Is marriage a basic human right?

I recently found this comment on a friend’s Facebook (oh, the technology era): “I don’t think that marriage is a basic human right. The problem is all the stuff the government gives you for being married. If they just took that stuff away from straight people i bet gay people would be fine.”

Here’s the thing.  It is.

Marriage is a fundamental human right according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 16; considered a standard for common achievement) and the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 23; legally binding international treaty). Furthermore, though not mentioned in the United States Constitution, it can be argued, as was the case in Iowa per the state’s own constitution, to be a matter of equal protection under the law.

Which is precisely what I commented in response.

If the problem here is what counts as “basic,” then we’re into a whole other conversation about the universality, indivisibility, interdependence, and interrelation of human rights.  For one right to be more “basic” or “fundamental” than another, one must be “more important;” this cannot be.  All rights must be equal, no hierarchy.  All people are entitled to all rights, hence “human rights.”  This ensures a life of dignity for all members of the human family.

See also: Why Same-Sex Marriage Matters

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3 Responses to Is marriage a basic human right?

  1. Rachel M says:

    I think that the issue of political and financial incentives for marriage are more the issue for me. If you want to call them all civil unions, and restrict marriage as a symbolic action reserved for religious institutions, fine. That’s perfectly fine with me, but I’m also not an active member of a faith from which I would feel alienated if they decided not to ‘marry’ me in the place of worship, which I know is a very sensitive issue to some people. My issues is that you can’t restrict access to health care plans, joint property ownership, visitation right, etc. only to those who are engaged in that state-sponsored union–no matter whatever it is called. THAT is a violation of human rights. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that marriage inequality isn’t necessarily a violation of BASIC human rights, but that the social institutions–in every sense of the term– built up around marriage create these violations. Not only do you not have access to legal rights, but the milestones associated with marriage, as fundamental as growing older, are taken from you, which can go so far as to render you inhuman. This alone can make the world unlivable.

    That being said, I would like to see as much focus in the media (& on people’s minds) of other “queer issues” (such as youth homelessness, sex education, lack of access to systems of support & safe spaces in schools, etc.) as on marriage equality… it seems to get so much attention when other, very institutionalized inequalities are left hidden.

  2. Rachel M says:

    Also, just to clarify, when I say “marriage inequality isn’t necessarily a violation of BASIC human rights” I am using necessarily to mean “by definition”… does that make sense? I DEFINITELY believe that restricted access to equal partnerships (not just marriage for heterosexual couples and civil unions for homosexual couples, but the SAME thing for EVERYONE) is a violation of human rights. However, if equality was extended under the state, and marriage was still unequal in religious situations, I would consider this to be upholding human rights laws, which allow freedom of worship. This leads me back to the idea that it is what is DENIED by marriage laws as the stand now and not the literal term “marriage” that is denying basic rights. Ya?

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