Issue: Gay Marriage
The purpose of this paper is to discuss whether the federal government of the United States should recognize gay marriage and to argue that it should. While there are reasons why some oppose same-sex marriages, many of which are based on religious and traditional grounds, same sex marriage is ultimately a civil right, which should not be denied. Though the majority of Americans do not approve of homosexuality in general, the fact of the matter is that the United States is a place where no one should be discriminated against on the basis of who they are. There are also convincing legal and economic reasons why same-sex marriage should be recognized such as the fact married-gay couples are more likely to own homes and as will be argued are completely capable of raising children as well as straight couples. However, there are convincing religious, psychological and US standards’ based reasons as well, why gay marriage should not be recognized, due to the majority refusal, of the acceptance, of gay people in the US.
Pro: Why Gay Marriage Should be Recognized
Gay marriage should be recognized because if its good benefits for the minority of gay people and their social surroundings. Looking first to how gay marriage benefits gays, Rauch (2005) starts off by providing context to the issue by asking the straight reader to imagine waking up one day and finding that their marriage no longer existed. More than that, their marriage could not exist. This clearly would leave an enormous void in a married person’s life. Rauch (2005) also discusses the constant awkwardness that gay people feel having to explain their relationship to people. Whereas a married couple can refer to their partner as husband or wife, gay people are forced to use expressions like lover or partner which place their relationship on lower footing than is enjoyed by a married straight couple. At the heart of this issue is the notion of “otherness”. As Rauch (2005) explains, there is a tendency in society to view certain characteristics like being straight or white or English speaking or even male as categorically neutral while everyone else is defined not by who they are but how they differ from the “norm”. The effect of this is to exclude the group that is not part of the majority. In the case of gay marriage, allowing it would represent a step towards viewing gay people not as others but as people. There are many practical reasons as well that suggest same-sex marriages should be recognized. From a legal point of view, Andryszewsk (2008) writes that there are many benefits to marriage such as “spousal health insurance, shared retirement benefits, tax advantages, various inheritance rights, and family rates on everything from swimming pool passes to auto insurance” (p. 8).
These are not insignificant issues as they demonstrate the tremendous financial advantages of marriage and thus consequently the disadvantages of being denied the opportunity to be married. This constitutes a clear example of discrimination. Gay people are not asking for special treatment, only that they be allowed to enjoy the same advantages as everyone else. While some might argue that a “civil union” might represent a compromise on the issue because they allow for gay people to enjoy the same legal advantages of straight people without causing the harm to marriage which many argue would be the result of same-sex unions, the United States has a long negative history pertaining to anything that is “separate but equal”. Much as the idea contributed to racism against black people so too are civil unions discriminatory against homosexuals. Looking at the issue this way is valuable because it demonstrates that same-sex marriage is not just a legal right but a civil right.
As Andryszewski (2008) writes, there is more to the issue of same-sex marriage than simply the fact of getting married. During the early days of the gay-rights movement many homosexuals expressed themselves according to a “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” ethos where straight society was challenged to accept something new and different. In time, however, the movement changed to one where homosexuals focused less on being different and more on being the same in order to gain acceptance. To this end, gay rights activists began to focus on two issues: gays in the military and sex-sex marriage.
It is no coincidence that these two issues, marriage and the military, are two of the most popular among conservatives who are often the most likely to be anti-gay. It demonstrated that the interest of gay and straight people are one in the same. There is evidence as well that same-sex marriages are good for straight people. According to Eskridge and Spedale (2006), evidence from Scandinavia indicates that men and women in same-sex unions are as loving, committed and faithful as those in traditional marriages. There is no evidence that same sex-marriages have the potential to lead to child marriages or anything else which opponents may be wary of. Many same-sex couples in Scandinavian countries are raising children and there is no evidence whatsoever that they are doing any better or worse of a job than their heterosexual counterparts. What is more, same-sex marriage provides the same stability and economic benefits as opposite-sex marriages. Married gay people for example have higher incomes than single people and are more likely to contribute to the economy by making big ticket purchases like buying a house instead of renting.
Con: Why Gay Marriage Should Not be Recognized.
One of the most influential arguments against gay marriage is that it is contrary to religious beliefs and values. The basis for this claim, according to Sullivan (2004), is the King James Bible. In particular, Leviticus 20 reads “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them”. In this sense the Bible could not be more clear. Not only is homosexuality a sin but it is an abomination. Thus, any policy which serves to reinforce the practice of homosexuality must itself be an abominable sin. On the other hand, the Bible is equally clear that heterosexual relationships are blessed. In Genesis, God puts Adam into a deep sleep, removes one of his ribs, and makes Eve. She is called “woman” because she is of man. In this sense, men and women are of the same flesh and therefore a union between them is natural in accordance to God’s wishes. There are many other instances in the Bible where heterosexual unions are discussed approvingly but the Bible is clear in its case against homosexuality. Due in part to these Biblical passages, Sullivan (2004) writes that the Roman Catholic Church, one of the most powerful traditional organizations in the United States, considers marriage to be an exclusive, faithful union between one man and one woman joined together in a permanent union. It is intended as something to strengthen each individual such that together the couple is greater than the sum of its parts. Sullivan (2004) notes that there are practical purposes for considering marriage to be exclusively a union between a man and woman as well, noting “By reason of its very nature, therefore, marriage exists for the mutual love and support of the spouses and for the procreation and education of children” (p. 52). There are few greater advantages for children, the author argues, than growing up in a family with one mother and one father. Marriage provides structure and predictability for children because it ensures they will be raised by two parents.
What is more, having one male parent and one female parent will allow children to benefit from a broader range of perspectives. By having both male and female parental influences there is a greater likelihood that a given child will grow up well rounded. As a society, this is of crucial importance because it means such children are more likely to grow up and contribute to society as opposed to detracting from it. The problem with gay marriage is that it poses a threat to this incredibly important institution. As Sullivan (2004) notes, “At a time when family life is under significant stress, the principled defense of marriage is an urgent necessity for the wellbeing of children and families and the common good of society” (p. 53). This is not to say, the author notes, that gay people are not deserving of love and respect. However, this fact must be balanced against the reality that same-sex unions cannot provide the unique and dynamic environment that exists in the case of heterosexual relationships. A related risk posed by same sex marriage is that it threatens to turn marriage into a contractual agreement performed for legal and technical reasons thereby stripping the institution of its tradition and historical context. In today’s every changing modern world, the importance of traditions can be lost and with them the moral foundations upon which society is based. This makes marriage perhaps more important than ever and means that any alterations to its meaning should be undertaken with great case. Another argument against gay marriage is the slippery slope argument, that if gay marriage is accepted than this could lead to further dissolution of the institution of marriage. As Kennedy and Newcombe (2004) write, “If two men can get married, what about three or five? That is called polyamory, and many loves and group marriage and all such things as this are already in the wings are waiting to be filed in our courts” (p. 23). It stands to reason that if someone is trying to have something like this accepted by the courts they will use the fact gay marriage is allowed as part of their argument.
This would moreover cause immense social upheaval which could threaten the entire social fabric of the nation. Finally, there is some question as to what the real goal of homosexuals is in terms of why they want the right to be married. As Kennedy and Newcombe (2004) write, homosexuals tend to be more promiscuous than heterosexuals and not naturally suited to a monogamous relationship where “till death do us part”. Thus, Kennedy and Newcombe (2004) argue “They are seeking the legal recognition and approval of their lifestyle. That is the goal. Same sex marriage is a tool to help further the goal of total acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle” (p. 28). The problem here is that marriage is essentially being high jacked to promote something that has nothing to do with the real purposes of marriage which have been discussed above.
My Position: Gay Marriage Will be Recognized Sooner or Later, Though I do not personally approve of homosexuality I nevertheless believe that, homosexuality is not a disease, it is how some people are born. Thus, taking away their identities and rights as humans and as US citizens is against the law in the US. Moreover, the right to marry is a civil right and that to deny people the right to marry is discriminatory. I believe that throughout America’s history, disadvantaged groups have had to fight for their rights and all along the way there have been those who fought against them. Looking back, I could not imagine being one of the people arguing against for example desegregated schools and I feel as if history will look back at people who oppose same-sex marriages today with equal levels of disdain. People are scared of change and rightly so but the fact of the matter is that the world has changed a great deal over the past few decades and it is important that our institutions evolve with the times. My position is based in part on how weak I feel that the arguments against same-sex marriage are. For instance, I do not believe that the fact homosexuality is considered a sin in the most of the religions should have any impact on whether or not gay people are allowed to marry. Personally, I believe in the Bible and Quran, and what they say but that is my belief and my opinion. I respect the fact that I am allowed to practice my religious beliefs, as a foreigner, without prejudice in the United States and I also respect the right of other people to not agree with me. If homosexuality is
a sin then let God be the judge, not the conservative right. The argument against same-sex marriage is also weak because it is hypocritical. I agree that marriage is a crucial tradition and an important way to promote social stability so why not make it so as many people can get married as possible? This is especially true during these difficult economic times when people need to pool their money if they want to be able to afford things like houses and cars. If families make our economy stronger then we should do whatever it takes to allow people to become families, not based on their religious, sexual, racial and political views, but based on the fact that they are humans and they have rights that they should not be banned from. Finally, I believe that same sex marriages will be legal in the US sooner or later, since it is a civil right according to the fourteenth amendment of the constitution of the US. The arguments against it are weak, and are all based on personal perspectives and religious values, and not written in any legal document or constitution. It is just a matter of time that Americans will start accepting gays, just like how they accepted black people, educated women and the rest of the minorities that fought for their rights.
Andryszewski, T. (2008). Same-Sex Marriage: Moral Wrong or Civil Right? Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books.
Eskridge, W. and Spedale, D. (2006). Gay Marriage: For Better or Worse. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kennedy, D.J and Newcombe, J. (2004). What’s Wrong With Same-Sex Marriage? Wheaton: Good News Publishers.
Rauch, J. (2005) Gay Marriage: Why It is Good for Gays, Good for Straights. New York: Macmillan.
Sullivan, A. (2004). Same Sex Marriage: Pro and Con. New York: Random House.