Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First Post in a Long Time

Hello, I know it's been a while since my last real post. I am actually working on one, though, so there's that. This has been a strange time for me--I got a 220 on the PSAT (75 CR, 78MTH, 67WS), got into the all of the AP classes I applied to, and am the editor of my school newspaper's sports section, all while dealing with a potential ADD diagnosis and some emotional strains due to some low grades and familial struggles. Nonetheless, this school project fit the bill as something I would post (read: have a strong opinion on). The first part is my stance, the second is an opinion in light of said stance. Without further ado...

     Throughout mankind’s history, discrimination has often been the norm, not the outlier. In the United States alone, and without going into great detail, the hate has shifted from Native Americans to African-Americans to Catholics, to Jews and now more currently, to homosexuals in addition to all the others. In short, the claim that the nation that prides itself upon liberty and equality has eliminated discrimination within its government is inherently false. Homosexuals have been and are continuing to be denied basic human rights as a consequence of codified bigotry. In an egregious violation of moral and constitutional law, the U.S government has stripped individuals of the right to marry, artificially labeled them as subhumans, and prevented them from participating in aspects of life for reasons only based in their sexual orientation.

     Homosexuals have been unable to marry for centuries. Homosexuality was seen as an unnatural abomination, and as such was outlawed. Yet, times and laws change. The ones regulating same-sex marriage, however, largely did not. The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, prohibited marriage between members of the same gender and defined marriage as a union solely between one man and one woman. (GovTrack, 3) As of 2012, homosexuals unfortunate enough to be in one of thirty-seven states are denied 1,138 additional benefits and responsibilities ranging from inheritance issues to a lack of spousal protection in court cases. (Human Rights Campaign, 1) Furthermore, the recent ruling of the United States Supreme Court overruling certain parts of the aforementioned Defense of Marriage Act only applies in the thirteen states that actually have legalized same-sex marriage. As such, many couples are left with little more than a written acknowledgement of their commitment that often does not translate across state borders—a civil union.

     Beyond basic legal rights like marriage and tax issues, homosexuals find themselves victims of the system in daily life as well. Homosexual males are almost entirely banned from donating blood. (NBC News Health, 1). Due to an AIDS outbreak in the 1980s, any homosexual male that had engaged in sexual intercourse with a member of his own sex was forever banned from donating blood, even if he was not infected with any sexually transmitted disease. Further, in certain states that do not allow unmarried couples to adopt, such as Nebraska, Utah, and Ohio, homosexuals are forever banned from adopting a child and even face undue discrimination in the adoption process in states like Mississippi. (Wong, 1) Though popular opinion has changed dramatically over the last decade, particularly men, are shown undue scrutiny based upon unflattering stereotypes. They also have to deal with daily slurs and homophobic actions. Words and phrases like “faggot” or “no homo” may seem humorous to some, when in reality, they are far from it. Yet, despite substantial media coverage and the obvious presence of homophobia, only around two-thirds of states include sexual orientation in hate crime legislation.  (Shively, 10)

     The unreasonable prejudice extends to the areas that are supposed to preach tolerance and acceptance—churches. People of faith generally misunderstand homosexuality, and as such refuse basic rights and see them as subhuman. Though churches are well within their right to whom they give their ceremonies, many followers misunderstand their faith’s teachings. As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) stated regarding his position on homosexuality, "My religion says it's a sin,” expressing a popular misconception among Catholics. (On the Issues, 1) The Church’s actual teaching is essentially that homosexuals are no more prone to sin or are more sinful than heterosexuals. Homosexuals can take full part in their faith.( United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1) Being a homosexual is not a sin; rather, it could actually be a call to holiness, as some believe was mentioned in Matthew 19:12. Sex outside of marriage and sex incapable of producing a child, however, categories in which all homosexual sexual contact falls under, are inherently sinful. In short, acting upon homosexual attractions is sinful. In an asexual context, having them, however, is not. However, many groups, particularly the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, protest against immoral “choices,” when, in actuality, homosexuality is not a choice at all. Such groups reject reality in order to create their own. “Pray the gay away,” is far worse than and hardly comparable to “Born this way.”

     Just as people of faith unfortunately misinterpret the tolerant words of Jesus Christ, many citizens fail to understand the United States Constitution—the gospel of American law. The Defense of Marriage Act was a blatant overreach of boundaries as the Constitution never gave any legislative body the authority to regulate primarily religious institutions. Further, such regulation was never necessary to a degree similar to that of roads, federal banks, or public schools, and certainly never proper in a legal sense to warrant wholesale restrictions upon the institution. However, mountains of red tape and webs of tax law have made a “hands-off” approach impossible. Yet, a simple solution can be found—the fourteenth amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law. As it stands, the federal government does not afford equal protection to homosexuals in multiple ways, most obviously in the form of denying spousal protection in legal trials. Partners must take the stand against each other if called. (Ghianni, 1) Here, there is no protection under the law at all. Further, there is a more tangible burden that applies only to homosexual couples—the financial one. Homosexuals are denied marriage tax deductions and Social Security survivor benefits as they cannot get married. (Human Rights Campaign, 1-3)There is a financial penalty for being born different.

     Even after a brief examination of the facts, it is clear that the United States of America discriminates against homosexuals. It denies basic rights in marriage, provides a legal consequence-free environment for such discrimination, and treats them as sub-humans by refusing to let them engage in basic civil functions like blood donation. All because they were born different. They loved someone else. Congress cannot regulate human attraction. It should not even try. It can however, protect its constituents and afford them the rights and protections given to them by the Constitution. 
     I believe that the Church can teach it whatever feels best fits its teachings. Catholic tradition holds that the Holy Family was composed of a heterosexual couple of a man and a woman, and a son—Jesus Christ. A ban on homosexual marriage is in line with its teachings due to its endorsement of sex and marriage as primarily child-bearing unions, though it may certainly be against the tolerant message of Jesus’ message. Further, Jesus never really stated an opinion on the definition of marriage, who can take part in it, and why he believed such things. Further, the Bible contains few references to homosexuals beyond those of Sodom and Gomorrah. Looking through a strictly biological lens, it is clear that heterosexuality is the more advantageous option for the human race—the “blueprint” has been given to humanity. In a Roman point of view, the Church had to side with heterosexuality because of that fact.

     I feel that the Church has done a very poor job of educating its priests and the laity, because many misunderstand its teachings, as shown through the prior Christie quote. At my church, I have overheard a few discussions and read through the parish book of intentions (a spiral notebook people can scrawl intentions in for Mass) enough times to know that many parishioners lack a basic understanding of what it actually means to be a homosexual. They base opinions in stereotypes they find on TV, on the radio, or on the internet and discuss ways to “fix” “erstwhile” children. It is rather disappointing.

     On a purely political level, I would support lifting the ban on same-sex marriage. I find the issue to be very similar to the previous ban upon interracial marriage, which was lifted after a Supreme Court ruling. People cannot change their sexual orientation just as they cannot change to a significant degree the color of their skin. Why restrict social freedoms—marriage or otherwise-- for something one cannot change? I respect the Catholic Church’s position, yet find it necessary to federally respect same-sex marriages and other rights many religious groups (perhaps mistakenly) do not. Perhaps the reader can gather I have a somewhat strict definition of the Constitution—I, along with many others,--find Congress has made a law that directly violates the right to equal protection under the law it affords, one that also restricts the natural rights Thomas Jefferson promises in the Declaration of Independence—the pursuit of happiness.

     Though I am not a homosexual, I find it tremendously shallow that people find love to be based upon what kind of genitals a person happens to possess rather than his or her mind, soul, or being. That being said, I feel as though the Catholic Church, of which I am a devoted follower, has every right to control, defend, or even radically alter its position on this important topic. The government, however, does not. Homosexuals are citizens too. Rights are inalienable, regardless of who has them.

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