March 27, 2013
Supreme Court arguments began Tuesday for two cases that could decide the fate of same-sex couples wishing for legally recognized marriages.
The debate over same-sex marriage has been a heated one, with one side arguing the constitutionality of denying equal rights to gay and lesbian couples, and the other side arguing for a traditional view on marriage, which they say protects the sanctity of the institution.
Yesterday's arguments focused on California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage four years ago. Arguments today challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies certain benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
Despite mixed public opinion on this issue, the Millennial generation, which ranges from 18 to 32 years old, is overwhelmingly in support of same-sex marriage rights.
Support for same-sex marriage rose 19%, according to the Pew Research Center, from 51% in 2003 to 70% in 2013 — the largest increase for any generation.
Views are even changing among some college Republican groups.
The College Republicans at the University of Pennsylvania recently announced its support for same-sex marriage.
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Anthony Liveris, vice president of the group, said that the organization attempted to create a cross-Ivy League support statement with other chapters about the issue, but received pushback from some of the other schools. So far, he says, U Penn and Columbia University are the only chapters that have publically expressed support for marriage equality.
"A true conservative should endorse empowering Americans to marry whom they love, not limit them," said Liveris in a statement.
Despite signs that young Republicans are coming around to the idea of supporting same-sex marriage, some college students are firm in their convictions that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
James McGlone is the vice president for Harvard University's Anscombe Society, a group that promotes "premarital abstinence," "sexual integrity" and "upholding the institution of marriage and the family." He cautions the Supreme Court about making a sweeping decision on same-sex marriage because, in his view, the issue has not had enough time to go through the democratic process.
"It is important that the court should not shut down the debate — we are still at the beginning," McGlone said.
For McGlone, the rationale behind supporting a traditional view of marriage is simple: "A mom can't be a dad and a dad can't be a mom."
McGlone said that his main concern with allowing same-sex couples the right to marry would be possible negative effects on children. He said that the right for a child to have a mother and father should be the largest point of consideration in the debate.
He said that social science has not had enough time to study the effects of same-sex parenting on children.
Earlier this month, Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced his support of same-sex marriage rights, citing having a gay son as a reason for the policy change. This makes him the only current Republican senator who publically supports the issue.
"I think (Portman's views) signify the strength to break away from traditions that no longer reflect the dynamics of this country in favor of progress and truly representing the American people," said Ash Hall, director of Texas StandOut, a queer activist group at the University of Texas at Austin.
Hall is hopeful that with more politicians showing support for marriage equality — and a younger generation that is, for the most part, more open about traditionally taboo topics — it is simply a matter of time before marriage equality is a reality.
"We have a lot of work to do," said Hall. "Marriage equality is just the beginning."