A History Of Marriage Equality: Why You Should Care About Same-Sex Marriage Issues

This week, SCOTUS issued an additional order from its September 29 conference, which effectively denied review of all seven of the petitions arising from challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage.

This paves the way for the legalization of gay marriage, and provides equal rights for same-sex couples under state and federal law.

Many people view this as a “gay rights” issue and don’t feel the government should be getting involved in marriage; however, the truth is marriage equality affects us all, even if we don’t realize it.

Let’s look at some of other groups which have been discriminated against based on misogynist and discriminatory marriage laws over the last several centuries.

Beginning of time-present day: interfaith couples

While Christians marrying Jews, Jews marrying Hindus and Hindus marrying Buddhists is not terribly uncommon in the US and other first world nations, it has not always been this way.

In early American history, some interfaith marriages were not recognized as being valid.

Middle ages-early 20th century: childless and divorced women

While men and women have always been allowed to marry (provided they are the same race and religion) throughout history, women have been seen as little more than baby-making vessels.

One of our shining examples of douchebaggery could be Henry VIII, who divorced his first wife after she was unable to produce him a son. He also beheaded his second wife (pretty much for the same reason, although he drummed up some false charges). And later, he divorced his fourth wife (it is rumored that he found her too ugly) before he executed his fifth, all while having affairs with other women.

This man was the king of a major world power at the time, and his wives all had what was considered adequate legal representation. If this is the case, one can only imagine what peasant women were subject to.

Throughout history, there are numerous examples of men divorcing or killing their wives because they were unable or unwilling to produce children (or more specifically, a son).

Back then, divorced women had no rights and were often seen as outcasts, and in many cultures, were not allowed to remarry.

According to Steve Taylor, PhD:

Until recent times, women throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia were unable to have any influence over the political, religious or cultural lives of their societies. They couldn’t own property or inherit land and wealth, and were frequently treated as mere property themselves.

In some Middle Eastern countries, Muslim extremists still follow antiquated rituals such as these. While everyone reading this is probably lucky enough to live in a Westernized society, let us not forget that horrible marriage laws are still a very big threat to women’s equality around the world.

20th century: interracial marriage

Throughout the 20th century, interracial marriages were not allowed or recognized in many states. Interracial couples were often discriminated against with regard to housing, benefits and employment.

However, as time went on, new laws were enacted to protect divorced women and ensure that they received adequate compensation and opportunities. As women gained the right to vote, they were seen as less than property, thanks to the 19th amendment to the constitution.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was signed into action in 1948, stated:

Men and women who have attained the age of majority have the right to marry without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion.

In 1967, the Supreme Court deemed that interracial marriages would be seen as legal. Even though we might think things that happened hundreds of years ago don’t affect us, the truth is, assuming our world is 4 billion years old, 400 years is nothing.

Had brave men and women throughout history not fought hard and lobbied their governments for equality, we might still be living in the stone ages.

How would that look?

Considering approximately 8.4 percent of marriages are interracial, approximately 42 percent of women who got married in 2011 were age 30 or older (past the traditional childbearing age) and 45 percent of marriages were considered to be interfaith marriages, we would most likely be living in a society of sad, single people. Or, in one where we were forced to marry someone we didn’t love to satisfy some archaic social ideal.

Is that a society in which any of us wishes to live?

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It