Will History of Marriage Repeat Itself?

Written by Firas Suqi ’13

The various interpretations of the Constitution have perpetually been used to deny specific groups to the right of marriage.

Professor Catherine Denial, a historian with research interests in marriage and Native Americans, provided us with multiple instances in which the state dictated the rights to marry, as well as privileging certain groups of citizens and types of marriage. By going back through the history of marriage in the U.S., Denial demonstrated that we’ve seen the debates surrounding the issues of gay marriage before.

Beginning in the late 18th Century, married women were considered property of their husbands, as stated in various colonial government papers.

While women were mistreated in American couples, Native American women had more leverage in household decisions. Instead of following the Native American example, Colonial governments suppressed the role of women in Native American and slave populations in order to curb the number of mixed-race male heirs.

Marriage would occur between members of the same social class and was used as a political strategy intended to maintain white male proprietorship of land and government power.

America’s history of marriage has always led to the suppression of one group in the right to marry. What’s to say that the same arguments against interracial marriage aren’t any different than those centered around gay marriage today?

The Supreme Court has been called to make rulings related to marriage on many occasions in the last century. The gay marriage movement has made considerable ground to become one of the bigger issues of debate between both parties.

So far, the presidential debates haven’t mentioned the issue of gay marriage too often, yet state governments have been challenging the rights for same-sex couples to marry. It would be interesting to see if a federal amendment occurs in the next four years, no matter which candidate becomes president.

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