As the leader of the Yale College Republicans, I find my personal politics ever compared with the national standard of the GOP. As one might expect of any member of the Republican Party, my stances lean right on a number of issues: I am firmly committed to the foreign policy of President Bush, believe strongly in the private sphere, and often prioritize the rights of states above federal jurisdiction. While I support our President and will emphatically wave the Republican banner, my political views frequently diverge sharply from those of orthodox conservatives — my friends refer to me as a “moderate” on most days and as a “liberal” before their morning caffeine. Much of this heckling derives from my positions on a number of social platforms: as opposed to many in the Republican Party, I find myself to be more accepting of traditionally “Democrat” views on topics ranging from gun control to the welfare state.
An integral part of my purported “centrism” however, stems from my views on the issue of gay marriage. In opposition to the stance of President Bush (and indeed, much of the GOP) on the sanctity of traditional marriage, I do not support any type of constitutional amendment or federal legislation which limits or denies the rights of homosexual couples. The Republican Party stands for individual liberty and limited government; in calling for a constitutional amendment for the express reason of denying the validity of gay unions, we are contradicting these core principles, violating the dignity of our fellow citizens, and perpetuating lines of discrimination.
Those who oppose the extension of marriage benefits to same-sex couples cite three major ideas to justify their position. First among these is a supposed correlation between permitting homosexual unions and the “death” of the institution of marriage. Conservatives contend that gay marriage will corrupt the family unit and render the ideals of matrimony defunct. This argument is ill-conceived and poorly constructed: I find it troubling that these groups would defend the sanctity of unions between criminals, rapists and murderers (all of whom can legally wed under current laws) but consider a union between two loving, caring males or females a travesty.
If marriage is a critical element of building a strong family unit (as many Republicans would contend), should we also not give every incentive possible to those who would make excellent parents? Instead, however, we discriminate against those who are more than capable of establishing long, stable relationships solely on the basis of their sexual orientation. We allow individuals to divorce and remarry multiple times to receive the benefits of marriage. We permit citizens to wed mail-order brides and receive the benefits of marriage. Yet, when two consenting men or women, irrespective of the depth of their relationship or their family status, wish to have their relationship recognized by the state, we do not extend to them this same basic dignity. As these examples illustrate, the current definition of marriage is logically absurd: it must either adapt or fall apart.
The perception that there is an irreconcilable difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals highlights the second conservative argument against gay marriage. The two groups of people are seen as biologically and genetically separate; homosexuals, as such, are undeserving of the rights possessed by “normal” members of society. This claim is little more than blatant homophobia and is something that the Republican Party has no business standing for. This contention echoes back to the arguments made against interracial marriages and relationships during the Jim Crow era: unions between members of different ethnic groups were seen to be unnatural and therefore impermissible.
Rather than continuing to pound a discriminatory agenda and seeking to impose a backward looking moral code onto this country, libertarians must assert themselves within the party and distance themselves from this dangerous dogma. Republicans have always stressed tolerance in their political approach, promoting smaller governments that are removed from the private lives of individual citizens. Through endorsing ideological and religiously motivated legislation, Republicans are breaking from their old value set; by endorsing a more intrusive, socially motivated government, members of the GOP are making a serious mistake.
The final argument made by more traditionalist Republicans against gay marriage is that it would impact overall social utility. These individuals contend that, by forcing every member of society to accept gay marriages as equal to all others, the moral fabric of the country will be ruptured. Not only will traditional marriages cease to have any meaning, but, more alarmingly, homosexuality may become an acceptable practice. This, in turn, will allegedly diminish the ability of all others to live content, productive lives. These suppositions are ridiculous; I cannot begin to conceive of a situation where the mere existence of gay marriage would undermine my personal happiness. The link between gay unions and “social harm” is non-existent and the additional utility derived by homosexual couples (who would then be permitted to marry) is curiously ignored. Needless to say, conservative logic once again falls short.
As addressed above, Republicans need not oppose gay marriage as a matter of principle: the ideals of the GOP have little to do with preventing homosexual unions. Indeed, the fundamental value of individual liberty presents a striking contrast to this latest paleo-conservative crusade; instead of protecting the rights of citizens against external interference, Republicans are becoming the very agents of a socially driven, activist government. As a straight Republican from a Muslim background, I find no reason to oppose gay marriage — I ask my fellow Republicans to introspect, and hope they reach a similar conclusion.
Al Jiwa is sophomore in Pierson College.