Sex Fiends, Morons and Personal Autonomy: The Progressive U.S. - The Mobility Resource

The United States Supreme Court today is hearing arguments for one of the most controversial issues that has been debated widely since its decision in Roe v. Wade. The case, Hollingsworth v. Perry was raised after California voted to amend the state’s constitution to ban gay marriage.

You’re probably wondering why I bring this up on a blog about accessible driving. That’s a good question.

The gay community’s struggle is not unlike the struggles of individuals with disabilities to achieve a more egalitarian society. The goals, of course, are less abuse and mistreatment, more understanding and fairness.

I think it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that the arguments against gay marriage are too far apart in terms of the core values involved or the time-frame of the issues.

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As the court hears arguments and debates the merits of “2,000 years of history of marriage” and its relevance to marriage today, I would encourage them to be very cautious concerning the basic logic of their arguments.

Disability, like homosexuality, has been around for a very long time. But it has been only recently that our society has begun to really make progress forward toward equality.

For example, in 1967, as many as 100,000 children were institutionalized across the U.S. typically because of developmental disorders.  Even as late as 4 years later, up until 1971, simply being a homosexual could result in a life sentence or life-long institutionalization. Twenty states had laws stating that the mere fact you were a homosexual was reason for imprisonment.

We no longer lock homosexuals away as “sex fiends” nor do we cage people with disabilities as “morons”. We have evolved to the point where we recognize that as barbaric and condemn any other nation or society that still practices those methods.

In the same way, we compare our society to others in terms of freedom, equality and the ability to make autonomous decisions. And as we look down we can clearly identify other nations which fail to meet basic standards of human rights.

When another nation abridges the freedom of expression and speech, the United States typically condemns that nation publically. However, we do not listen to other developed nations who encourage us to expand rights for all citizens. I suppose looking up at more progressive societies gives us neck strain.

A huge point of consideration for striking down Proposition 8 is quite frankly simple: if there are benefits that can be attained by entering into a contract with another adult, then it should not be gender biased.

Either we end tax breaks, employer benefits, hospital visitation, and preferentially credit treatment for married couples, or we need to allow for any consenting adult to enter into such a contract.

Love is not something that can be federally regulated or even accurately tested for. It manifests in diverse ways.

Imagine if you were trying to start a business. You find someone to be your partner in your newly formed company. The government refuses to recognize your status as a legal entity due to your gender (or as those arguing to the court today claim, your inability to procreate).

There ought to be no difference in marriages as defined by the government. To argue otherwise would promote gender discrimination, a violation of the separation of church and state, or other things which America should have evolved past already.

I’d recommend to politicians, that when in doubt of the moral grounds of any decision – you subject yourself to the veil of ignorance as proposed by philosopher John Rawls. If you were asked to design a society in which you would be randomly placed (all variables such as gender, sexual orientation, race, age, location of birth, disability, or others being unknown) how would you design it?

The answer, logically, is the promotion of equality for all individuals: gay, straight, with or without disabilities.

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