The United States has been a country for over 230 years. In that time, the laws of the nation have been evolving to meet their original intent of equality. Slavery, abolished. Women, granted suffrage. Segregation by race, color, and creed, deemed unacceptable. However, the American people have another hurdle to clear before they can claim to be members of a just society. Voters in multiple states have seen fit to restrict the ability of same-sex couples to seek equal rights and protections under the law, by passing bills to ban or otherwise prevent their marriage (Hatzenbuehler, PhD, O’Cleirigh, PhD, Grasso, MPH, Mayer, MD, Safren, PhD, & Bradford, PhD, 2012). Even though many religious institutions consider same-sex marriage immoral, it is necessary for a civil society because laws should treat everyone equally and there is no financial or societal benefit in banning it.
The right or privilege of same-sex couples to marry has been a highly publicized topic in the past several years with the passage and subsequent challenge of Proposition 8 in California, the passage of Amendment 1 in North Carolina and the constitutional challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act. These modifications to the constitutions of the respective states violate the intent of the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution, which directs "no State … shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person … the equal protection of the laws" (U.S. Const. amend. XIV). The sexual orientation of an individual does not nullify their need for protection under the law. In Perry v Schwarzenneger, the US District Court found Prop. 8 to be unconstitutional (2010). However, Amend. 1 has not yet entered the court system and the idea that the majority of people can vote to restrict the rights of a minority is a very dangerous precedent, if it is allowed to be enacted. Aside from this, the passages of these laws have negative financial ramifications.
Depriving a group of people equal rights does not have any financial or societal benefit. Aside from the indirect costs of fighting these unconstitutional laws in the court system, keeping gay marriage illegal costs U.S. taxpayers nearly $1 billion dollars annually. A study by the Congressional Budget Office in 2004 found that the impact of allowing same-sex marriage “…would improve the budget's bottom line to a small extent: by less than $1 billion in each of the next 10 years” (Congressional Budget Office, 2004). A ‘small extent’ is relative to the rest of the federal budget, but a billion dollars a year for 10 years is no small sum of money. Furthermore, there is nothing for our culture to gain by alienating homosexual couples. Gays and lesbians are members of our families, social groups, and workplaces, demeaning them with hateful laws and indicating to them their relationships are of less value than a heterosexual couple is not going to cause them to cease to exist. It will, however, serve to marginalize them. Ostracizing productive members of society is not progress and is a detriment to civilization as a whole. Societal benefit by the legislation of moral values is often cited as a reason to prevent same-sex marriages.
The core teachings of many religions denounce homosexuality as a sin, unnatural and morally wrong. I understand this and though I disagree with it, it is the right of these religions to teach such things. The nation was settled and founded by peoples and their descendants seeking, among other things, freedom from religious persecution by the kings and governments of their homelands. This was such an important ideal that it was codified in the First Amendment to the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…” (U.S. Const. amend. I). It is this second clause that is important here. The First Amendment, having been