Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Obama to grant benefits to gay employees

Barack Obama is set to announce that the benefits given to federal employees and their significant others will be extended to same-sex employees as well. Though in reaction to recent criticism to his inaction in repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the move is a substantial step in the right direction for the gay marriage movement.

But more should be done, argue critics, who believe the administration is not acting swiftly enough in opening the doors for gay and lesbian couples.

I happen to agree with that sentiment; more should be done to give all homosexual couples, not just those who work for the federal government, the right to wed one another. Having said that, I also feel that the movement is overlooking the significance of this move; not only are benefits being granted to gay and lesbian couples within the federal government, but this action also gives the movement new leverage in what the gay marriage debate is really about.

For too long, the argument on the right has been that gay marriage redefines the institution of marriage itself. This would be true if we were to mandate every church accept gay and lesbian couples -- but that's not the case. The debate isn't about the religious institution of marriage, but rather the federal recognition of gay and lesbian couples as married in a legal sense. Obama's move doesn't create marriage for federal employees, but it grants these employees to have the benefits a married couple would have as a federal employee.

There are over 1,000 federal benefits given to "married" couples that gay and lesbian couples can never have unless drastic changes occur. Is that fair? Not at all. There is no non-religious justification to keep gays from marrying; and when the right attempts to create arguments that aren't religious, they fail miserably, creating justifications that would also limit marriage for straight couples as well ("Marriage is for procreation" is one such argument).

It's time we stop this form of discrimination and begin giving rights to gay and lesbian couples. It's the only fair thing to do.

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