Equal Marriage Rights in Florida
The concept of marriage is one that stems back thousands of years. The ceremony of a man and a woman coming together in a lifelong promise to devote themselves to one another is very special, and to this day it continues to be looked upon as sacred and holy. Although the traditional view of marriage is defined in our society as that of a man and a woman, people have begun to support the need to break this written boundary in an effort to extend the opportunity of marriage to same-sex couples. The bottom line is that we live in the twenty first century here in America. In this time and place, the government is for the people, by the people, and everyone is entitled to equal rights by the law. The dilemma that remains is why Florida citizens, particularly those in same-sex relationships, are still being denied the equal opportunity of marriage. I believe that is important for us to recognize that same-sex couples are entitled to the same opportunities as everyone else. In order for us to move forward in the state of Florida we need to set aside individual religious beliefs, realizing that the government is separated from the church for a reason, and grant homosexual couples the right to marry. We are lucky enough to live in a country where we are ensured equality, but if we fail to protect it, we are in turn neglecting the very belief that America was founded upon. There are many actions that we can take in order ensure the equal opportunity of marriage. We live in a country where we have the freedom to stand up for what is right, and that is what we should do.
The opposition to the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage here in Florida strongly believes that it is our duty to protect the sanctity of marriage. There are many religious organizations that support this idea and believe that keeping marriage in its traditional state is essential if people want to continue to uphold the structure of a family here in America. The concern many have is that the state of American families will change drastically if same-sex marriage is legalized here in Florida. The fact of the matter is that the structure and state of families has already changed and many people are beginning to recognize it. Lilian Downey, a writer with Livestrong.com states that there are currently nearly 12 million children in the United States that already have homosexual parents (Downey). We must keep up with the changes in society and legalize marriage for all. Many people in opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage believe that if the boundaries of marriage are further extended, it will not only weaken the state of families, but the institution of marriage as well. According to ProCon.org, the divorce rates already stand at about 40-50%, so what is to say that legalizing same-sex marriage will increase this rate? Although the opposition brings forth a viable point, I believe it is not an appropriate reason to withhold the equal right of marriage. There is no correlation between a person’s sexual orientation and the overall status of traditional marriage. Here in the United States we have all been granted with the freedom of religion and expression. It is not our place to limit somebody else’s freedoms solely because it benefits our traditional views.
Another reason many people are hesitant to legalize same-sex marriage here in Florida is for the prospective financial burden. By allowing same-sex couples the equal right of marriage, the government would also be granting the additional government benefits that come with being a married couple. Some of the most prevalent benefits are noted in the debate on found on ProCon.org. “Gay marriage would entitle gay couples to typical marriage benefits including claiming a tax exemption for a spouse, receiving social security payments from a deceased spouse, and coverage by a spouse’s health insurance policy” (Gay Marriage ProCon.org). These are all basic benefits, but perhaps there is too big of a financial burden on taxpayers for them to support the idea of providing the equal opportunity of marriage. It does not seem fitting to focus on the personal financial impact of this issue while at the expense of another’s equal rights.
While many people seem to concentrate on the negative impact legalizing same-sex marriage might have on their personal traditions and beliefs, others emphasize the positive impact it will have on people in general. We are all entitled to our opinions, but we are not permitted to force our opinions (especially our religious beliefs) on other people. I am not saying that we should in any way make churches and faith based organizations recognize same-sex marriage; I am reiterating the fact that it is completely necessary for us to urge our state government to acknowledge it equally to traditional marriage. The choice should be left to the individual, not society. Just because the majority of voters voted in favor of Amendment 2 which banned same-sex marriage in Florida, does not mean that it was the right thing to do. There is a fine line between upholding the majority vote and ensuring minority rights. Brittany Baker offers insight on how we have overstepped our boundaries in her journal "Same-Sex Marriage and Religion: An Inappropriate Relationship." “By prohibiting same-sex marriage and denying its validity, we have created a class of citizens who are unequal and of a lower status than the rest. By keeping same-sex couples out of marriage, the government is suggesting that one sexual orientation is superior to another, the higher standard being that of heterosexual status” (Baker). Florida has done exactly what Baker suggests in her paper. Florida has not only supported this idea of a lower class of citizens, Florida has failed to uphold the minority rights of all homosexual citizens by allowing the majority vote to dictate the status of their equal rights. We are entitled to equal protection under the Constitution, and that is what I am encouraging the Florida government to do. It is time to stop the mixture of personal religious beliefs with the government’s role in society. Not only is it time for the Florida government to take a stand to equally protect the rights of all its citizens, it is time that we stand up for this change as well.
There are plenty of things we can do to ensure that same-sex couples are granted the equal opportunity of marriage here in Florida. A good start would be to make your voice heard! A popular way to do this is to create a social media site such as a Facebook group. By doing this, you are able to voice the issue of same-sex marriage to hundreds of your friends at a push of a button. Another great way to make a big impact is to send letters to the Florida Legislature. By expressing our views to our representatives we are encouraging them to take actions towards equality. It is their job to act on behalf of their constituents, and if a large majority of them express an interest in legalizing same-sex marriage perhaps they will in turn feel inclined to do something. The final thing you can do is the least time consuming option, but I promise you it would make just as much of an impact. Please sign our petition!
~Haley Knapp and Taylor Hastings