(The first ‘viral’ post I ever made, an argument for a Constitutional Amendment for gay marriage. See the DISCUSSION at the end of the post for Q&A captured from comments. ed 10/18/2023)
I delivered my persuasive speech tonight, a week later than I had wanted due to being sick and missing class. I was very pleased by the reaction to it and the discussion it prompted afterward, I think I changed the minds of all but one in the class. The communications professor mentioned there was a new Gay Lesbian Alliance chapter just recently started at Reinhardt and I thought about giving the same speech to them. Text of the speech is included behind the cut due to length. It’s an important issue and I hope it gains more positive attention going forward.
A Persuasive Speech on why a Constitutional Amendment is needed to Legalize Gay Marriage By Tim Clancy
There is a problem today in the nation that we must face. Over ten million Americans born and bred in this country do not enjoy the full rights of citizenship. They have committed no crime nor failed to serve their country in any way. 60,000 of these citizens serve as soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world in the war on terror even as they are treated as 3/5th’s of a citizen back home. There is a problem today in Georgia that we must face. In 2002 Susan Burns was denied visitation rights to her children by a Georgia Court of Appeals because her legal same-sex Civil Union in Vermont was not recognized by Georgia. She was found to be morally unfit to raise or even visit her children.
There is a problem today here amongst us that we must face. We all know close associates: friends, relatives, fellow students or coworkers who are gay. Statistically speaking at least 40 students at Reinhardt are gay. However these students remain 3/5th’s of a citizen, looking to a future where they are prohibited from enjoying the rights that the rest of us enjoy. They have committed no crime but in the case of marriage, they have fewer rights than criminals.
The Declaration of Independence defines freedom with the words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Our nation has struggled to meet this principle of freedom throughout its history. If you consider yourself a citizen of the United States please raise your hand. Would everyone but Michael lower your hands. For the first century of this nation’s history, only Michael and myself would be accorded the full rights of citizenship. Thanks Mike.
(walk up to an African-American student) Until the 13th Amendment, you were considered 3/5th of a person unable to vote, to marry, or enter into legal contracts. In 1868 the 14th Amendment set a doctrine of equal protection under the law, and two years later in, in 1870 you were allowed to vote through 15th Amendment, finally a full citizen of the United States. For the rest of you, the women, you remained 3/5th’s of a citizen for 50 more years until the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 and you gained the right to vote. No less than 50 years ago transportation, restaurants, even drinking fountains were segregated by race. In Brown v. Board of Education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” was overturned by stating that it was not equal. It took decades from that decision before the stain of segregation was severed from society.
As a nation, we faced these problems and overcame them by returning to a framework of freedoms and rights of citizenship. That all are created equal, all have equal protection under the law, a state may not diminish this equality, separate but equal is not equal and that the use of a Constitutional Amendment is an appropriate vehicle to ensure these rights.
Now when we stand looking into the 21st Century we face the problem of inequality again. Gays are treated as 3/5th’s of a citizen. They face different laws from different states, they are not treated equally under the law, and in no state may gay citizens pursue through marriage that inalienable right of the Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of happiness. That’s why I believe we need a Constitutional Amendment to legalize gay marriage.
What is between where we stand now and an amendment such as this? Four arguments. First, that homosexuality is immoral. Second, that marriage has always been between a man and a woman. Third, that same sex Civil Unions would grant the same rights. Finally, that marriage is a scared institution between a man and a woman and allowing two men or two women to marry would diminish that sanctity. My intent tonight is to counter these arguments. That barring a compelling cause found in these four issues, or a direct injury caused by the action, that to deny gays the same rights of citizenship others enjoy is to violate the 14th Amendment and the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This discussion will come up again. It will come up in class, at work, in our homes and our churches. This is our problem to face.
What is at stake? More than just the wedding ceremony. Scrolling by you are a handful of the numerous legal rights and benefits marriage grants to citizens. When we say that gays cannot marry we are denying them these very rights. Legal marriage is not a ceremony, throwing some rice, and off to the honeymoon. It is a binding contract between two individuals with rights, privileges, and obligations witnessed, protected and enforced by the government. Take a moment to consider these rights we all take for granted when we become married and realize that for other Americans, simply based on a different sexual orientation they are denied these same rights.
•Pension Plan Benefits
Social Security Benefits
•Next-of-kin status for medical decisions
•Joint insurance policies for home, auto and health
•Dissolution and Divorce protections
•Crime victims’ recovery benefits
•Domestic violence protection orders
•Veterans’ discounts on medical care, education, and home loans
•Rights of survivorship and Inheritance
•Wrongful death benefits
•And many more…
The charge of immorality is the most common argument as to why same sex marriage should be prohibited. Look to the Bible and there it will say in Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 “Thou shall not lie in mankind as with womankind, it is an abomination”. However, most Christian theologians and pastors agree that of the 612 components of Leviticus, modern Christians only follow a handful and amongst some of the others no longer followed:
· charging of interest on a loan (25:37)
· a child to be killed if he/she curses their parent (20:9)
· all persons guilty of adultery to be killed (20:10)
· harvesting the corners of a field (19:9)
· eating fruit from a young tree (19:23)
· wearing clothes that are made from a textile blend (19:19)
· shaving or getting a hair cut (19:27)
Charging interest on a loan is no longer immoral, but two committed partners loving one another is. We no longer kill the child who curses their parents but still we vilify the child who is gay. We harvest the corners of a field but deny the harvest of love in marriage for two who are committed to one another. I challenge that we hold homosexuals to a higher standard of morality than we hold ourselves, that we malign them for two verses in Leviticus while we ourselves ignore over six hundred. Trying to keep this speech on time I cannot go into the immorality arguments of the tale of Sodom Gomorrah nor St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans but I am willing to discuss them after class. However, in the New Testament Jesus never once mentions homosexuality as a sin but instead counsels that we should love one another and makes over 140 references to tolerance.
The argument of immorality has been used in the past to restrict marriages. As recently as 1959, a Virginia court judge also invoked immorality in God’s name by saying:
“Almighty God created the races… he placed them on separate continents….The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)
The case was Loving v. Virginia, and the crime was miscegenation also known as interracial marriage. The law of 16 states including Georgia, on the basis of morality, said that for a black to marry a white was a crime punishable by up to 5 years in jail. Overturning miscegenation in 1967 a federal appeals court said “this Court has consistently repudiated “[d]istinctions between citizens…as being “odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.” Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)
It is not my place here to judge the morality of individuals in determining what parts of the Bible or other belief systems they follow. I will point out however that in today’s society if you curse your parents, shave or wear cotton you are not prohibited from marrying even though all these acts are immoral in the context of the Bible. And if a Judge tried to pass a criminal sentence on interracial marriage as being immoral he would be removed from the bench. Yet, we let stand without question the morality argument when it comes to gays marrying.
A second argument against same-sex marriage is that it has never been, and that the concept is the creation of modern-day radical liberals but this argument is not historically accurate. And for the record, I consider myself a radical moderate, not a radical liberal. John Boswell, a distinguished history professor at Yale spent twelve years studying same-sex couples and marriages in Europe.
Boswell documented a tradition of not only tolerance but in some cases veneration, of same-sex couples within Christian theology. One example is that of St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, Roman martyrs of the 4th century. In the Acta Sanctorum they are described as “sweet companions and lover of one another”. Many early paintings of St. Sergius and St. Bacchus portray the two with Jesus in the background, positioned in the traditional stances of a marriage ceremony. Around the world churches, seminaries, and consecrated shrines venerate these two Saints.
Additionally, Boswell found that same-sex unions had been performed throughout Christian Europe even up to the 20th Century. In Germany, Greece, Constantinople, Ireland, Wales, Albania, Montenegro, England, Bosnia, France and Rome Boswell’s meticulous research demonstrated widespread, if not common, same-sex marriage ceremonies performed by the Church both for pairs of men and for pairs of women. These Ceremonies involved mass similar to the wedding ceremonies between a man and woman. They document a tradition of same sex unions in Christian Europe.
A third argument is that Civil Unions, not marriage, are more appropriate for homosexuals. A federal law guaranteeing the same rights and legal privileges would allow homosexuals to join in union, but not marry. But what’s wrong with this picture? We’ll create a separate title for gays called Civil Unions but they’ll be equal in all other ways to marriages. We’ll take citizens of the US and place them into two separate but equal classes. What could be wrong with that?
We know what is wrong with that. We’ve been down the dark winding path on the side of a cliff in a stormy night called “separate but equal” and we have the injuries to show for our fall. Let’s not go back down that road and tempt gravity but instead chart a new course and break inertia.
A final argument against same-sex marriage is that marriage is a sacred institution. To allow gays to marry one another would somehow diminish the sanctity of that term. Isn’t the norm however that how and why people get married is up to the two individuals?
In Florida, a post-operation transsexual was declared legally married even though HE was born a SHE and later changed to a man through an operation. (Kantaras v. Kantaras) But it is against the law for two men or two women to become married. Gold-digging, trophy spouses, marriages of convenience; these wrong reasons for getting married are so widespread as to be a part of common culture. But if two gays wish to marry for all the right reasons they cannot do so.
Also, realize that marriage is a right convicted criminals enjoy. Eric Mendez while serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for murdering both of his parents was legally wedded to Tammi Saccoman. Eric has no chance of parole, is not granted conjugal visits, and spends most of his days in an 8’x5’ cell but has the right to marry. Kenneth Barret, a man convicted and imprisoned for raping a teenage girl over the course of five years not only married while serving time in jail but married the mother of the victim.
Drug dealers, rapists, pedophiles, murderers, and lowlifes of all kind are not deprived of their right to marry on account of their crimes. What kind of message are we sending here to gays? That what would be considered cruel and unusual for the criminal is appropriate and acceptable for them? That they should have less rights than murderers?
A fellow student when finding out I was speaking on this subject asked me: “Why did you choose that topic when, you know, you’re straight”. That student is correct, I am not gay, I am a heterosexual male. But I do not need to be African-American to recognize that slavery and segregation was wrong. I do not need to be female to agree that women deserve the right to vote. I do not need to be discriminated to recognize discrimination, and in preventing gays from marrying I recognize discrimination.
I hope I have shown tonight that the arguments of immorality call into question how consistently we ourselves follow that moral standard. That codes of morality enforced by law having only to do with personal preference, not violence or harm, may appear smartly attired in reason today but in hindsight, the clothing is nothing more than the disheveled rags of absurdity. I hope I have shown that there is a history of same-sex marriages stretching back over a thousand years. I hope I have shown that the choice of Civil Unions is no choice at all, only the lesser of two evils. I hope I have shown that the committed loving relationship between two homosexuals is far less likely to diminish the sanctity of marriage than murderers, rapists, and criminals who we already allow to marry. I hope I have shown that none of these arguments rise to a compelling enough case to deny gay citizens equal protection under the law and their inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I will conclude tonight with two challenges. If you disagree with what I have said, know that I respect your right to disagree. I challenge you however to have the courage to walk up to your friends, relatives, peers and fellow students who are gay tell them they are not a full person, tell them they are only 3/5ths of a citizen not deserving of the same legal rights on account of their sexual orientation. Have the courage to tell them yourself and do not let the official behind the office, the priest behind the pulpit or the commentator behind the call in talk show do it for you.
And for those who have agreed with me in part or in whole I challenge you more so not to remain silent. I challenge you to have the courage to go to your gay friends, relatives, peers and fellow students, look them in the eye and say “I support your right to marry. I support your right to pursue happiness legally”. Let them know they are not facing this issue alone. Let them know that when this country finally faces the music that you will add your voice to the choir.
Discrimination only exists so long as the majority who disagrees with it remains silent because it does not affect them.
This is our problem.
Let’s face it.
Bibliography The National Center for Public Policy Research, United States Supremer Court Case: Brown v. Board of Education, 347 US 483 (1954) http://www.nationalcenter.org/brown.html The Multiracial Activist Journal, United States Supreme Court, Case: LOVING V. VIRGINIA 388 U.S. 1 (1967) http://www.multiracial.com/government/loving.html World Policy Institute – Project for Global Democracy and Human Rights http://www.worldpolicy.org/globalrights/sexorient/hom_bibh.htm “Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe”, John Boswell, Villard Books © 1994 Vatican Holy See www.vatican.va CNN Online June 16, 1999 “Convicted Murderer Erik Menendez marries in prison”, http://www.cnn.com/US/9906/16/menendez/ 20/20 ABC News Feature Story May 11, “Justice without Compassion” http://abcnews.go.com/onair/2020/2020_000511_texasjustice_feature.html Tim C.
How did someone indicate they didn’t agree with you? Did anyone cast one of them handy first stones?
Heh…I’ll have to get it cleaned up some time, but as you suggested it’s a speech, not an essay. There are things you can do in front of a crowd, like on that third to last line I cut the word silent off and let it hang for 3-5 seconds, which you just can’t convey in the written word.
The disagreeing student said, rather plainly, she disagreed. This is not surprising considering I already knew her position from the surveys I had done that she very strongly felt the Bible had no room for a homosexual marriage. She recognized the contradiction in herself made all the more pointed by her final speech which was to praise the accomplishments of her brother, who is gay.
What were the reactions of your classmates?
I took a survey last week and the class was split 8/7 in favor of legalizing gay marriage (surprising for a Methodist college). During the speech, I knew I was hammering home a very sensitive issue in at times some very strong language. That was intentional. I tried to pull no punches and call ’em as I see ’em which is why that challenge to those who disagree is so strong.
Reactions were hard to tell during the speech, some folks were nodding in agreement while others just looked stunned (other persuasive speech had dealt with online file sharing, who was jack the ripper, don’t eat meat…that sort of thing so this was new ground).
But during the discussion afterwards all but one said they had changed their mind and couldn’t find a way to disagree the arguments as presented which means the in favor had shifted from 8/7 to 14/1…now if only we can get that shift in the American public we’ll have progress.
Hi… you don’t know me, but I found this through LJ… Brilliant speech… I’d like to post this link to the GLBT alias at my work (MSFT), would you mind?
Heh…I used to work on the Redmond campus, I miss all the great email communities. Feel free to repost, I really don’t mind if anyone does. All I ask is the speech be reposted in its entirety, my name and contact (email@example.com or this LJ) be included, and the bibliography be included. My hope is people are motivated/incensed by the speech to go do their own research and find what I found (especilly Boswell’s book, it’s an eye opener). I also want to have the ability to get feedback, even the flames, from those who read it. Thanks!!
While I am in agreement that homosexual marriage should be legal i will dispute the need for a constitutional ammendment, as there is no constitutional provisions concerning marriage to begin with. It is instead a matter better handled by the supreme court or possibly legistlatures in individual states as they generally have seperate laws per state concerning the rules of marriage. The tax issue should be handled by the congress as the define federal tax rules. But the principal I agree with.
I have considered that argument, and actually through the course of this project went from a push to overturn the Federal Marriage Act to an outright amendment.
What are the constitutional provisions concerning the subject matter of Amendments 1-8, 13-15 etc.? Amendments have often been used to break new ground in defining the freedoms of the citizenry for all time. I agree a Supreme Court overturning of the Federal Marriage Act of 96′ on the basis of 14th might prove the same watershed as Brown v. Board did, but it would still then be viewed as a liberal/activist court forced change and not the will of the people. Segregation took decades to unravel and caused a schism in the process. Amendments have the weight of ratification behind them: the voice of Congress, the states, and by extension the citizenry of the entire country. (Of course, that’s why they’re so darned hard to pass.) A constitutional amendment is an appropriate vehicle to ensure consistency of basic rights of citizenship without making them subject to the whims of an electorate by electorate change in an election.
Also if states are allowed to define their own laws you have situations like Burns v. Burns where an individual legally joined in Civil Union in one state is not recognized in another. I also see in individual state definitions the kind of slippery slope towards the separate but equal path wherein there are two sets of laws for citizens who do not differ in any way other than sexual orientation, there is no due process involved in determining that sexual orientation (unless we begin with standardized proceedings applied to all seeking marriage to determine orientation first and then see what class they fit).
I removed because of space/time the actual text of the amendment which went something like this: “The right of citizens of the United States to marry shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sexual orientation.” The actual definition of marriage itself remains a state-by-state matter, but they can no longer separate gay marriage from heterosexual marriage and create two classes by the process. If a law is to be passed for one group it affects all groups. The language is pulled from the 19th Amendment, where women were given the right to vote, but the technical details of that right (precincts, primary rules, etc.) remain defined state by state.