A Moral Obligation to Legalize Equal Marriage

Over the past week, I've written a lot about the political implications of legalizing equal marriage. But while I've said multiple times that we have a moral obligation to give everyone the freedom to marry, I haven't actually written much about why I believe that. So here goes.

It should always be our goal to extend the rights and freedoms of all Americans. We haven't always done a good job of that, but over the long the course of history, we have always erased those disparities and extended equal rights to all. When any group is denied certain liberties are enjoyed by some but denied to others, we should consider ourselves obliged to end that disparity.

When equal rights are denied to some, it hurts our entire society. Denying full equality and civil rights to a certain group of people creates a slippery slope. If we're willing to deny certain freedoms to one group, why not others? Once we feel comfortable voting to take away some fellow Americans' rights, where will it stop?

While we should always be concerned with extending freedom generally, let's not forget that denying equal rights to a group also does them specific and real harm. Denying same-sex couples the right to marry has serious consequences that our society should not tolerate.
First, they are denied the legal rights afforded to married people. I know that things like health insurance and hospital visitation don't poll well, but they're crucial to the moral argument for equal marriage. Because same-sex couples can't marry, they aren't given the same tax advantages as straight couples, they don't have the right to visit each other in the hospital, and they often can't share health benefits. These are just a few examples; there are many, many more.

Denying same-sex couples these legal rights is literally a life-and-death issue. Without access to their partner's health insurance, LGBT people may die because they lack access to proper care, even though their partner may have excellent insurance. When we tell the LGBT community they need to wait until marriage is more politically palatable, we need to remember that we may literally be condemning people to death.

Finally, as advice columnist and gay-rights advocate Dan Savage thoughtfully explained a few weeks ago on his podcast, the right to marry includes the right to divorce. This is far more significant than you would think at first. An opposite-sex couple extricating themselves from a lengthy relationship will have help reaching a settlement from the justice system, while same-sex couples have no such recourse.

Can we as a society feel comfortable denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry, and with it the rights and privileges that other Americans take for granted? We certainly shouldn't. We have an obligation our fellow Americans, and it's too important to wait.

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