Equal rights have forever been a problem in the United States. From the Civil Rights movement, to the Woman’s rights movement, people in U.S. history have constantly been in an uphill battle to receive equal rights. Most recently however, a very controversial issue has arisen regarding equal marriage rights, specifically for gays. It is hard to ignore front-page news on ABC regardless of your views, or lack of concerning the topic. In my reflection, I will not argue a side to this debate but rather observe the process taken by states and the government in recent events. We have studied Constitutional rights since the first day of Government class in November, and recent events have made me question whether or not our government has really learned from events that have taken place in our history.
First I will give the reader a little background information. One week ago (May 8th, 2012), the state of North Carolina voted on whether or not gay marriage would be legally recognized in their state. Amendment One, so it was called, defined marriage in the state constitution as between one man and one woman, and would ban any other type of “domestic legal union” such as civil unions and domestic partnerships. Once ballots were counted, the Amendment was passed in a 61-41% vote, banning gay marriage in North Carolina.
There are two very obvious viewpoints in this situation and I want to look at both sides, first for the side that passed the Amendment. Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council said, “We applaud North Carolina voters for joining voters in 31 other states upholding the historic and natural definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” There will always be a debate on whether gay marriage is “right,” but there is one firm response to why this event is Constitutional. The people voted on it. We have formed our society as a democracy, ruled by the people for the people, and the simple answer to settling an argument has always been simply to vote on it. It is a constitutional right of the people to vote in an election that is conducted fairly and honestly by secret ballot. The people should have the right to vote on issues, and as long as both sides are being fairly represented there should never be an issue. Moral issues also come into play when discussing legality. There is also the debate that marriage is sacred and should only be held between a man and a woman. Marriage is also a key proponent in procreation. All of these arguments have their cases, and can be argued.
This, however, is where the problem comes in. We have had a history in our country of voting on people’s rights. The North Carolina Democratic Party released a statement saying, “Tonight’s results are an unfortunate reminder that the fight for Civil Rights in our state is not yet over. Writing discrimination into our Constitution is wrong. The State Constitution exists to protect the rights of our citizens- not to take them away.” During the Civil Rights movement, people voted on what rights African Americans should receive. People voted on whether or not women should receive the right to vote. And now, people are voting on who has the right to be married. There should nonetheless be a limit on what people can vote on. According to the Constitution, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” If it says clearly in the Constitution, it should not be left up to the opinion of the people. Our founding fathers stated clearly that no state should enforce laws that abridge privileges of the people, and that should not be a topic that is up for debate. There are different ways to interpret the Constitution, but when it is as set in stone as it is, there should never be any confusion to begin with. Amendment One of the U.S. Constitution also lays the ground for freedom of religion and expression. The argument of moral values simply cannot be validated because a country with religious freedom cannot be ruled on a Christian foundation.
There are many ways to argue both sides of the debate on gay marriage. The Pro’s and the Cons’ can both voice a legitimate argument when determining legality. One should however, be well informed on The Law of the Land when making their decision. Going through a government course, or even applying the Constitution to everyday life will help people get a grasp on how it should really be used to govern the people, and that’s what our government class has done for me. It has made me into a critical thinker and I can now apply the knowledge I have to everyday events like this.
One of the biggest events happening in our country right now is the 2012 presidential election. Candidates are coming to a close in their campaigns and it is almost time for the people to share their opinions officially to elect the next president of the United States. I have learned a lot about this process over the year, and the policies the candidates choose to shape their image. Our unit on elections helped me, as a new voter, understand what goes into the process of an election and how everything works behind the scenes. From the Electoral College to campaign commercials, our Government class has given me a better understanding of the everyday life of a politician. It also goes the other way as well. The events occurring in the presidential race have helped me understand a more realistic version of our studies in class.
I have not necessarily formed opinions on any subjects based on discussions in our class, but I have maintained a greater understanding of where the candidates lie on their policies. Activities such as the debates have given me insight to certain events that take place like the Iowa Caucuses. I never knew that one event could have so much influence on a campaign until I researched and learned that, according to ABC News, the Caucus has a 50% success rate on predicting the winner of the election. This is a pretty substantial number considering all of the other primaries and caucuses. I also find it very interesting that the Caucuses can give people publicity that they may not have had before because they lack the money that it requires to make themselves known. Some candidates like Rick Santorum have to find other methods to win over votes. He visited all 99 counties in Iowa to win over votes in the Caucuses to make up for the lack of money invested in his campaign. It was argued in class that the Caucus did not represent the entire American population very well. Because it is a dominantly white state, it is debated on whether or not they can actually predict how the American people would vote. I find it interesting that so much power is placed in one caucus, yet they still do a good job year-to-year of predicting candidates for the GOP and eventually Presidents.
Another debate I learned from was regarding Mitt Romney as a candidate and his conflict of choice of policy, for an example his sudden change in views on abortion. Debating whether Romney was the right candidate to defeat Obama helped me understand both sides of the argument and get a feel for how my views might relate to one of the candidates views come November. I gained insight to policies of candidates for the November elections, and now have a starting ground to make my choice for President of the United States this year. We also recently learned about the loopholes in Congress and the convoluted way bills are reviewed. I would never have known about this had we not studied it. There are much deeper levels to the process involving Committees that most ordinary citizens are not aware of because Congress does not advertise it. There should be an easier way to understand what goes on in Congress without having to research and decipher vague descriptions of duties performed by the members because it is a citizens right to know what is happening in the government. One would think that it was as simple as a signature to approve a bill and would never expect many to go unread or ignored. My hope is that one day, Congress will realize that it’s corruption cannot continue and will make themselves more understandable by the general public.
Overall, our government class has prepared me well for the election this year, and has made me a more responsible citizen with more knowledge about the events that occur during the most important day in our country every four years. I will now be a more responsible voter and know that it takes more research than just hearing the common news to form an opinion about a subject.