April 11, 2013
Recently, the Supreme Court has decided to consider the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. One might not think that the legality of same sex marriage has a big impact on students’ lives on campus, as it is uncommon for Hamilton students to get married during or immediately after college. However, this thought only makes sense if you think about the lives of students in the short term and only think of the Hamilton community as composed of students.
While not all students might want to get married or necessarily believe in marriage, it is certainly true that a great number of Hamilton students want to one day find love in a significant other. Furthermore, the Hamilton community is made up of far more than just students. Our community is made up of all different kinds of faculty, administration and employees, all with a variety of different ways of identifying.
The combined population of students, faculty, administration, and employees from all over the United States makes it statistically likely that there will be some who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, questioning or otherwise. Of those who identify as such, there may be those who desire to one day get married to someone whom they love. When you consider all of this, it is clear that, if passed, the legalization of same sex marriage will play a very important role in our community.
According to the oral arguments presented in the Supreme Court so far, there are many reasons why same sex marriage should be legalized. For example, many cite part of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment which states that: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Many argue that because DOMA prevents same sex couples from getting married, it violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
One of the debates surrounding the due process clause is that some people don’t necessarily consider marriage to be a privilege or liberty by legal definition. Furthermore, the due process clause only applies to American citizens so it raises the question as to whether same sex documented immigrants would also be able to marry.
An important point brought up by the opposing side argued that the federal government does not have the power to legalize same sex marriage because of the 10th Amendment. The 10th Amendment states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” One of the more controversial points of same sex marriage is that fact that the Constitution makes no mention of marriage.
Thus, according to the 10th Amendment, the legality or illegality of same sex marriage is a decision that is up to each state to decide. However, by that same logic, the federal government should not have had the power to sign DOMA into effect since DOMA specifically deals with marriage. Yet, DOMA is still in effect to this day. One of the questions that the Supreme Court is going to have to answer is whether the federal government actually has the power to create a federal law or act concerning marriage of any kind.
Finally, many assume that the positions of Democrats and Republicans on same sex marriage are pretty clear. While it is true that the Democratic Party has traditionally supported same sex marriage and the Republican Party has traditionally stood against it, this rule itself does not always hold true.
According to a New York Times article by Sheryl Stolberg titled “Brief Supporting Same-Sex Marriage Gets More Republican Support” more than 100 Republicans have recently signed a brief supporting same sex marriage that will go to the Supreme Court. Furthermore, it was actually Democratic President Bill Clinton that both signed DOMA into effect and originally stood against same sex marriage (though he claims to presently support same sex marriage).
Regardless of the stances of these two parties, we must keep in mind that discussing the topic of same sex marriage is integral to the success of our campus. With groups like Rainbow Alliance, Group-Q and Open Doors Discussion on campus, the administration of Hamilton College have shown themselves to be supportive of the LGBTQ community.
While there have been bumps along the way such as the defacing of Rainbow Alliance posters in 2011, I am confident that that through discussion and coming together that we can make this campus a better place for everyone in the community no matter how they may identify.