In the United States, married couples receive many legal benefits that couples who live together but are unmarried do not. More and more, gay couples are insisting that they receive the same legal rights that traditional, heterosexual married couples receive. Gay rights advocates believe that it is inequitable and biased to refuse to give certain privileges to any couple, gay or not. For example, marriage enables spouses to receive insurance through their partners’ employers. They are also allowed many other rights such as the ability to make decisions for their partner who is being hospitalized, the right to sue on their partner’s behalf and cannot be forced to testify against their partner in court. Married couples also pay less in taxes and many other social and financial benefits, but because gay couples are legally prevented from marrying, they are excluded from receiving the same considerations that married heterosexual couples enjoy. However, fierce public and congressional opposition to gay marriage has built legal barriers which prevent homosexuals from marrying.
Marriage is not simply a contract, it is a social bond cemented by various expectations celebrated with gestures and rituals. Extending this cultural phenomenon to gay couples would strengthen their bond which could only strengthen the traditional union. “When homosexual couples can legally commit to each other for a lifetime, they, too, will be able to say to each other, ‘If you really care about me, as opposed to just wanting to have sex with me, you’ll marry me’” (Rauch, 2001). Most probably, the majority of gay men want a committed relationship for much the same reasons straight men do. Without marriage as an option, homosexual couples are subject to less stable relationships which heighten the possibility of promiscuity within the gay community which is what those opposed to the idea claim to fear in the first place (Eagle, 2006). With the fallacies of the arguments presented so clear, it becomes equally clear that the concept of gay marriage is repugnant to those in opposition for religious reasons, not for practical or social concerns. It would seem the government, therefore, should not be involved in the legislation barring gay marriage.
Those opposed to gay marriage believe that these relationships do not serve the best interest of the state. Since individuals involved in a same sex relationship cannot bear children that would ultimately add to the tax base of a community, there is no incentive for the state to recognize their union and provide them the benefits of marriage, an expensive burden to the state (Kolasinksi, 2004). Advocates of gay marriage have not been able to show what financial benefit their marriage would be to the state. “If sexual love alone becomes the primary purpose of marriage rather than procreation, the restriction of marriage to couples loses its logical basis, leading to marital chaos” (Kolasinksi, 2004). Marriage laws, established by the state, ensure that the couples who do get the benefits of marriage are those who benefit the state by having children.
Those that oppose gay marriage also have yet to provide evidence that children of gay couples whether biological or adopted are harmed by this living arrangement. Some have expressed fears that these children will be more likely to become homosexuals suggesting that it would be appalling if that were the situation (Sullivan & Baques, 1999). In today’s world, the fact is that most children do not live in ‘Leave it to Beaver’ type households with a housewife and a father who works at the office from nine to five. 25 percent of children are born out-of-wedlock to single women who are predominately young and impoverished according to Bureau of Census statistics (Sullivan & Baques, 1999). Half of all marriages end in divorce and ‘traditional’ married couples with children comprise just 26 percent of U.S. families. “It is unrealistic to pretend that children can only be successfully reared in an idealized concept of family, the product of nostalgia for a time long past” (“Social Norms”, 1999).
Gay couples exhibit similar family and societal values as those of the traditional couple while engaged in the activities of their daily lives (Sullivan & Baques, 1999). Other than the fact that both members of one couple is of the same sex and the other is not, the neighbors would notice no difference. They cherish and are involved in family life, abide by the law and are committed to making their communities a better place for all to live. The legalization of gay marriage benefits society because the very obligations of a marriage itself discourage promiscuous sex which carries the advantage of decelerating the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the costs associated with the treatment of these diseases. Marriage also encourages a family-type atmosphere in the house, neighborhood and community.
Unfavorable polling numbers have Republicans trying to rally their base by showing public support for this emotional issue. This strategy worked for President Bush in the 2004 election and those trying to keep their jobs on the Hill have learned well from him. The Republican tactic was to put gay-marriage bans on the ballot in each state so as to get more conservative voters to the polls. In Ohio, the key state in Bush’s victory, this strategy worked by drawing more voters to the polls (Tucker, 2006). This was done even though the ban was entirely unnecessary because gay marriage was already banned by state law. Opponents of gay marriage claim that legalizing it will serve to endorse homosexuality however; it has been proven by studies that the number of gay people will hardly change in either direction simply because of legislation (Tucker, 2006). Recently, the Senate rejected a Constitutional amendment that specifically banned gay marriage by a 49-48 vote (Tucker, 2006). It was not expected to pass and would have certainly died in the House of Representatives. The vote actually had nothing to do with amending the Constitution. The proceedings were for purely political purposes (Tucker, 2006). Republican Senator John McCain voted against the amendment, as did other Republicans. They evidently thought that it wasn’t obligatory to pander to their conservative constituents. “Perhaps Sen. McCain could ignite the middle enough to really make a change in 2008. If nothing else, that might get both the Democrats and Republicans off their pandering to the extremes and start paying attention to the majority of us” (Tucker, 2006). According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, about 60 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage. However, the same poll found that 53 percent were against a constitutional amendment outlawing the lawful acknowledgment of same-sex unions (“Civil Unions”, 2004).
Many believe that being gay is a choice and individuals should choose to be heterosexual for the reasons previously discussed and base their opposition on this assumption. Of course they have no answer when asked when they made their choice of which sex to be attracted to. Very few people make the choice of the gay lifestyle and why would they? Who would choose to be constantly ridiculed and discriminated against? In addition, the conservative, right-wing propaganda proposes that homosexuality only concerns the act of sexual intercourse and believe it to be a perversion. Homosexuality is multi-faceted involving true love and affection, indicating it is not just about sex, much the same as the traditional relationship. It’s past time that being gay means being considered a second-class citizen by society and by the laws of the land. All citizens of the U.S. should expect to be treated with respect and equality. This remains the goal but the fact is, it should already be a reality.
“Civil Unions for Gays Favored, Polls Show.” (2004). MSNBC. 2008. Web.
Eagle, Jeremy. “Same-Sex Partnerships 2006.” Facts on File News Service.
Kolasinksi, Adam. (2004). “The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage.” The Tech. Vol. 124, N. 5. 2008. Web.
Rauch, Jonathan. (2001). “Give Federalism a Chance: The Case for Same-Sex Marriage.” National Review Online. 2008. Web.
“Social Norms and Judicial Decision-making: Examining the Role of Narratives in Same-Sex Adoption Cases.” (1999). Columbia Law Review. Lexis-Nexis. 2008. Web.
Sullivan, T. Richard & Baques, Albert. (1999). “Familism and the Adoption Option for Gay and Lesbian Parents.” Queer Families, Common Agendas. New York: Haworth Press, pp. 80-82.
Tucker, Brian. (2006). “Constitutional Amendments to Ban Gay Marriage.” Crain’s Cleveland Business. Vol. 27, I. 24.