Same-Sex Marriage: A Matter of Equal Rights
Homosexuality is not a new social construct nor is marriage between members of the same-sex a new phenomenon (Boswell 80-81). In fact, as early as seventeenth century China and nineteenth century Africa as well as in Native American tribes, members of the respective societies actually entered into same-sex unions and marriage (Sullivan). Even as far back as the Roman Empire, two emperors, Emperor Nero and Emperor Elagabalus, are both noted to have married one of their slaves (Eskridge 7). With the spread of Christianity and the implementation of the Theodesian code, neither Emperors nor citizens could marry anyone of the same sex and those that had married were actually executed (Kuefler 343-345).
In the United States, we do not execute homosexuals; yet, we do rob them of equal rights under the law. With the exception of some Native American tribes, we do not have a record of respecting the rights of homosexuals, let alone affording them the right to marry like heterosexuals. In fact, forty years ago in the United States, homosexuality was considered a pathology according to the American Psychiatric Association. It was not until 1973, that homosexuality was taken off of the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders. In 1975, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution that homosexuality should not be discriminated against. Finally, in 1991, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy included homosexuality amongst the classes of individuals in which they will not discriminate or refuse services (Clark and Serovich 2). Given the relatively new mode of thought with regard to homosexuality as non-criminal behavior and that we should not tolerate discrimination based thereon, is it any wonder that homosexuals have yet to be granted the right to marry by the majority of jurisdictions in the United States as well as around the globe? In the modern era, we should have eradicated discrimination, yet we haven’t due to outdated and fallacious reasons. Our government should afford homosexuals the right to enter into civil unions with one another since homosexuals deserve the same rights under the law as heterosexuals; and, moreover, the arguments against same-sex marriage are based upon outdated and/or fallacious reasoning.
Arguments in Favor of Same-sex Marriage
Law Should Reflect Change in Public Opinion
Public opinion today has shifted to the point where now a majority of adults support legalizing same-gender relations. Moreover, according to research from an evangelical research center, Barna Research Center, even one-third of born-again Christians agree with this sentiment (Wolfe 102). As such, since as a society we are moving toward accepting same-sex relations as a non-criminal and legally accepted behavior, it naturally follows that we should no longer deny them the ability to express and commit to this relationship in the same way that society allows heterosexuals to do.
Marriage is a fundamental right which should not be denied to homosexuals.
Homosexuals should have the right to marry since marriage is a fundamental right which deserves to be respected as opposed to criminalized and/or banned. Under the law, legislative actions or a vote of the popular majority cannot be used as a reason to deny a set of people a fundamental right as has been done in the case of gay marriage (Standler). Specifically, in Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case wherein an interracial couple sought to have their marriage validated in the state of Virginia. At the time, Virginia law not only banned interracial marriage, but it made it a crime as well. The U.S. Supreme Court found in favor of the Lovings and held that marriage was a fundamental right to be protected under the U.S. constitution (Loving v. Virginia 1). Indeed, homosexuals face the same battle today that interracial couples faced prior to the Loving decision. Prior to Loving, interracial couples were “vilified, persecuted, and forbidden to marry” (Mathabane). Even conservatives like Ted Olson, writer for Newsweek, whom are typically against same-sex marriage and the extension of rights, have acknowledged that we should not forbid or vilify gay marriage as the right to marry is a fundamental right:
Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation’s commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for our nation at its formation (Olson).
Indeed, to the gay community which is deeply affected by the laws which do not afford them the right to legally marry, this issue is a matter of civil rights and, therefore, they demand a recognition of basic American principles: equality (Badash). It is not only unconstitutional but fundamentally unfair to deny them such rights as being able to join into the union of their choosing and, moreover, this is especially true when the denial of this right leads to other denials such as inability to direct medical care for his or her partner.
Marriage Promotes Stability for Individuals within the Union as well as within Society
On a societal as well as an individual level, gay marriage promotes stability and is beneficial for society. For instance, in communities where gay marriage has been legally allowed, such as Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia, the community has not been struck down by lightning or fallen into the earth’s underbelly (Alliance Defense Fund). Furthermore, as eloquently noted by conservative columnist Ted Olson, liberals and conservatives should be able to come to an agreement that we all benefit when we come together and that it should not be so difficult to agree on values such as the promotion of “strong families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another” (Olson). Olson concludes that by relegating homosexuals to a second-citizen status demeans their sense of belonging as well as weakens their ties with the rest of the community (Id.). Moreover, in “The Case for Gay Marriage” in the Economist on February 26, 2010, it is further surmised that allowing gays to marry would “add to social stability, for it would increase the number of couples that take on real, rather than simply passing, commitments” (Chauncey).
Allowing gay adults to marry also sends a powerful message to the gay children of today’s generation. In generations past, gays were considered criminals, social deviants, and/or outcasts. For today’s gay children, if they see that it is possible to have a stable family life, then as they grow up, they will enjoy the same luxury that heterosexual children have: the luxury to dream of growing up and someday having their own family unit. As noted by Andrew Sullivan in “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage,” all adolescents will have “some future anchor in their mind-set, some ultimate structure with which to give their relationships stability and social support” (Sullivan).
Essentially, marriage between two people provides the basis for a nuclear family. Indeed, many homosexuals would like to not only be spouses, but become parents as well. Currently, six states around the country (Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah) are considering or have recently considered bans on gay and lesbian foster care and/or adoption. Despite the fact that some states still do not want to recognize the gay couple as worthy of marriage and/or parenting, there are many competent and dedicated gay parents whom have served a vital public interest by adopting and providing a home for unwanted children (“Gay Adoption Debate and Poll”). When these children live in a home where their parents are in a committed relationship, there is more of a sense of permanency; and, hence, more of a sense of security. Furthermore, these gay couples may have a greater likelihood of moving successfully through the adoption process should they be in a committed relationship as demonstrated by their marital union (de Vries). Additionally, the American Psychological Association has confirmed that the institution of marriage “affords individuals a variety of benefits that have a favorable impact on their physical and psychological well-being.” The APA continues to set forth that a large number of children are currently being successfully raised by lesbians and gay men in same-sex couples and that allowing these men and women the right to marry would have a beneficial impact upon the psyche of the children raised in these families (“American Psychological Association Endorses Gay Marriage and Gay Adoption”). In addition, in 2006, the Canadian Psychological Association acknowledged that the literature upon which opponents of marriage of same-sex relies actually indicates that regardless of sexual orientation, “parents’ financial, psychological and physical well-being is enhanced by marriage and that children benefit from being raised by two parents within a legally-recognized union.” Finally, the Canadian Psychological Association draws the explicit connection between marriage of their parents and their overall well-being: “children stand to benefit from the well-being that results when their parents’ relationship is recognized and supported by society’s institutions.”(Rogers). Truly, laws which deny homosexuals equal rights to participate in marriage undermine that which we need in relationships between individuals and within communities: commitment toward one another, mutual support and understanding, and dedication to giving back.
Arguments Against Same-sex Marriage and Refutation of these Arguments
There are approximately four arguments by which opponents of gay marriage routinely use in their attempts to deny gays and lesbians their equal rights under the law. Routinely, opponents of same-sex marriage rely upon faith-based religious arguments to demonstrate that the law and civilized society should not condone or sanction same-sex marriages. Secondly, they contend that legalization of same-sex marriage would weaken the institution of marriage and traditional family values. Third, legalization would lead to a slippery slope regarding the legality of marriage and open up the doors for other questionable behavior such as children becoming gay who aren’t really gay to the legalization of polygamy or the marriage of and/or to an object. Finally, they assert that the lifestyle of homosexuality should not be encouraged due to a research which reveals a higher percentage of psychological disorders and other problems amongst gay individuals relative to heterosexuals (“BalancedPolitics.org – Same Sex Marriages”). As will be demonstrated in the counterarguments which follow, none of the opponents contentions are worthy of merit since they are based upon outdated notions of tradition and they are simply not supported by credible evidence.
As per the arguments of those who are opposed to giving same-sex couples the right to marry or, in other words, those who refuse to cease fighting against the rights of gays and lesbians to marry one another, Christianity provides the moral basis by which our society should deny them these fundamental and basic human rights. Many Christians cite scripture to support this contention as noted by Pat Boone in “Marriage: One Man, One Woman” (Boone). However, in the United States we believe in the separation of church and state; thus, our laws do not need to reflect scripture even assuming one believed that the word of God did not intend to include for the lifestyle of, let alone the marriage between, gays and lesbians.
Assuming arguendo that we did base our laws upon Christian scripture and morality, there is actually evidence that Christianity’s history includes instances wherein gay marriage was performed as well as accepted. According to scholar John Boswell of Yale University, “gay marriage ceremonies” were an accepted part of the early Christian church, and “the rituals that formalized such marriages were only later deliberately and consciously effaced by the church” (Boswell). In the book, credibility is lent to his arguments as he provides the reader with actual transcriptions of biblical and historical documents in the original Greek along with his own English translations of them. Specifically, he translates a series of liturgies for an ecclesiastical ritual called adelphopoiesis or, in simple English, the “creation of a brother.” Some believe that these ceremonies were not marriage unions; nonetheless, Boswell’s translations raise speculation that in Biblical times, there may have been acceptance and even performance of same-sex marriages. At a minimum, they performed same-sex unions of some nature (Boswell).
One of the more adamant opponents of same-sex marriages is the very powerful and influential Catholic Church which possesses a very sanctimonious and traditional view of marriage and human sexuality, citing Genesis as one of its bases for denying homosexuals rights: “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). As a result, “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). The Bible notes that some Catholics may forego marriage if they would like to serve a higher calling (cf. Matt. 19:10-12). In short, the Catholic Church views marriage between a baptized man and woman to be a sacrament which provides a visible sign of the grace that God gives them to help them live their lives here and now so as to be able to join him in eternity. Additionally, these same individuals then assert that giving gays and lesbians rights will not only undermine the word of God but doing so will consequently undermine traditional notions of marriage and family values (“Special Issue: Gay Marriage.”).
While the Catholic church uses the word of God to deny homosexuals of acceptance and rights, the Episcopal church provides an example that there is room for equal rights for homosexuals under the word and the love of God. In fact, they have already ordained an openly gay bishop and they moved recently to make a firm resolution to allow gays and lesbians to become bishops (“Episcopal Church Moves to Accept More Gays and Lesbians.”). While there is a split in the church because some of the more traditional elders do not believe in extending rights to homosexuals to become bishops, the vast majority of Episcopal churches in North America, Central America, Brazil, Japan, New Zealand and Southern Africa assert an inclusive view of homosexuality (Mahone; “Episcopal Church Moves to Accept More Gays and Lesbians”).
Another argument utilized by opponents of same-sex marriage is that by allowing it, it will lead to a slippery slope wherein all different types of marriages will be allowed once we open up the door and give homosexuals their rights. If we legalize gay marriage, then we will have to recognize the rights of many others to marry such as cousins, persons under the age of consent, and even polygamists. As in many slippery slope arguments, this one is based upon faulty logic wherein the notion of “if X, then Y, and then a, B, C, Dand so on might occur.” This is the reductio ad absurdum fallacy which is traditionally used instill fear in the mind of anyone hearing the argument as opposed to actually demonstrating the connection between X and Y and the additional effects, a, B, and C. Additionally, there is no evidence that the legalization of marriage between same-sex partners (Y) will lead to the legalization of marriage by cousins (a) or the proliferation of homosexuality (B). In fact, the research reveals an opposite.
We have a long way to go as a society in protecting the rights of gays and lesbians. Homosexuals face a barrage of issues in merely trying to be themselves. They face stereotypes, discrimination, and stigma. They face being victims of physical violence as well as based solely upon their sexual orientation. Despite this, many homosexuals refuse to become bitter and they refuse to give up fighting for basic human rights. In order to support the rights and the dignity of homosexuals, we have a duty as a nation to make sure that these individuals have access to the services that all citizens have access to in the United States. Homosexuals are much more than just their sexual orientation; thus, it is not necessary to understand their sexual orientation. The only thing that is necessary is that we openly embrace and accept homosexuality instead of allowing laws which sanction discrimination and intolerance. There must be some kind of top-down approach so that the government can set a tone for reform and hope for these individuals whom are worthy of receiving equal rights under the law.
“American Psychological Association Endorses Gay Marriage and Gay Adoption.” National Association for Research and Therapt of Homosexuality (2008). NARTH.com. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. .
Badash, David. “Does the United States Constitution Already Make Gay Marriage Legal?” Legal Issues (2009). The New Civil Rights Issues. Web.
“BalancedPolitics.org – Same Sex Marriages (Pros & Cons, Arguments for and Against).” BalancedPolitics.org – Free Balanced, Non-Partisan Discussion of Political & Social Issues for Debate (Pros and Cons – Decision Making Politics). Web. 20 Apr. 2010. .
Boone, Pat. “Marriage: One Man, One Woman.” Knight Ridder (2004). Web.
Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1981. Print.
Chauncey, George. “?the Case for Gay Marriage?.” The Economist 26 Feb. 2004. Web.
Clark, Wanda M., and Julianne M. Serovich. “Twenty Years and Still in the Dark? Content Analysis of Articles Pertaining to Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues in Marriage and Family Therapy Journals.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 23.3 (1997): 239+. Questia. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
De Vries, Lloyd. “Adoption Becoming Easier for Gays.” CBS Broadcasting, Inc. 29 Oct. 2003. Print.
“Episcopal Church Moves to Accept More Gays and Lesbians.” CNN Magazine Online 14 July 2009. CNN.com/U, S. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
Eskridge, William N. (Oct 1993). “A History of Same-Sex Marriage.” Virginia Law Review 79 (7). “The Romans May Have Accorded Some Same-sex Unions the Legal or Cultural Status of Marriage..”
“Gay Adoption Debate and Poll.” Youdebate.com. 22 Apr. 2010. Web. .
John Boswell, “Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe.” (New York: Random House, 1995). Pages 80-85.
Kuefler, Matthew (2007). “The Marriage Revolution in Late Antiquity: The Theodosian Code and Later Roman Marriage Law.” Journal of Family History 32. Doi:10.1177/0363199007304424.
Loving v. Virginia. 388 U.S. 1. U.S. Supreme Court. 1967. Print.
Mahoney, Kelli. “The Episcopalian Anglican Church Views on Homosexuality Gay Marriage and Same Sex Relationships – Christian Teens – Episcopalian Anglican Church.” All About Christian Teens. Web. 30 Apr. 2010. .
Mathabane, Gail. “Gays Face Same Battle Interracial Couples Fought.” USA Today 25 Jan. 2005. Print.
Olsen, Ted. “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage.” Newsweek 12 Jan. 2010. Newsweek.com. Web. .
Rogers, Gregory. “What’s Wrong With Gay Adoption?” Christian Research Journal 28.2 (2005). Christian Research Institute. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. .
“Special Issue: Gay Marriage.” Catholic Answers. Catholic Answers, Inc., 2004. Web. 24 Apr. 2010.
Standler, Ronald B. “Fundamental Rights Under Privacy in the United States.” Dr. R. Standler’s Professional Homepage. 5 Oct. 2005. Web. 20 Apr. 2010. .
Sullivan, Andrew. “Same-Sex Marriage in History.” Same-sex Marriage, Pro and Con: a Reader. New York: Vintage, 2004. Print.
Wolfe, Alan. Moral Freedom: the Search for Virtue in a World of Choice. New York: W.W. Norton, 2002. Print.
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