Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gay Marriage and Abortion: Not the Same Thing

Granted, no one has said they ARE the same thing. But lately, with all the press, they often get lumped together. They do share, however, the polemic and caricatures mentioned by President Obama in his speech at Notre Dame. The main difference is that gay marriage is a legal issue, while abortion is an ethical issue. And while I am an admitted absolutist, I only fall on the side of black and white with the former.

For centuries, there have been groups of people with rights that have attempted to withhold those same rights from other groups of people. They have gone so far as to quote scripture in support of their views. Slave owners felt justified in their position by quoting the Bible. God was on their side-at least in their perspective. Luckily, they lost the battle. Later on, men attempted to withhold rights from women. Again quoting the Bible. They lost as well. In the whole of history, the group attempting to withhold rights from another group has always lost. Thank God.

This country is built on the belief that all people are created equal and have the same rights. This is built into our founding documents, reiterated on the battlefield of Gettysburg by one of our greatest Presidents, and is still true today. Everyone is created equal and has the same rights.

Gay marriage is a legal issue and only a legal issue. Some people have the right to marry. Another group doesn't. This is not in line with our belief that everyone has the same rights. Gay marriage must be allowed if we are to believe that all people are created equal and have the same rights. While allowing this, we should not force any organization to marry a couple they have a religious reservation in marrying. But the legality of gay marriage should not be denied.

Some opponents say "Oh, well if we allow gay marriage we will end up having to allow plural marriage or marriage to turtles." This is merely a deflection. And a bad one at that. NO ONE is allowed plural marriage. There is not one group that is allowed plural marriage while attempting to withhold that right from others. Therefore the analogy is moot.

The demand for gay marriage is legally sound. The demand for a woman's right to an abortion or for a ban on abortion is not so simple.

Abortion is an ethical issue. At the foundation of the debate is the answer to the question "When does life begin?" Any performance of an abortion AFTER that point would be, by definition, murder. The anti-abortion group thinks life begins at conception. The pro-choice group thinks it begins later. President Obama was right to conclude that the answer to that question is "beyond his pay-grade." The answer to that question is a personal and individual one. Personally, I believe life begins at conception. This does not, however, make me a hypocrite for wanting to preserve the legal status quo. I admit that other people are allowed a different answer to the question.

Lastly, President Obama's most salient point in his speech at Notre Dame was the call for a decrease in the number of abortions. Regardless of on what side one falls, reducing the number of abortions performed is a common goal everyone can get behind. Abortions for convenience's sake, regardless of one's answer to when life begins, are despicable. End them now. Not through law, however, but through action. Peer pressure is powerful and not always negative. Not violent pressure like screaming at women entering a clinic. "Resist not the evil-doer." But by fair minded words and love.

I will, however, say something the President didn't--if the Catholic Church is going to take such a strong stand against abortion, it is their responsibility to also reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies by removing the doctrine against birth control.

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