As we move closer to another election, President Obama must try to defend his opposition to marriage equality. Vice President Biden’s supportive comments about gay marriage this week only highlight the president’s failure to support same-sex marriage, though he does support civil unions and rightly worked to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Very often, opposition to same-sex marriage comes from the religious right. Obama’s hesitancy to support marriage equality even as it becomes more politically popular seems to indicate similarly grounded objections. Given the trends in popular opinion and politicians’ tendency to shift with it, it’s surprising that Ron Paul is the only Republican or Democratic presidential candidate who says marriage should be legal for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.
Libertarians like Paul offer a fresh perspective by asking the same question they always do: Wait, why is the government involved in this at all? As religious objectors to gay marriage always remind us, our founders emphasized separation of Church and State. Throughout most of history, people saw marriage as a religious institution, and because their religious leaders and texts opposed homosexuality, gay marriage usually wasn’t even up for debate. And that’s exactly why Americans deserve marriage equality now. Our country has grown, not just in size, but also in religious diversity. Today we have plenty of religious groups that want to marry gays, and they should be allowed to. The institution of marriage is not trademarked by one or two major religions, or even by Religion in general—after all, no one opposes atheists getting married.
Civil unions would remedy some of the prejudice in the system, like the tax benefit inequality, but they wouldn’t take care of underlying issue. For many of us, “the pursuit of happiness” involves love and marriage. Civil unions aren’t good enough, because the government shouldn’t get to decide when you’re happy enough.