6th Place: "Voting and Marriage in America"

Jacob Fox of Leesburg, Virginia

SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 3 (Fall 2009)






            Brought about as a major political issue chiefly within the last decade, there is much debate over state mandated marriage and the coverage of its application.  Should a marriage be declared as a contract between a man and a woman (as it has always been)?  Or should marriage now cover both opposite and same sex marriages?  There is a key phrase within the first sentence of this essay that should define the reasoning for the argument to be presented: a major political issue.  There should be no contentions here; this debate has become entirely political in nature.  Although at its root a social issue or element, marriage has been politicized through modern debate out of the social arena and has completely landed on political grounds.  Because marriage has now been placed in the political atmosphere, there is debate on what the state should privilege as marriage.  Although now being challenged, in the past marriage has been established under state law as a monogamous heterosexual relationship, or in other words, a contract between one man and one woman. 

            Again, there is a key word within the last point addressed: privilege.  State marriage is a privilege, and should not be viewed as a right.  This is an essential distinction to acknowledge in this debate.  State marriage is not the same as free speech, free assembly, voting, or self incrimination, etc, all of which are rights.  A state marriage cannot, therefore, be taken as a right granted to all people, as civil rights can be.  It was correct for amendments regarding voting to be made to the US Constitution, extending the right to vote both to women and all races, because it was a right that was previously being withheld from the minority citizens of the country. 

            Along the same line of thought, another key word arises in this phrase: state marriage.  The discussion and debate here is over state sponsorship of marriage, not religious marriage, both of which are separate issues.  Turning back to the discussion of rights, freedom of religion is indeed granted to the citizens, so religious marriages would be delegated to the individual religions involved.  But a state mandated marriage is on a different plane and thus involves a different approach, and has different requirements. 

            Because of its political nature and classification as a state issue, this must be solved by the methods prescribed by the state at its founding, the very same methods by which all other pieces of legislation are passed.  It should not be a surprise to anyone that these issues are solved through some sort of democratic process, whether directly (as through a vote left up to the citizens), or indirectly (as through elected representatives making the decision).  This particular argument, about state mandated marriage, has been chosen to be decided by a vote of the people, and was most recently done in the state of California. 

            A vote was held on Proposition 8, which restricted state marriage to being between one man and one woman, and it was passed with a majority vote.  There must be a reason as to why the vote turned to be so decisive in its result.  America was a nation that founded on moral values, and really nothing else.  Different peoples from all over the European continent traveled to the United States so that they could live in a place where certain values would be accepted and upheld.  These founding values are essential to the United States’ survival, as they are the root of its very existence.  If such a key value were taken away, it will not be an isolated decision involving only that value in question, but will affect all of society’s attitudes and approaches to other moral issues as well in the future.  This would merely provide a stepping stone to a slow process of erosion, as more and more previously unacceptable matters become acceptable.  Moral decay has often been a catalyst for a people’s downfall. 

            This nation was also purposefully founded as a democratic republic so that the values of the people would be represented by the state.  Thus, the proposition was put to a vote.  What we have found since the past year’s election and California’s Prop 8 controversy, the majority of people do support Prop 8 and the values this piece of legislation supports.  The vote was even appealed to the courts, which is a sign of an oppressive attitude on the side which opposes the proposition.  Prop 8’s passing was not even a decision, but an event, so the court has no room to overturn something which was legally passed.  The appeal is a warning sign of a further step on the path to erosion, where a key element of the country (voting) is being challenged by a smaller portion of society as illegitimate.  Would it be a controversy if the results were the opposite?  It is highly unlikely that if the results of Prop 8 were reversed that anyone who voted for it would appeal to the courts. 

            The whole controversy over the subject of state marriage extends in an argument about citizenship and oppression.  It is important that everyone in the country performs their civic duties to vote, speak out, and participate in events of the state, for without it, the will of the people can never be represented, and the road to oppression will be wide open.  When people are afraid or unwilling to debate and vocalize their concerns and positions, then it is not long before oppression comes rolling in on every citizen, not just on certain minorities or even the majority.  Good debate is healthy for the existence of a republic, but marriage need not be redefined.  It would be a sad state of affairs if, when asked if one were married, the response would require an explanation: “Yes, I am married—opposite sex married.”


Full Citation for This Article: Fox, Jacob (2009) "Voting and Marriage in America," SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 3 (Fall), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleFoxMarriage.html, accessed [give access date].

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