By Sam Ellison

Last Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments for California’s ban on same-sex unions and federal benefits for same-sex couples. The Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 are also paths for the justices to take in their decisions.

The Supreme Court has the unparalleled opportunity to make a landmark civil rights decision whichever way the ruling goes. Due to the widespread shifts in public opinion and the nine states that either allow same-sex marriages or will soon allow it, it is time to settle once and for all whether the United States will allow homosexual couples the same benefits that heterosexual couples are granted.

Some say that it may be too soon, and some say that it should have been settled long ago. Either way, by June of next year, we will find out if homosexuals are included in the fundamental constitutional right to wed for all citizens of the United States.

With that being said, I believe that same-sex couples should no longer be categorized as separate, and I hope the Supreme Court sides with me as I have held this belief for a long time.

First, it is the fundamental right of all citizens to take advantage of all that marriage has to offer, chiefly, the federal recognition, the symbolic recognition for the couples themselves and the cultural recognition. Over time, the recognition of marginalized groups has proven to result in positive prospects for society at large.

This nation must live up to its ideals. For far too long over the course of this nation’s 235-year history, we have disenfranchised, ostracized and refused to recognize various groups. It almost seems within our nature to oppress those that are different from the norm.

Second, the argument of the opposition to same-sex marriage is getting old. The list of arguments is indeed lengthy. The opposition argues that same-sex marriage has the potential to destroy the institution of marriage as a whole. Polygamy would follow suit after it is ratified.

It would require schools and parents to tolerate these couples. It will confuse gender roles. Same-sex couples cannot procreate with each other alone. The children of homosexual couples would not have the traditional societal norms of a mother and a father.

On a more practical level, same-sex marriage has the potential to profoundly change the landscape of our society.

Well, so what?

Hypothetically, if same-sex marriages are banned eternally, it does put homosexuals in some sort of vault where they are clandestine. Whether you like it or not, homosexuals will in some way or form present themselves in your life. And whether or not they are recognized under the inclusive branch of marriage does not change that.

Third, we as a society need to get over the fact that homosexuality is unnatural. Obviously, homosexual couples cannot produce their own children and thus it is unnatural in terms of copulation for the purpose of reproduction. If that is your argument, then couples that either choose not to have children or cannot have children should not be recognized under the institution of marriage. Yes, it does not go along with what heterosexual people do, but so what?

Fourth, some argue that it should be hashed out democratically. But maybe the public is wrong. If we had put the vote to a public referendum on desegregating the schools, on allowing women to vote, on legalizing inter-racial marriage or on ending Jim Crow laws, popular opinion would maintain the status quo of the times. American society may not be utopian, but the standards of our society at large should certainly strive for perfection.

Fifth, those who say that same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue are dead wrong. If you are not designated the rights to fully participate in a state’s polity, it is a violation of civil rights, plain and simple.

There is only one difference between homosexual couples and heterosexual couples that seek to marry; one has persons of the opposite sex and the other does not. Separate is not equal. Civil unions are not the same as marriage as they assert that homosexuals do not deserve the title of marriage that heterosexuals do.

I am not going to say that same-sex marriage will not affect you, because it will. You may have to tell your children someday why Timmy has two moms. You may be surprised when a co-worker invites you to his or her wedding and there are two masculine or feminine names on the invitation. You may be caught off-guard when your friend finally garners the courage to tell you that he or she is gay.

Whatever the circumstance, the symbolic recognition has the power to change lives.  People are afraid to be themselves because this nation and this world lacks that recognition—in fact, some people would rather die than be themselves.

It’s time. It’s time to allow same-sex couples to marry. It’s time for this nation to take this monumental step and recognize homosexuals under the institution of marriage. It should not take your gay cousin, son, friend or co-worker to shift the tides of your convictions and make you realize that, at the end of the day, we all just want to be happy.

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