Friday, April 06, 2012

Equal right to marry

I'm currently taking Constitutional Law in my second semester in law school, which is an American Bar Association-required course.

The Constitution is said to be the basis of the law of this land, and it does and doesn't enumerate some of the basic things we enjoy or are denied. Sometimes, the issues we talk about in class get pretty personal, and pretty exhausting to discuss.

Recently, we finished our section on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Equal Protection Clause state, "... nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

A lot of the gay rights issue, like marriage, are discussed under this clause. We discussed the Proposition 8 case that got ruled in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We also discussed a case called Windsor v. United States which is traveling through the 2nd Circuit. Windsor is a Defense of Marriage Act case, where a widow was charged a $350,000 estate tax when her wife passed away. Heterosexual couples are exempt from this tax.

We watched an arguably biased video by the ACLU (who represents Ms. Windsor) about this case, and it really struck a personal chord with me. I'm a pretty politically-minded person. I love current events and keep up with matters regarding legislature and elected officials. But I've always had a birds-eye-view approach to these matters, where I take myself out of the whole equation when forming opinions about certain issues. This included the right to marry for same sex couples. I believed in their right to marry from a macro standpoint of equal rights to all, and the effect that marriage has for practical matters like entitlement benefits.

Recently, I had a paradigm-shifting experience that turned all of this into a pretty personal matter to me.

Without going into too much detail, I had a sudden realization about the basic fundamental emotional basis of this marriage issue. In our crazy lives, it's a rarity to even find friends that you want sticking around for a lifetime. Sometimes, you don't even like your own blood family members, for one reason or another. It's such a miracle when two people find each other and know in their hearts that their lives are going to be together. This event should be celebrated. It should be praised through the roof, and should be held as the standard of what the "pursuit of happiness" is supposed to be, which is such a fundamental element of the American ethos.

When you find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, it's one of the few times in your entire life where such certainty has never been so crystal clear. Yet, for the government to step in and legally devalue this basic fundamental certainty... it just breaks my heart. The pure unfairness of it all puts a knot in my throat. How can you take away from something that is so few people get to enjoy and yet everyone wants?

Until now, I skipped this emotional part of the gay marriage issue, which is essentially the heart of the battle (no pun intended). I still believe in the practical policy rational for gay marriage. But I now believe it to the core on the emotional end, and sincerely hope that everyone gets to enjoy the full extent of the love they were so blessed to find.