By Dean J. Argiris
In last week's public Inauguration, President Obama declared in his address the advancement of gay marriage as the defining civil rights movement of our generation. Some have argued that it is an unfair comparison to equate the Civil Rights movement to the push for Gay Marriage. Their argument is based on a premise called an "immutable trait."
An immutable trait is considered to be one of two things; a feature that has occurred at birth or a characteristic that is fundamental to a person's identity. Traits such as gender, race, ethnic origin, creed, and religion are considered immutable traits and are thereby protected against from discrimination. Opponents of gay marriage argue that there is no scientific evidence to support that homosexuality is genetic and not a choice. Interestingly enough, a 1993 study by the National Cancer Institute discovered that there was a "gay gene" that was passed down from the maternal side and was typically found on the Xq28 stretch of the X chromosome. Furthermore, a Swedish report detailed the differences in MRI's of hetero and homosexual brains. So, it seems there is evidence to support the belief that homosexuality is an immutable trait.
However, going beyond the scientific arguments; there is a larger and more important argument to be made regarding the realization of gay marriage as a right. Quite simply, that's the one about freedom of choice. Just as "It's the economy, stupid!" became the theme of the 1992 Presidential election; "it's about freedom, stupid!" could best summarize the position for same sex marriage.
The first amendment to the Constitution is what I like to call the "Choice Amendment." Through it we are given the freedom to exercise the faith of our choice, the freedom to express our views on issues and government, the freedom of the press to report stories without fear of government retribution, and we are given the right to associate with whomever we desire. These are the choices that are protected by the Constitution of the United States.
The basis of American freedom rests in the recognition of two spheres. We have our personal sphere, in which our morals are dictated by our faith, our own beliefs, and our own experiences. This is what allows me, as an Orthodox Christian to raise my family to respect the sanctity of life. However, there is also the public sphere and that sphere is developed by the Constitution of the United States. It's a barrier that protects others from being imposed upon by my personal views. Conversely, it also establishes a barrier between the SACRAMENT of marriage and the STATE RIGHT of marriage, which I believe is protected by the 14th Amendment.
That is the beauty of the American system. An acceptance of a person's state right to marry does not infringe upon the right of the religious institution to conduct the sacrament of marriage in a manner they see fit. Nor will it force those unwilling to engage in a same sex marriage to get one. As Political Strategist James Carville once said, "I was against gay marriage until I realized I didn't have to get one."
Thirty five years after our first President stepped aside, French historian Alexis De Tocqueville toured the new United States and wrote down his observations on the American people in his two volume book, "Democracy in America." One thing that is noted is that Alexis DeTocqueville stated "Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom,... democracy seeks equality in liberty,... " There should be no argument greater than that.
At the heart of the issue is the push for full and equal states rights, as citizen and taxpayer, rather than a mandate on religious institutions to abandon their own tenants. To say that some rights are reserved for one particular sect of citizen creates an inferior class of citizen, which runs contrary to concepts of American Democracy.
Dean Argiris is a Democratic political consultant and owner of the Argiris Consulting Group. Prior to starting his own consulting business, he served as a Regional Field Director in Southeastern Pennsylvania during the 2010 midterm for President Obama's "Organizing for America" during the 2010, and as a political staffer for the Illinois Senate Democrats. He has been a longtime supporter of marriage equality.