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Civil marriage is about equality

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Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s recent column about gay marriage ("Drawing a line at same-sex marriage," April 15) is rife with contradictions. For starters, he says that a ballot initiative opposing gay marriage will be supported by a coalition of religious groups and social conservatives. He then dismisses the notion that opposition to gay marriages isn't discriminatory or fueled by religious intolerance. He rationalizes his position by saying he endured the slings and arrows of outrage from social conservatives and religious groups. And why would conservatives attack one of their own? For the sin of appointing gays to serve in public office. As an aside, Mr. Ehrlich's column sounds more than a little bit like an apology to them. But the column is more than just a letter of contrition, it's a rehash of hackneyed and largely-discredited ideas.

There is a large and growing body of evidence for physiological differences between homosexual and heterosexual males, but the column dismisses the science, preferring to hang onto the unfounded and superstitious belief that people choose to be gay. If sexual orientation really were a choice, why would anyone actually choose to make himself or herself the target of hatred and discrimination? Mr. Ehrlich then argues that his at-best unsupported position justifies depriving homosexuals of equal protection under the law. Even if being gay were a choice, why should that disqualify them from enjoying the legal benefits that being married confers on a couple? When a person is convicted of a crime, many of his civil rights are suspended while he or she is imprisoned. What crime is being committed by being gay? If one wishes to say that homosexuality is immoral, then perhaps the Lord is the proper authority to deal with it, not the court of public opinion — the same court which at one time supported miscegenation laws, for instance.

While Mr. Ehrlich himself may not suffer from the social disease of bigotry, his argument give aid and comfort to those who do by failing to draw a fundamental distinction. Marriage-as-a-sacrament, performed as a religious ceremony, is not the same as marriage-as-a-contract, which grants people certain civil rights, such as filing joint tax returns, rights of survivorship, and inheritance of property. No one at all is asking a church that opposes same-sex marriage to perform one. Indeed, if marriage were only a sacrament, non-believers would not be entitled to it either.

The issue is whether our society will live up to its promise of equal protection under the law for all of its citizens, irrespective of their age, race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Mitch Edelman, Finksburg

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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