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It's beyond time for same-sex marriage

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Posted: Saturday, April 13, 2013 12:00 am

Living in America in 2013, one would think discrimination would be illegal, but it is not. I am talking about marriage.

Being gay, I am legally denied the right to marry in 38 states, and do not get federal benefits that heterosexual married couples do.

There are multiple benefits that come from marriage. Next-of-kin and survivor benefits are just two of the benefits granted to heterosexual couples. I am not allowed to go into the hospital room if my partner's doctor says only family can enter. Nor would I be granted survivor benefits, given to spouses after the death of their spouse.

In that regard, I am like Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in a Supreme Court case now being considered by the nation's top justices.

In late March, the Supreme Court drew a crowd of protesters on both sides of the gay marriage issue as the justices heard the case involving the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8. The 2008 voter-approved measure was one of two cases being heard on the subject during the hearings.

Also on the table was the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits legally married same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage benefits.

Having these cases heard at a national level has reignited the same-sex marriage debate.

Similar to thousands of other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals, I am anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court's decision.

With 38 states banning same-sex marriage, it may appear the majority is opposed.

However, the New York Times released a graph based on relevant public polls on same-sex marriage going back to 1988, which shows a steady rise of those in favor of allowing same-sex marriage.

In 1996, one public Gallup poll showed that 68 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage; that number dropped to 48 percent in 2012.

The legal benefits of marriage are what we are fighting for.

The claim that we are anti-religious and are corrupting the sanctity of marriage is false.

People thought the same about interracial marriage in the 1960s. That debate led to the 1967 Loving vs. Virginia case, regarding Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison for marrying each other.

The court decided it was unconstitutional to ban interracial marriage.

Were some Americans upset at the decision? Yes.

Was it the right thing to do? Yes.

We are now at that point with same-sex marriage.

Recent Supreme Court discussion was illuminating.

"Outside of the marriage context, can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits?" asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

She was addressing Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Prop. 8 during hearings heard in late March.

"Your Honor, I cannot," Cooper responded.

Cooper defended marriage by claiming the only reason for it was to make babies.

Justice Elena Kagan also questioned that defense.

"If you are over the age of 55, you don't help us serve the government's interest in regulating procreation through marriage, so why is that different?"

Cooper could not answer this, either.

The defense of DOMA was that the law keeps marriage equal nationwide.

Yet, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought otherwise.

"You are really diminishing what the state has said is marriage," Ginsburg said to DOMA defense attorney Paul Clement. "There's two kinds of marriage, there's full marriage and then there's sort of skim milk marriage."

Clement argued that it is legal for the federal government to have a say in federal benefits related to marriage, and they will have a different definition of marriage as well.

As I am not a second-class citizen, do not give me a second-class marriage. Allow me the right to marry my partner, if I want to. Give me the right to be there for him if he is in the hospital.

Legalize same-sex marriage and repeal DOMA — it is that simple.

Brian Ratto of Lodi is a student at San Joaquin Delta College and a newsroom intern at the News-Sentinel.

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