Our View: Human dignity and civil rights

At issue

Same-sex marriage ruling

Our view

At long last, U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirms that same-sex couples are entitled to the civil rights that are attached to marriage

As we celebrate our nation’s independence this holiday weekend, we think it appropriate that we all reflect on our system of government that calls for the U.S. Supreme Court to balance the judicial and legislative branches in its role of interpreting the U.S. Constitution.

From the number of split votes that marked the Supreme Court session that ended June 29, we can infer that interpreting the Constitution is not, and never has been, a cut-and-dried matter. However, in the case of the court’s 5-4 decision ruling June 26 that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution recognizes a national right to same-sex marriage, we think it comes down to guaranteeing civil rights for all Americans.

In our view, it’s self evident that two people who have committed to an enduring relationship and chosen one another as life partners should be able to enjoy the same legal protections, including those specific to matrimony, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender. Whether same-sex marriage offends anyone or not, this is a matter of civil rights.

At the core of our position is a recognition that marriage by the church and marriage by the state, in our country, are two different things. Our perception is that the position taken by many, that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” has its origin in religion.

We aren’t attempting to challenge anyone’s faith in the context of this opinion piece. But we would note that while couples may choose to be married in church while standing in front of their pastor, that ceremony will be preceded by a trip to the courthouse for a marriage license that makes it legal.

The rights afforded to married couples in our society are numerous and diverse. A sampling includes: the tax benefits attached to the ability to file joint income tax returns and to form a family partnership; the ability to inherit a share of your spouse’s estate, receive Social Security, Medicare and disability benefits for spouses; the ability to receive veterans’ and military benefits for spouses; and the opportunity to take family leave from one’s employer to care for a spouse during an illness.

In times of serious health issues, same-sex couples who are not married may not be able to visit their loved one in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours elsewhere in the hospital. The surviving member of a same-sex marriage may be denied the ability to make burial arrangements.

Marriage ensures that couples who break up – divorce – are afforded equitable division of property.

We know that policies on same-sex marriage vary among, and within, different religious dominations. But polling shows that the views of many Americans on the subject of same-sex marriage are increasingly tolerant, regardless of their faith.

A May Gallup Poll showed that 60 percent of Americans support same-sex marriagee, up 5 percentage points from 2014.

We think the issue is as serious as any unfair abridgment of civil rights, and as simple as, “live and let live.”

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