I’m a 21-year-old college student who, until this summer, knew little about Congress. To educate myself, in May I stepped outside the comfortable confinement of Moscow to intern on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. — and what I learned was unsettling.
My first real taste of Washington politics came in the form of the ongoing marriage equality debate.
President Barack Obama endorsed gay marriage on May 9. A week later, I began my internship and was immediately exposed to the Republican response: Marriage should exist solely between a man and a woman.
Here’s my take: Marriage shouldn’t exist in America’s politics at all. It is a religious or cultural element that should be left entirely up to individual preference.
Significant mutual legal obligations regarding finances, property, health care and children would make it nearly impossible for the government to remove itself from the marriage picture, especially in the event of a legal dispute. But marriage is far greater than its legal ramifications. It is love, lifelong companionship and friendship with whomever we choose.
To uphold its legal bond, we could call the government version of marriage a civil union and leave the actual marriage ceremony up to a priest, pastor, rabbi or shaman — or no one at all, for those who don’t identify themselves with an organized religion but still wish to get married.
Marriage — and religion as a whole — has no place in the public sector.
Religious views have been used ad nauseam in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Countless news articles focus on presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, or President Obama’s unknown faith. A Pew Research Center survey from 2010 found that 18 percent of American adults think Obama is Muslim, 34 percent think he’s Christian and 43 percent said they were unsure.
Newsflash: it shouldn’t matter.
What does matter is that U.S. political leaders work together to implement changes our country actually needs. That isn’t happening.
The 112th Congress has passed 173 public laws to date — compared to the 111th Congress’ total 383 or the 110th’s 460 — according to the Library of Congress. Several include language such as Public Law No. 112-160, which designates “the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1421 Veterans Memorial Drive in Abbeville, Louisiana, as the ‘Sergeant Richard Franklin Abshire Post Office Building.'”
Our Congressmen and women can’t agree on a budget, so they instead spend time changing the name of that post office up the street from you.
There’s a gridlock in today’s Congress because our politicians are petty and too concerned with matters of little importance. Instead of focusing on issues that need attention such as higher education funding, they choose to meddle in topics like marriage that the government should have no say in.
Religious beliefs, or a lack thereof, are a personal choice. They impact a person’s morals and ideals, but they shouldn’t affect politicians’ ability to overcome differences and work together.
Although I knew little about American politics before this summer, I learned all I need to know — Congress isn’t doing its job.
In order for Congress to operate how it’s supposed to, religion should be left out of the picture. Our nation’s leaders need to put aside their differences — which are actually few — and learn to work together.
We need fresh faces and new ideas.
I realize these are the ideological ramblings of a 21-year-old, and I don’t have all the answers. But what I do know is the system isn’t working and it’s the task of our generation to figure out how to change it.
Britt Kiser can be reached at email@example.com