When I was in third grade, I learned that there are certain “inalienable rights”– the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — all of which the United States government is committed to protecting for every human. Last week, I learned this government feels that these human rights are limited to some people, based on how they choose to practice sex. In two separate legislations last week, the United States Senate sanctioned discrimination against homosexual Americans. The issue recently surfaced in Hawaii when the state denied marriage privileges to a lesbian couple.

In May 1993, the State Supreme Court ruled in a 3-1 decision that the state’s exclusion of same-sex marriage was sexual discrimination and thus unconstitutional unless there was “compelling evidence” for it. In 1995, a governor’s commission recommended the state grant marital rights to homosexuals. The “full faith and credit” clause of the U. S. Constitution says that states must accord reciprocity to laws (and contracts) of other states. Thus a couple could get married in Hawaii, move to another state and demand that the state recognize their marriage contract unless laws in the new state conflict directly with laws in the former state.

This led the House to pass the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) this July with the Senate concurring on Sept. 10. Social Security, Veter-an’s and other federal benefits such as married tax status will simply be denied to Americans who do not conform to a sexual pattern preferred by others in society. I don’t know where in the Constitution Congress is permitted to legislate the morality that a man must marry a woman. Furthermore, DoMA permits states to ignore contracts of marriage made in other states. This is clearly unconstitutional, directly challenging the “full faith and credit” clause.

Texas Senator Phil Gramm said he was upholding an institution that has been unchallenged, until now, for the last few thousand years. Barring the great Greek and Roman civilizations that cherished homosexuality, the institution of marriage has not always had the same connotations it holds to some today. For most of history, there was no love in marriage; it was a merely an economic union that simplified the problem of inheritance of property. Such marriages were usually pre-arranged and out of convenience. Even now, marriage is a political contract recognized by the state for certain benefits.

Sometimes the state will vest power to a religious official to witness the contract so that it can be connected to a ceremony, but it is still a political contract. Each citizen should have equal protection under the law and should be permitted the right to marry whomever one pleases in order to gain the same benefits that the government grants to a wedded pair. The Senate also fell one vote short last Tuesday of passing legislation that would remove discrimination in hiring. The entire movement behind the DoMA is because of the standard complaints many harbor against homosexuals.

Many perceive homosexuals as promiscuous and not lasting in long relationships. An official marriage would act to reverse this activity — if it were indeed more than just a stereotype. Ironically, the people that cringe at the thought of homosexuals married to each other and would prefer that they merely lived together but not marry are the exact same people who cringe at the thought of a man and woman living in the same house together while not officially married. What is the difference, legally, between a man’s (or woman’s) choice to marry a woman and his choice to marry a man?

The only difference is the fears, stereotypes and prejudices of outside people. This is not justification for barring the union. Thirty years ago, the same barrier stood against intermarriage between members of different races, but finally the Supreme Court overturned anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 because they were restricting the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of those wanting to get married. Seeing two gay people married to each other may make some people uncomfortable. But their union does not infringe on anyone else’s life, liberty or pursuit of happiness, and they have a claim to pursue their human rights and marry each other.

What has Congress to gain by passing this restrictive law? It is only election-year politics to woo the radical right. The United States government is unfairly discriminating against a portion of the United States population and we should not stand for this public “gay bashing. ” Discrimination is still legal because the measure failed 50-49. Senator Pryor (D-Ark. ) was attending his son’s cancer surgery; otherwise, he would have supported the bill. Vice President Al Gore had promised to break the tie in support of the bill, but the motion failed. Now it is legally OK to not hire someone based on his or her sexual preference.