History: Key Legislation
Gay and lesbian advocacy groups began mobilizing as early as the 1970s (Dautrich and Yalof 111). The goal of the advocacy groups was to achieve equality in same-sex marriage issues. In 1973, homosexuals Jack Baker and Michael McConnell failed to acquire a marriage license in Minnesota (Dautrich and Yalof 111). In the same year, Maryland became the first state to ban same-sex marriage (Dautrich and Yalof 111).
Before the turn of the 21st century, 44 states followed the example set by Maryland. A critical moment came when the Democratic Party, turned its back on gay and lesbian groups. The Democratic Party refused to include same-sex marriage reforms in its platform (Dautrich and Yalof 111). The knockout blow came in 1996 when former president Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (Cott 218). The law clarified the meaning of marriage, and it explicitly defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman (Cott 218). Furthermore, the Defense of Marriage Act made it impossible for gay couples to acquire the same rights and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual couples under the Federal government.
The tide began to turn, however, in 1999 when Vermont created a legal mechanism that will provide rights and privileges to gay couples. The legal mechanism was called “civil union” (Cott 218). It enabled same-sex couples to have access to the same rights and benefits that ordinary couples acquire when they marry (Cott 218). Nevertheless, strong opposition compelled the state legislature to enact a law that reserved marriage to one man and one woman (Cott 218). It was a major setback for gay and lesbian advocates, but in 2004 Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage (Dautrich and Yalof 111). After a few years, at least 17 states followed the example set by the State of Massachusetts (Dautrich and Yalof 111). In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (Dautrich and Yalof 111).
Arguments: Pro and Con
Those who oppose same sex-marriage focus their attention on four themes: 1) same-sex marriage is contrary to custom, tradition, or nature; 2) it is a distortion of the true meaning or essence of marriage; 3) it is wrong because homosexuality is wrong; and 4) same-sex marriage is harmful to society as a whole (Vaughn 455). Proponents of same-sex marriage concentrate their defense strategy on the following arguments: 1) permitting same-sex marriage is a matter of justice, which demands equal treatment and equal opportunity for all; and 2) allowing it would be beneficial both to homosexuals and society as a whole (Vaughn 455).
The argument against same sex-marriage boils down to sexual immorality and its negative impact on the institution of marriage. They oppose same-sex marriage, because at the core of gay marriage is homosexuality. They also believe that same-sex marriage is a radical departure from the traditional design of marriage.
Marriage is comprised of religious and legal elements. However, at its core it is divine and mystical at the same time. The law about marriage was a latter invention. It was a necessary invention when people fell in love and decided to stay together. The legal framework came afterwards to sort things out. It can be argued that marriage is a spiritual and physical union of man and woman. In the beginning, marriage was a creation of the Church. Therefore, the Church has the right to oppose same-sex marriage.
When it comes to the debate on same-sex marriage, there are those who contend that it must not be permitted on the basis of religious grounds. If they are citizens of a democratic country founded on a constitution similar to that of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and Sweden, they have no right to use that argument. They cannot use religion to abolish or prevent same sex marriage, because their government was founded on the idea that there is a separation of Church and State. This means that the Church has no legal power to impose its rules and ideas on the State. Therefore, the State has the power to create its own version of marriage, one that is purely legal and does not consider the religious origins of marriage. In this context, the debate concerning same-sex marriage ends. Thus, legal magistrates are compelled to legalize gay marriage.
At first glance, the separation of Church and State seems to devalue the role of religion on civilized societies. Nothing is farther from the truth; the rule simply limits the power of the Church. Nevertheless, it does not mean that the ideas of the Church are all outdated and irrelevant. In the context of marriage, the Church has a lot of important things to say about this sacred institution. The Church’s stance against same-sex marriage is easy to defend. However, the Church has no power to stop same-sex marriage. From the point of view of the American legal system, the Church cannot overstep the imaginary boundaries established by the framers of the U.S. Constitution.
Same-sex marriage will gain acceptance in many sectors of society. In the near future the Federal government will be forced to allow same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians will receive Federal benefits, and they will enjoy the same privileges as other married couples. Lawmakers and policy makers will have no choice but to legalize same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court will eventually rule in favor of gays and lesbians, because the U.S. legal system does not discriminate in terms of sexual orientation. However, same-sex marriage must be opposed using non-legal means. People must oppose same-sex marriage in the court of public opinion. People must oppose the radical alteration of a sacred institution. People must gather support in a campaign against same-sex marriage.
Anti-gay marriage advocates must persuade people concerning the serious implications of gay marriage. They State must not empower them to have child through artificial means or legal adoption. The best compromise is to utilize the legal mechanism developed by Vermont, wherein gay couples have rights under a “civil union” framework. The best application of the “civil union” framework is to honor the rights and privileges of gay couples when it comes to property and finances. However, they cannot have the right to bear children through artificial insemination or through adoption.
The United States is split in the middle when it comes to this issue. Nevertheless, only a handful of states allow same-sex couples to acquire marriage licenses (Corvino and Gallagher 1). It can be argued that there are more Americans who are opposed to same-sex marriage. It must be pointed out that a significant number of state legislators attempted to legalize same-sex marriage; however, these legislators were compelled to change their decision when citizens voted to amend their state constitutions to prohibit gay marriages (Corvino and Gallagher 1). At least 24 states discovered its citizens preference to reject same-sex marriage, and this discovery was made when the issue was decided using the popular vote (Corvino and Gallagher 1).
Objections and Counter-Arguments
Those who oppose same-sex marriage highlights three key terms: custom, tradition, and nature. Homosexuality is seen as unnatural. Two gay men will never have the capacity to bear children, and therefore this lifestyle must not be tolerated in a civilized society. They also point out the fact that custom and tradition adheres to the ideal that marriage is the union of male and female.
Homosexuality is immoral; therefore, same-sex marriage must not be allowed to continue. It is an affront to God and his Church. Thus, the consequences of allowing same-sex marriage would be harmful to society as a whole (Vaughn 455). Sexual intercourse with men for instance is an unnatural process. Therefore, homosexuals characterized as men who have sex with men (“MSM”) are more likely to acquire sexually transmitted disease as compared to heterosexual couples (Beyrer 5).
In 2012 alone, homosexuals accounted for 75% of primary and secondary STD cases in the United States (Beyrer 5). Homosexual men engaging in MSM are 17 times more likely to suffer from anal cancer as compared to heterosexual men (Beyrer 5). A significant number of STDs are transferred through blood. Homosexuals engage in anal sex, and since this is not a natural way to enjoy sexual intercourse, there is a greater tendency for sexual organs to get lacerations. Small lacerations in sexual organs provide the opportunity for the transfer of blood between homosexual partners.
Although the high incidence of STDs among homosexual men is a valid argument regarding the unnatural union between same-sex couples, the greater issue concerns the right to have children through artificial insemination, surrogate parents, and legal adoption. Gays and lesbians comprise only a small percentage of the population. Therefore, the majority of children adopted or born into the homes of homosexual couples are heterosexuals in terms of their sexual orientation. They deserve to be or they prefer to live in a family wherein they can enjoy the nurture and protection of a father and mother.
Advocates of same-sex marriage will argue that the U.S. constitution gives them the freedom to do what they want. They are not bound to any religious dogma or belief system that curtails their sexual preferences. Many of them will argue that the Bible is a religious book, and therefore, it must not form the opinion of the participants in the debate concerning same-sex marriage.
Advocates of same-sex marriage will point out case studies and success stories of gay couples who were able to raise well-adjusted children (Wolfson 85). Thus, they must have the same rights as heterosexual couples. If they are not allowed to have children, then, they are victims of discrimination. It is an offense that the U.S. constitution wants to rectify. They will also reason out that allowing same-sex marriage would be beneficial both to homosexuals and society as a whole (Vaughn 455).
Response to Objections and Counter-Arguments
Anti-gay marriage advocates will point out that gay couples are guilty of selective discrimination when it comes to religious beliefs. For example, they will not accept the Bible’s definition of marriage as the union of male and female. However, they are in agreement when it comes to Biblical principles that support their belief system. For example, the Bible espouses fidelity in marriage. The Bible talks about harmony between married couples. Gay couples believe in these things, however, they employ a selective acceptance of the Word of God. This mindset is borne out of selfishness. Homosexuals think about the things that are beneficial to them. However, they give little consideration to the consequences of their actions, especially those that could bring irreparable harm to society.
Same-sex marriage advocates will bring out their strongest argument in favor of gay marriage rights. They will make the counter-argument that permitting same-sex marriage is a matter of justice, which demands equal treatment and equal opportunity for all (Vaughn 455). The law does not discriminate against homosexuals.
American citizens swore an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and laws of the United States of America. Therefore, the U.S. Constitution is the ultimate arbiter when it comes to divisive issues like same-sex marriage. The U.S. Constitution does not discriminate against homosexuals. At the same time, the U.S. Constitution commands the separation of State and Church. The combined statements on equality, justice, and the separation of State and Church nullify the arguments made by anti-gay marriage advocates. Sooner or later, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule that there can be no law that prohibits the marriage of gays and lesbians.
However, the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit the expression of the sentiments and opinions of anti-gay marriage advocates. They have the right to persuade American citizens and the rest of the world that gay couples cannot provide an environment that will satisfy the needs of children who will grow up as heterosexuals. At this point in time, the laws of the land do not allow the union of homosexual couples. Therefore, there is not enough research data that will show the ill-effects of growing up in a family with two female or two male parents. When it comes to child rearing, children require a nurturing environment created by a father and a mother.
Beyrer, Chris. The Global HIV Epidemics: Men Who Have Sex with Men. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2011. Print.
Corvino, John and Maggie Gallagher. Debating Same-Sex Marriage. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.
Cott, Nancy. Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation. MA: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.
Dautrich, Kenneth and David Yalof. The Enduring Democracy. CA: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.
Vaughn, Lewis. Doing Ethics: Moral and Contemporary Issues. 3Rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013. Print.
Wolfson, Evan. Why Marriage Matters. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Print.