on "Meet the Press," where he said he "absolutely" supported same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

Public reaction to Obama's endorsement has been as expected -- the president enjoyed a tidal wave of coverage from the media and gave his base a major issue to rally around in the face of a tough reelection campaign. Subsequently and unsurprisingly, the overwhelming Republican reaction was less accepting.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney immediately shot back at Obama's endorsement, reinforcing that he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman. Romney later said he also does not support the recognition of civil unions. His staunch objection to LGBT rights seems bizarre, given that while running for Senate in 1994, he said he would be more pro-gay rights than his rival, liberal-powerhouse Ted Kennedy.

A recent USA Today/Gallup poll revealed that, for the first time, a majority of Americans now believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, and the percentage of support shows no sign of slowing down.

Public support for the matter makes it inevitable that the Republican Party will eventually have to drop its exorbitant crusade against same-sex marriage if they want a fighting shot at winning seats in Congress or the White House. This draconian opposition held by many of the GOP elite is simply unsustainable.

As a conservative, I frankly cannot accept that opposition to same-sex marriage falls in line with our values and goals for our society.

A fundamental principle associated with conservative philosophy is that of limited government intervention in the lives of private citizens and the private business sector. At its legal core, marriage is a contract between two individuals. Yes, it has overwhelming religious and relational connotations; but in a legal sense, it's a contract that extends over one thousand benefits to the two parties involved.

In an astounding way, we make it our government's assignment to dictate aggressive and unnecessary contractual restrictions for law-abiding, taxpaying citizens. This very notion seems to blatantly conflict with the scope and role that conservatives see appropriate for Washington in the lives of everyday Americans. If we truly desire limited intrusion, it must translate across the board, and issues cannot be cherry-picked.

Sure, a significant amount of conservatives disagree with same-sex marriage due to religious and moral conviction; but that doesn't mean our inherently American values of liberty and freedom should not apply universally to all of our fellow Americans. Having a personal objection to a practice doesn't necessarily mean it's not essential to ensuring that we live up to the fundamental American idea that all men are created equal.

The institution of a family being a healthy, nurturing environment where growth is encouraged is intrinsic to conservatism. It is near impossible to argue that a child growing up in a loving household of two parents, regardless of gender, is a worse option than living with one parent or none at all. That is not to say that single-parent households can't be healthy and nurturing, but in this case, two is really better than one.

Same-sex marriage will continue to be a hot-button issue throughout the remainder of this presidential election, and with the amount of attention devoted to both sides of the argument, it is a debate that is likely here to stay. Conservatives cannot ignore the drastic shift in public opinion and must begin to gravitate towards acceptance of true equality under the law.

Throughout the history of our incredible country, we have never failed by spreading freedom and liberty or by fighting intolerance and discrimination. In essence, that is what America does best.

Austin Gaddis is a senior columnist for The Crimson White, majoring in communication studies and public relations.