Denying gays the right to vote is unconstitutional. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is unconstitutional. These are facts. There is little to no reason to even explain why these are facts. However, what is not as obvious is this; what is constitutional is not what is necessarily upheld. Policy and constitutionality are not one, instead policy is oftentimes made in response to society. It is not the objective of a politician to make constitutional decisions, but decisions that will satisfy the greater part of their constituents. In other words, politicians make policy that will get them the most votes.
This idea, that it is a state’s power to define marriage, has many people opposed to same-sex marriage reciting the 10th amendment religiously. If you aren’t familiar with the 10th amendment in the US Constitution, it goes like this, “the powers not designated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” No, the Constitution does not define marriage, nor does it give Congress the power to regulate marriage specifically (in case you were wondering). However, the 10th amendment does not grant the states power either. In fact, if you read it word-by-word, the 10th actually does not grant anyone power, nor does it restrict power.
So, what we now know is that, constitutionally, the 10th amendment means squat if we can find that Congress or the president has the power to make law concerning these issues. Luckily, if you have any knowledge of United States government or have ever recited the Pledge of Allegiance, you know that this nation is founded on the principles of equality for all. States do not have the power to deprive any person the equal protection of the laws (see the 14th amendment). Simply put, those who believe that it should be a state’s decision to decide on the legality of same-sex marriage need to know that whether same-sex marriage is right or not does not influence its constitutionality.
What did I tell you? Denying these rights are unconstitutional and that is a fact. Let’s go back to this issue of politics versus constitutionality though. If politicians know (or should know) that the decisions they are making to ignore gay rights in Congress is wrong then why do they do it? Because the voters are telling them not to use their power. Our problem, if we want Congress to make law, is to change the minds of society. Think about the recent suicides of gay (or assumed gay) youth. Do you think that it was after reading the Constitution that they decided to end their lives? Of course not. These young men ended their lives because society told them that who they were was intolerable.
Let’s not let ourselves get distracted by the legality of our fight. The judicial system will take care of that. With increasing federal court decisions in favor of LGBT rights and continuous appeals from the opponents, these cases will quickly find themselves at the Supreme Court. Once in the Supreme Court, it is highly believed they will rule in favor of equality, ensuring a new law of the land. What we need to concern ourselves with is social integration. I recently watched a documentary called “Out in the Silence” in which a small LGBT group, although rejected by their community, organized a day in which they would go out and clean up the trash from the town. Not only that, but it shows a lesbian couple who resurrected an old theater that would have otherwise been abandoned. It is acts like these where our community, as an organization, places itself within society in a way that they become reliant on us that we finally become integrated.
Think about human nature before there was government. How did one survive? You were either physically strong enough to protect yourself or you were valuable enough for others to protect. Although the extremist right-wing might believe we’re recruiting their children and building a gay army, we know that is not the case. So instead we rely on the second option and prove that we are just as valuable to society as the strongest of them and that without us, the consequences would be perilous.
The Constitution is not our enemy. The law will provide. However, law does not prevent death. If we wish to change this country, we must change the hearts of those around us. It isn’t easy, but it can be done. They tell us we have a “gay agenda” so let’s make one; change the world and save a life.