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SAME SEX MARRIAGE Legal- THE DESI ANGLe


THE RULING ...

On Friday, June 26th, 2015, the US Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment (pertaining to equal protection for all citizens) requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed  out-of-state.

In short, as of June 26th 2015, same sex marriage is legal in all states of America.


BEFORE THE RULING ...

Before the same sex ruling, gay marriage had already been made legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia — by either legislative or voter action or by federal courts that overturned state' bans. It was banned in the following states- North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas , Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia.

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THE SUPREME ARGUMENT ...

According to the document posted on the US Supreme Court's website, following were the arguments that led to the ruling-:


#1. The petitioners, (in this case, 14 same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased) far from seeking to devalue marriage, seek it for themselves because of their respect and need for its privileges and responsibilities. 

#2. History of marriages is one of both continuity and change. Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture (according to which wife's legal existence, with respect to personal and property rights, was suspended during marriage and merged into that of the husband), have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.

#3. Just as the structure of marriage has changed, so has the nation's experience with gays and lesbians. Well into the 20th century, many States condemned same-sex intimacy as immoral, and homosexuality was treated as an illness. Later in the century, cultural and political developments allowed same-sex couples to lead more open and public lives. Extensive public and private dialogue followed, along with shifts in public attitudes. Questions about the legal treatment of gays and lesbians soon reached the courts, where they could be discussed in the formal discourse of the law. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that laws making same-sex intimacy a crime “demea[n] the lives of homosexual persons.” In 2012, the federal Defense of Marriage Act was also struck down. 

#4. Fourteenth Amendment interpretations- 

  • Supreme Court has long held that the right to marry is protected by the Constitution. For example, it has invalidated bans on interracial unions, and held that prisoners could not be denied the right to marry. This compels the conclusion that same-sex couples may exercise the right to marry.
  • Since the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees equal protection,  laws imposing sex-based inequality on marriage are invalidated.

#5. Since married couples have a right to not procreate, so the right to marry cannot be conditioned on the capacity or commitment to procreate.

#6. Same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage.


AMERICA'S REACTION...

Let's start with the president of the United States Of America. 

President Obama tweeted, "Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins." The White House shone the rainbow colors to hail the ruling.

Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri called the decision a "major victory for equality". Many others in the political circle hailed the ruling as well. Vice President, Joe Biden, has been an official supporter of Gay marriage since 2012.

People took to streets and social media in large numbers to express their support or dissent to the ruling.  Hashtag #LoveWins trended on twitter.

THE DISSENTING VOICES ...

Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas said, "But no court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Nothing will change the importance of a mother and a father to the raising of a child. And nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment," in his Friday statement

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's statement said."I have always believed in the Biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. That definition has been deeply rooted in our society for thousands of years. Regardless of today's ruling by the Supreme Court, I still believe in a one man and one woman definition of marriage".

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal tweeted, "While I believe that this issue should be decided by states & legislatures, not the federal judiciary, I also believe in the rule of law."

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a statement saying that, "It is also important to note that the Supreme Court decision is directed at the states to allow and recognize marriage between two people of the same sex. It is not a directive for churches or pastors to recognize same-sex marriage. The decision for churches, pastors and individuals is a choice that should be left to the convictions of conscience."

Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tweeted, "Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that." His official website also stated that, "This decision will pave the way for an all-out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty. The government should not force those who have sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage to participate in these ceremonies."

And so went the support and the dissent. In fact, the whole world chipped into- either applauding or disapproving. Of course, the desis have an opinion too. No matter how much some among us would like to believe that gays and lesbians exist primarily in the west, the fact is far from truth. 

THE DESI ANGLE ...

India, the land of Kamasutra, is a country where the Supreme Court had passed a ruling holding homosexuality to be an offence in December 11, 2013 as per Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Not just that, in Jan 2014, the highest court of the land had dismissed a plea of the central government, NGO Naz Foundation and others for the review of its 2013 verdict. And all that after the Delhi High Court had decriminalized gay sex. This despite the fact that far from being a 'western' idea, there is literally evidence of homosexuality existing in India throughout history. In fact, according to Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, co-authors of 'Same-Sex Love In India: Readings From Literature and History', homosexuals were not even considered inferior in ancient times and that homophobia was a byproduct of colonialism.

It remains to be seen whether the US Supreme Court's insistence on providing equal protection to all in accordance with the US Constitution's 14th Amendment will sufficiently jolt the Indian counterpart to review the validity of Section 377 within a similar framework of equal protection guarantee under the Indian constitution.  Meanwhile, at the very least,the people are talking, discussing the ruling and forming an opinion. What are they saying?

Rishi Batra from California feels that it is about time that Indians stand up for the gays and lesbians in their community and stop pretending that the issue is an issue concerning the west. "what will it take for us to support the homosexuals in our desi community? It is time we wake up, accept that people can be different, and give them the equality that they deserve". 

Sudha S. from Ohio says that America is looked upon as a global leader by many countries and their global leader has finally taken a stand- a stand bound by law, applicable in all of its 50 states. It is time for all the other countries to follow too now. 

Roli Mehrotra of Texas is of the opinion that the push for redefining marriage has been motivated due to tax laws and estate laws that grant low tax rates to married couples versus unmarried and same for estate laws that favor married couples more. Tax laws should be same for all- married or not. However, she also feels that Supreme Court cannot dictate what all 50 states need to do- it's a union of states, not a dictatorship of Supreme Court that is now controlled by WH, implicitly. People are free to practice their religion unless it becomes a national security issue. Supreme Court could have allowed each state to decide for itself, leaving marriage to be as in eyes of God- the traditional marriage, and one meant legal for taxation purposes and Estate planning, that is more of a case in recent decision. All decisions in current society have a root in tax laws- we need another Boston tea Party !!!

Sameer Phatak, also from Texas, has this to say, "The government should stay out of traditional or gay marriage. But until that happens, we cannot have a patchwork of laws where each state can decide if gay marriage is legal or not. That will spell chaos. That is the reason, the Supreme Court had to step in. Now it is the law of the land. Jindal wants to make everything about religion. Also, if that is the case, why bother with state granting marriage licenses at all? It is between you and your God, right? He is trying to have it both ways."

There are others debating beyond the action of the Supreme Court. They are wondering at the wider implications of the "new normal" that the ruling will create.

Mumtaz Khan from Ohio worries that the ruling will instill a sense of same-sex marriage being "normal" or even "cool" among the coming generations leading to much confusion and perhaps even experimentation during the already confusing phase of puberty. "Same sex friendships may appear confusing as well to our children", she says.

S Sita from New Jersey shares her concerns. "What if our kids think it is cool to be gay? Kids want to be different and if the court says it is okay for same=sex to marry, kids will think that is normal and so will want to explore being gay. "


THEY SAY ...

We wanted to seek the opinion of those directly affected by the Supreme Court ruling. We contacted Navin Hariprasad, an Indian American living in Dallas who has been in a committed relationship with his partner for over 8 years. He has this to say, "The SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality is a true milestone in history. When we realize that we are all the same biologically and our ultimate goal should be to make a positive impact in this world, the world will then become a better place. Being with my partner for 8.5 years is a testament of commitment and oftentimes a better example of what a caring, loving, nurturing relationship 

(Photo Credit: Navin Hariprasad)

should be than those who are quick to judge and exhibit double standards. Both of our families have embraced us and our relationship because it makes sense. Those who continue to judge will miss out on some of the most amazing people and memories due to ignorance." 

-Navin Hariprasad, MPH, RD/LD, Owner/Chef/Dietitian of Spice in the City Dallas and Professor of Food Service Management at UT Southwestern. 

WE SAY ...

If homosexuals (for whatever reasons- whether tax benefits or emotional and social security- reasons that we want marriage for) feel that they want the right to be married, then who are we, the heterosexuals, to decide that they do not have the right to? Seems too simple an argument? It really is. It is not about the legal definition or the religious definition of marriage. It is not even about Supreme Court imposing it's ruling on 50 states of America. It is about the people who are affected, about what they want. Let us not make this about us or our religious beliefs. Sure we'll have to have a few additional conversations with our children, we'll certainly have to work on changing our outlook some more, we'll definitely need to be lot more tolerant and accepting of other people's lifestyles as more people come out of their closeted lifestyles. But then, kindness and tolerance still is a human trait, right?

For those who feel that a marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, isn't every single being a God's creation? Will you be able to look into your child's eyes and say that he or she is not, if they happen to be different from what you perceive as "normal"?

For those whose religious sentiments are hurt, are you not religious enough to trust that God created some of us differently for a reason? Perhaps He wanted to give us a lesson in care and compassion. After all, Rigveda, one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism, says Vikriti Evam Prakriti (Sanskritविकृतिः एवम्‌ प्रकृतिः, meaning what seems unnatural is also natural), which some scholars believe recognizes homosexual/transsexual dimensions of human life, like all forms of universal diversities (credit Wikipedia). 

Are our religious beliefs so shallow that they will "erode" (quoting Bobby Jindal) by a mere law that supports God's children? That their sanctity will be compromised by merely participating in same-sex ceremonies?

Kudos to America for respecting and recognizing the rights of gays and lesbians. Did you know that according to Forbes magazine, nearly two dozen governments around the world have introduced legislation allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The majority of these are in Europe and the Americas. Ireland made headlines in May after becoming the first country in the world to introduce same-sex marriage through a popular vote. More than 62 percent voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalized in the country.


The times- they are changing ... and we should change with the times. 

Jeeyo or jeene do ...(live and let live)!


By Sonal Kulshrestha

(Sonal is a software programmer by profession and a writer by passion. She lives in Texas, USA, and is the founder of desideewar- a deewar (wall) that keeps us connected to our desi roots- one story at a time, on must- have information of the time) 

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