Same-sex marriage is the legal union between people of the same sex. The debate concerning the marriage rights and benefits to gay couples has been intense since early 1970s. In 1996, the then US president Bill Clinton, signed DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) into law (Pinello 12). This Act gives a legal definition of Marriage as a legal union between one woman and one man. However, this enactment gave the definition of marriage for federal law purposes only and gave authority to the states to make their own rulings concerning the matter.
The beginning of the new millennium marked increase in the public opinion concerning same-sex marriage. Massachusetts was the first State in the US to allow Gay marriage. In November 2003, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts gave a ruling that barring same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The State Senate sought a ruling from the judiciary concerning the legality of banning traditional marriage but allowing civil unions. The court gave a response that for the good of the community or the individual, isolating Same-sex marriages from heterosexual marriages cannot be rationally held to preserve or advance stable adult relationships. Consequently, in May 2004, the state of Massachusetts began allowing same-sex marriage (Snyder 33).
As of June 2012, eight states had taken legal measures to allow Gay marriage. After Massachusetts in 2004, it was followed by Connecticut in 2008, Iowa and Vermont in 2009, New Hampshire in 2010 and New York in 2011. On Valentine’s Day in 2012, Washington State joined the list of states supporting same sex marriage. A similar act was passed in Maryland on March 1st, 2012, but the law will be effective on January 1st 2013.
Even though, civil unions give Gay couples some benefits including hospital visitation, they do not give federal benefits such as immigration sponsorship and federal tax returns. The lack of equal benefits for Gay couples is one of the key arguments in support of Gay marriage. Some of the benefits pr4ovided at the state level include child custody, Income/state tax benefits, family health coverage, leaves to care for a sick partner and medical decisions concerning an incapacitated partner.
Those against Gay marriage often support domestic partnerships or civil unions. They have a preference for separate institutions for homosexuals and heterosexuals. They believe that a traditional definition of marriage is a union between one woman and one man. They also have a belief that the function of marriage is procreation, and it is obvious that Gay couples cannot naturally have children (Pinello 120). Also, some opponents of Gay marriage suggest that allowing the existence of the same sex marriage would weaken or decay family structure in the United States. The tradition structure of family in America has immensely changed; their argument is that same-sex marriage will make it even worse.
According to surveys and studies conducted, more than 50% of the American s marriage support gay marriages regardless of the political divide. The current US president Barack Obama gave a boost to the proponents in the Gay marriage debate. He declared publicly his position during an interview on ABC. He confessed that he had been having a dilemma concerning the hot debate but had a belief that gay couples should be allowed to marry (Friedman 17). This announcement made him the first sitting US president to throw his support on same sex marriage. Previously, the former senator had revealed his support for gay rights. During his campaigns for Illinois senatorial seat in the 1990s, he made a promise to fight against any efforts to ban gay marriages. The former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton also voiced their support for Gay marriage. This support gave an indication that the political climate in the United States is changing to allow the advancement of gay rights.
Religious and advocacy groups have always been in the forefront campaigning against the legalization of the same sex marriages. The National Organization for marriage (NOM) and the Family Research Council (FRC) are some of the organizations leading the campaigns against the legalization of the same sex marriages (Snyder 45). These organizations term these efforts as tantamount to redefinition and falsification of marriage as an institution. They continue with their campaigns by supporting both state and federal amendments seeking to change the court rulings and other relevant Legislations. NOM uses its website to move focus from numerous issues concerning gay rights to marriage, which they identify as the only subject matter that really matters. It puts gay rights and homosexuality secondary to heterosexual marriage which is the traditionally accepted type of marriage.
The proponents of the same sex marriages have advocacy groups which are dedicated to their course. The Human Rights Campaign has an argument that people of the same sex also fall in love. Thus, they should have a right to be married just like the heterosexual partners (Friedman 38). They should not be denied a chance of making a legally binding commitment to a spouse of their choice.
Marriage means to gays in the same way it does to heterosexuals. Gay couples wish to get married and make a commitment of a lifetime to a partner they love and cherish and to protect their families (Pinello 130). Gay couples may look different from heterosexual couples, but they share similar values such as helping neighbors and importance of family.
Allowing gays to get married does not alter the meaning of marriage because the definition of marriage is based on love, commitment and the ability to protect the family. The Golden Rule states that we should treat other people the manner we want to be treated and this rule applies to allowing gay couples to get married (Snyder 77). Straight couples would never wish to be denied from marrying someone they love. This feeling also applies to gay couples.
Excluding gay couples from marriage negatively affects children by denying them the benefits and support that their families will get through their freedom to marry. All children deserve the right to social security, emergency care, insurance coverage and inheritance rights regardless of their parent’s sexual orientation. All families and children benefit from the reassurance that results from knowing that they are safe and secure (Snyder 13).
The fight for equal rights between the homosexual and heterosexual marriages has been compared to civil rights movements. Most proponents of the same sex marriage argue that homosexual couples be given marriage rights because they are marginalized just as the black Americans were. Between 1950 and 1980, the civil rights movement was at its peak fighting for the African Americans to be granted equal rights just like the Whites (Snyder 65). However, this comparison does not hold academically opting to be a gay is a choice and not a biological factor. To avoid discrimination, the opponents argue that one can make a choice of marrying a person of the opposite sex. To counter this argument, researchers have identified a gay gene, which is claimed to predispose an individual to be a gay (Friedman 18).
Psychologists have classified gay marriage as a legitimate sexuality expression. It was also found that gay marriage parents have the ability of raising well balanced children just like the heterosexual parents. Another research also revealed that children from same sex parents performed relatively compared to children from heterosexual parents families (Pinello 69). There has never been an academic justification for the position held by the federal government concerning gay marriage rights. The Psychoanalytic Association and the American Psychological Association view this point as outright stigmatization and discrimination of gays based on their sexual orientation.
The traditional description of the institution of marriage as a unification between one man and one woman is simply based on the need for procreation. However, advances in the medical field research have eliminated procreation through coitus. Many married couples have resolved to vitro fertilization and others have opted for adoption. This shows that procreation can longer be a reason to illegalize gay marriage. For better or for worse a marriage should be a union between two individuals. Besides, no heterosexual partners are guaranteed of the ability to have children naturally until they give it a try. Hence, the gay couples should be granted equal rights of starting a family just like infertile heterosexual couples. Close to 100,000 children from the federal childcare systems are available for adoption. The gay couples should therefore be allowed to give a chance to these kids to grow up in loving homes.
The traditional marriage stability has also been at risk. According to the latest statistics, about 50% of all marriages always end up in a separation or divorce. This rate goes up to 80% for the second and subsequent marriages (Friedman 41). Therefore, this shows that the marriage institution is no longer strong as its proponents argue. Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same sex marriage, has been recording one of the lowest rates of divorce in the United States. Between 2003 and 2008, the state recorded a 21% decline in the divorce rates.
According to History, some communities allowed polygamous marriages and other forms of marriages, which essentially stabilized the society. Most marriages have been falling apart because of the pressure mounted by the society to conform to its norms, which not everyone can meet. Some of the divorces have been as a result of gay individuals marrying a spouse of the opposite sex to become conventional to the societal norms. Some of them continue living double lives without risking their heterosexual facade. Legalizing gay marriage will enable many people to marry according to their sexual orientation without fearing discrimination from the public and the state.
The decision by an individual to get married exceeds faith and culture. Getting married is a personal choice and it should be controlled by cultural stereotypes or faith based norms. Every individual should be accorded freedom to make a choice on the partner to marry. Many gays have opted to staying partners until their states legalize their union (Friedman 23). Some decide to move to any of the 8 states which allow same sex marriage to tie the knot however they face the dilemma of facing rejection in their home states. Now many gay couples are not able to enjoy similar monetary and legal benefits that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy. The homosexual spouse of an American citizen cannot acquire citizenship by virtue of being married. Same sex couple also cannot make health related decision concerning their partner (Snyder 98).
A study published by American Journal of Public Health in February 2012 found that Gay men from Massachusetts State were in better mental and physical health compared to heterosexual men. In addition, researchers from California found that gay men who are legally married were more apt to be calm, relaxed, and peaceful and have hopes for the future compared to those in a domestic partnership. The study also revealed that gay men who have legal husbands have minimal chances of getting depressed compared to their counterparts in domestic partnerships.
Gay couples always face numerous financial problems especially through taxation. Less than 20% of companies in the US offer health benefits to same sex couples. Gay married couples also face the challenge of owning homes jointly because they are afraid of the risks that may arise when a catastrophe occurs. A recent survey showed that same sex couples are estimated to use between $ 41,000 to 470,000 more in both legal and other expenses compared to the heter4osexual couples.
Both the federal government and the states in the US will gain economically from the legalization of the same sex marriages From legalizing gay marriages, the New York City Comptroller indicated that the state gain an additional $ 142 million. The state would get a boost of close to $190 million to its economy. The prohibitions in the constitutional amendments should reflect the public opinion. The Obama administration has vowed not to defend the DOMA in court because it violates rights of gay couples. The public should be given a opportunity to voice their views concerning the debate through referendums. Most American citizens are willing to support the gays and lesbians in their quest to enjoy constitutional rights (Pinello 82). Most of them believe that gays and lesbians do not infringe or bar them from enjoying their constitutional rights. The fear for same sex marriage rights is historically fuelled by an attachment to traditional social norms and religious beliefs. A better understanding of physical and psychological reasons of homosexuality enables people to be more tolerant towards the gay community. It has become evident that being a gay is as natural as being a heterosexual (Friedman 89). For this reason, there is no basis in natural law to why gays should be denied the enjoyment of all their rights.
Some opponents argue that the marriage is a ‘sacred’ trust from God or that government should defend the sanctity of marriage. However, in the real sense the federal government is not concerned with doling out sacred trusts and sanctity. As far as the government is concerned, marriage must just be a secular institution (Pinello 66).
Legalization of gay marriages does not negatively affect the heterosexual marriages. Many critics refer to the works of Stanley Kurtz who is against gay marriage. However, experience from countries where same sex marriages have been legalized including Canada, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands show that stability of heterosexual marriages have not been affected negatively (Snyder 27).
Gay marriage is now a reality whether the federal government chooses to acknowledge it or not and States choosing to ban same sex marriages will be ineffective. These bans will not prevent gay couple’s friends and families from describing them as married (Friedman 56). The bans will not succeed in preventing tuxedos and gowns, proposals, weddings or anniversaries. Just like the Slave couples during the reconstruction period got married in the states which they were not recognized as legally married, Gay couples get married daily. The government can do little in preventing these marriages. All they can do is to prevent inheritance, hospital visitation and other small legal benefits that come with marriage. The government does little in preventing gay marriages, and for this reason there will be no harm in legalizing gay marriage (Pinello 88).
In conclusion, the legalization of gay marriages by the federal government will be a big step in recognizing basic American principles and thus representing the culmination of US’s commitments to equal rights. The constitution and the civil rights grant the US citizens many liberties including the pursuit for happiness however gay couples are denied this liberty. Arguments against lesbian and gay marriages are both reactionary and flawed. Legalizing gay marriage will be a good public policy because it will benefit their families and the marriage institution will not suffer. The interest of gay couples in marriage is a vote favoring the current relevance of the marriage institution in today’s world and strengthens it. Nothing is more essential and basic from happiness, liberty and mental health than the right to love and to be cherished and have the same responsibilities and privileges like everyone else. The legalization will put to an end to this heavily contested debate.
Friedman, Lauri. Gay Marriage: Greenhaven Press, 2006
Pinello, Daniel. America's struggle for Same-Sex Marriage: Cambridge University Press,
Snyder, Claire. Gay Marriage and Democracy: Equity for All: Rowman & Little, 2006