The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 27, 2013

Groups explain arguments for, against gay marriage

As the Supreme Court on Wednesday wrapped up two days of arguments on gay marriage, residents and regional groups laid out their own reasons for supporting or opposing the issue.

Jennifer Katzer, a junior English major and president of the gay-straight alliance at Pittsburg (Kan.) State University, said she supports legalizing gay marriage. Addressing one of the issues considered by the court, Katzer said gay and lesbian couples who want to be married should have the same right to financial and social benefits that married heterosexual couples have. The disparity creates an unbalanced social system, she said.

“Without the legalization of gay marriage, people in the U.S. have, more or less, social permission to treat LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people as second-class citizens,” she said.

Katzer said many gay and lesbian couples have strong personal reasons for wanting their union to be legal. Among them, she said, are the desires to validate a defined relationship and to place the same meaning on their relationship that married heterosexual couples place on theirs. That kind of acceptance from society can be critical for same-sex couples, she said.

“There’s the benefit of sitting in a room and having your family members and friends ask about your ceremony or your honeymoon,” she said. “It’s feeling like your union matters within the community, and that it makes a difference with your family and friends. You can say you have been together for 50 years, but it doesn’t have the same connotation as being married for 50 years.”

Additionally, Katzer said, the legal paperwork issued to a married couple by the government would serve a number of practical purposes, including protecting a couple’s children should one parent die and allowing individuals to have family access to their partners in a case such as a hospital visit.

Focus on the Family, a Christian organization based in Colorado Springs, Colo., supports marriage as between one man and one woman, spokeswoman Carrie Gordon Earll said. She said the organization is concerned primarily about gay marriage’s impact on children.

“Biology gives every child a mother and a father, and we need to pay attention to that because the research for decades has found children do best when they’re raised by their married mother and father,” she said.

She also said the group thinks the legalization of same-sex marriages could infringe upon the First Amendment rights of small businesses or individuals who could be required to do business with gay or lesbian couples despite having religious beliefs that don’t support gay marriage.

Earll said the legalization of gay marriage would have a “ripple effect” across the country.

“It redefines marriage for everybody, and that includes people who hold a conservative biblical view or a moral view,” she said. “This doesn’t prevent any adult from having any relationship they want; it’s about how is government going to define marriage.”

Phillip Cosby, state director of the Christian-based American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri, said his organization also supports “traditional marriage” between one man and one woman, as mentioned in the Bible. He voiced a concern expressed Tuesday by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who had cautioned against a broad ruling in favor of gay marriage because the issue is “newer than cellphones or the Internet.”

“To rush in and embrace it (gay marriage) would be an error,” Cosby said. “We don’t even know the long-term effects yet.”

But Katzer said she holds out hope that same-sex marriages will one day be legalized nationwide.

“No matter what they (Supreme Court justices) rule, it will set up a pattern of ruling for future cases,” she said. “I am hoping they will rule in favor of same-sex marriage and same-sex love because even if it doesn’t change the United States now, it could potentially change the course for how future rulings will go.”

Missouri voters overwhelmingly adopted a constitutional amendment in 2004 defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and voters in Oklahoma that year approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. The following year, voters in Kansas approved a similar constitutional amendment barring gay marriage.

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