CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Among the most controversial issues of our time is homosexuality. Homosexuals are discriminated against in many ways, but one that is a current issue is being denied the right to marry.
Our country was built on the idea of equal treatment for both the majority and minority. The prohibition of same sex marriage is in direct violation of this ideal. Homosexuals should have equal treatment to that of heterosexuals, including the right to marry the person they intend to spend the rest of their lives with.
The biggest stumbling block in the way of same sex marriage is that a large portion of states will not recognize these unions. Nineteen states have flat out banned gay marriage and will not recognize one even if it was performed in one of the five states where such a union is legal.
It is sad to think that here in America, the land of opportunities and freedom, homosexuals are not allowed to express their love for their partners in the way that a heterosexual pair can. To prevent the union of two homosexuals is truly a form of discrimination, and to deny them their right to marriage is no more acceptable than denying a man and woman the right to marriage based on their race.
There are those who would argue that homosexuals could just live together or apply for a domestic partnership if their state allows it, but these accommodations are not equivalent to marriage. With a marriage comes many opportunities that are denied to couples who are unwed domestic partners.
One such opportunity is the ability for one person in the union to visit the other one while in the hospital. If the partners are not married, then it is commonplace for hospitals to prevent visitation. Even if the couple has been together for years, the hospital could keep them apart because they are neither spouse nor immediate family. To deny visitation rights like this is completely unfair -- especially in the face of a life-threatening emergency -- but this can be amended by allowing same sex marriages.
When married, couples can also file joint tax returns, inherit part of a spouse's estate, be provided coverage on a spouse's health insurance and receive a spouse's benefits such as Social Security, Medicare, disability and military. Married couples may also file for adoption together, and should they divorce, they can receive child support and custody or visitation rights.
Prejudice in our country is, unfortunately, nothing new. Discrimination against homosexuals is merely the latest form of prejudice we face.
A majority of the bigots against same sex marriage are fueled by a religious sense of right and wrong. Most major religions consider homosexuality a sin, but this idea is misguided.
Love between two consenting adults is a beautiful thing and should not be discredited or spurned due to the gender of the partners -- or anything else for that matter. If religious communities do not choose to accept same sex marriages, that is their choice, but their standards of marriage should not be forced on the general populace.
If religious institutions will not sanction same sex marriage, then states should. This is a classic example of when separation of church and state is desperately needed.
As previously stated, religious communities can choose to allow same sex marriages or not; that is their own business. Their discrimination, however, should not be passed on to others of different faiths.
Our country was founded on the basis of equality for all citizens. To deny same sex couples the opportunity to marry is to contradict our country's core beliefs. And that is why indisputably, homosexuals should have equal treatment to that of heterosexuals, including the right to marry the person they intend to spend the rest of their lives with.