Goldberg: Gay rights, ours to protect

Evidently, the majority of Americans don't support the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. In fact, the New York State Senate recently added itself to the list of government entities that rejected the idea.

This shouldn't matter, however. Same-sex marriage is not an issue that can be decided by a majority vote of the citizens of the United States. It is a civil rights issue, and it is the responsibility of our government to do what is right, even if that is something the majority of Americans aren't willing to do.

Of course, there's nothing in the Constitution that states that you have a right to get married. But there is one little but profound statement in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Does that explicitly grant any rights to U.S. citizens? No. But it is the ideological basis, the very intellectual foundation, of our entire country.

It's a simple idea: it is incumbent on a government to protect the rights of all of its citizens, including the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Every day that passes without our government acting to protect the right of gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals to marry the partner of their choice regardless of sex is another failure on the part of our government to guarantee all citizens a right to the pursuit of happiness. While not unconstitutional, it is antithetical to the founding idea of our great country.

Some argue that this is not a civil rights issue because all people in the U.S. are granted the right to marry someone of the opposite sex. Therefore, the argument goes, when groups ask for the right to marry someone of the same sex, they are arguing for the creation of a new right, not being deprived of an existing one.

That is a convoluted and ultimately wrong assertion. A gay or lesbian individual cannot freely pursue his or her happiness to its fullest potential within the context of a heterosexual marriage. Thus, they are indeed being denied a right granted to heterosexual individuals: the right to get married to their ideal partner in order to pursue together the human goal of happiness.

This is not a case of substituting one right for another or creating a new right for a minority of the population, this is allowing a minority of the population an avenue through which they can access a right long kept from them.

It would be reasonable to argue that Americans should not have the right to pursue their own happiness if doing so is unreasonable or infringes on the rights or well-being of others. There is, however, a simple answer to that charge:

There is nothing unreasonable about being attracted to someone of the same sex, and same-sex marriage would do nothing to harm the well-being of heterosexual individuals. I hold those truths to be self-evident.

As such, it is pertinent that our federal government to legalize same-sex marriage across the country. We can't afford to leave this up to the individual states. And if I may echo a past column again this week: "Right and wrong, truth and fallacy, depend upon the quality of reasonable support, not on the quantity of supporters."

The number of Americans who support same-sex marriage is irrelevant to the action that our government takes. All of the reasonable support is in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, no matter the quantity of dissenters.