Growing up I remember learning about the Founding Fathers; about the society they envisioned where all people are equal under the law. Then I learned about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement; how America hadn't always lived up to this noble ideal, but had never stopped reaching for it. As a child I could not imagine anyone standing in the way of equality in the name of prejudice, but as I grew older I began to see that my generation also had a great civil rights battle on its hands. I'm talking of course about same-sex marriage.
Those who oppose marriage equality point to the past and say, "This is how its always been: one man one woman, and that's how it should stay." I will pose this question to you, my reader: does tradition justify discrimination? Our Founding Fathers believed that America should always strive to achieve lofty ideals. We can do better. Denying people the right to marry who they love denies them equal protection under the law because the court has already ruled that the right to marriage is a fundamental right. It's not a complicated issue. It's embarrassing to a nation that calls itself the greatest country on earth that in 2013 this is even a debate.
The current case being argued in front of the Supreme Court is that same-sex marriage undermines the procreational purpose of "traditional marriage." By that logic, couples who do not intend to have children should not be allowed to marry. Another claim actually made by Justice Antonin Scalia is that the science is still out on whether or not gay parents produce normal offspring. But this reasoning is weak justification for separating out an entire group of people in our society, especially given that there is a growing consensus among experts that the sexual orientation of parents does not have a major role in determining the wellbeing of a child. Ultimately, all of the arguments against equality can be boiled down to societal prejudice based on pervasive, selective religious dogma. With that in mind, the discrimination being faced by the gay community is precisely the reason we have a First Amendment separation of church and state.
Regardless of whether the Supreme Court decides that now is the time to shed the chains of bigotry, there is work to be done. Chief Justice Roberts suggested the marriage debate was "just about the label" because California grants same-sex partners the same rights as married couples, but he should know from Brown v. Board of Education that separate is inherently unequal. In 29 states a person can legally be fired or evicted without legal recourse, just for being gay. Gay children make up 40 percent of the entire population of homeless youth. On a national scale, gay couples are still denied basic protections granted to straight couples because marriage is primarily a legal contract. And to add insult to injury, being anti-equality is a politically acceptable position with representation from one of America's two political parties, though that is changing quickly as 53 percent of Americans now support freedom to marry. Part of the responsibility of living in this democratic republic is participating. We must never settle so long as any group of people are treated unfairly under the law.