Legislating Sexuality

Essay by Jonathan HodgmanUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, April 1997

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On September 21, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, a bill proposed by Republican Bob Barr of Georgia in order to prohibit the marriage of gay and lesbian couples.(CWA) Although this bill cannot be called 'unconstitutional', by forbidding the marriage of same-sex couples the government is taking a stand on an issue that does not require its lofty opinion and judgment. Marriage has long been an institution that was based on the love of two individuals and their future together. While procreation is also considered in the definition, there are no laws in our society stating that it is necessary, or even important. With this bill, the United States government is not defending the 'tradition of family' but instead, enforcing prejudice and hatred against a group that is already struggling to gain equal rights and acceptance in a society that has long closed its collective mind to homosexuality.

Since the dawn of American history, equal rights among U.S. citizens has been a hotly debated issue. With the Civil War and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, slavery was prohibited. Women gained the right to vote with the ratification of the Constitution's nineteenth amendment on August 26, 1920(Cooke, 157). Although African Americans gained suffrage through the fifteenth amendment in 1870 (Cooke, 151), it was not until the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that they were actually freed from discrimination by the government(Cooke, 150). Why is it then that in today's modern American society, an institution that prides itself on being 'the home of the free and the land of the brave', a vast number of Americans are hiding beneath a shroud of ignorance when it comes to the issue of homosexuality? It seems that the gay community is being attacked out of fear and intolerance with...