America is becoming embroiled in a tempest in a teapot regarding gay marriage. Of all the problems facing us as individuals or as a nation, what two consenting adults want to do to show their commitment to each other doesn't seem to be something that should capture the national psyche or become such a heated national debate.

America prides itself on the concept of the separation of church and state. Neither the state nor any church should meddle in the other's backyard. The state has legitimate reasons for overseeing marriages. For taxing and legal reasons, the state does issue marriage licenses. This is one of one of the responsibilities of government. However, who is issued or not issued a license is another story. The state doesn't have the right to determine who should be allowed to marry. That is discrimination.

It tragically wasn't long ago that some states wouldn't allow interracial marriages to take place. Why? These states said that it wasn't natural and that it was against the will of God. They claimed that, if God had wanted interracial marriage, he would have made us all one race. In my early adulthood, there were still places in the US with such discriminatory laws. As with the same-sex marriage issue, the state blurred the line between church and state. Now, in my later adulthood, we are arguing over the same type of discriminatory issue. However, this time it is about sex and not color. Nevertheless, it is still discrimination.

If a particular church prohibits same sex marriage, then the state needs to stay out of the church's beliefs and practices. However, the churches merely officiate over the marriage. It is the state that issues marriage licenses.

Many of those against same-sex marriages point to history. They say that marriage has traditionally been between a man and a woman. That may have been generally true. However, history isn't always a good yardstick with which to measure the present. As noted before, many societies disallowed interracial or intercultural marriages. The use of history to prop up ones opposition to gay marriage would condone prohibiting interracial marriages.

If you are against same-sex marriages, ask yourself, what adverse effect will David and John or Mary and Susan getting married have on heterosexual marriages or society? The divorce rate in America is over 50%. Marriage is already in trouble. A handful of gay marriages throughout the country isn't going to damage further this already troubled institution. It is beyond me what allowing homosexuals to marry is going to do to marriage that heterosexuals haven't already done to this institution.

The other issue that concerns me is the homophobia that is evident in the heated debate over same-sex marriage. Again, it is a kin to the race issue in America. Whites have discriminated against Blacks for centuries. Back in the 60s when the debate over racism raged, one would have thought that the country would be ruined if Blacks were accorded the same civil rights that Whites already enjoyed. What is truly ironic is that some of those most forceful in their denunciation of human rights for Blacks had sexual relations and children with those that they considered not quite human. Whether we look to Thomas Jefferson or Strom Thurmond, we see racist hypocrisy. In addition, it is my guess that some of those that publicly decry same-sex marriage might be latently gay themselves (or fear that they might be). These homophobic Americans don't have to come out of the closet, but they need to get honest with themselves and get out of the way of civil rights and progress.

Regardless of how we feel about same-sex marriage, it is inherently a civil rights issue. Because homosexuals haven't been accorded the same benefits as heterosexual have, they don't have the same status with inheritances, Social Security benefits, child custody, next-of-kin status in making medical decisions, and the list goes on.

We all need to get honest and put the gay marriage issue behind us. More critical issues exist in the world about which we should be more concerned than what happens in the courthouse or marriage chapel.