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The same-sex marriage debate has over the past decade evoked diverse comment and political turmoil as people argue both for and against it. This uproar has emerged since making gay marriages legal would require constitutional amendments that would redefine marriage.
Marriage is traditionally understood to exclusively mean the union between two members of the opposite sex in a ceremony that is recognized by both the political and religious organs of our country. However, the past decades have witnessed a rise in calls for a definition of marriage that includes same-sex couples.
These calls have been propelled by the fact that gay relationships are experiencing a high level of acceptance today and the society no longer views homosexuality as inherently evil. In spite of this, there is still a lot of opposition to legalizing gay marriages and in many states, gay marriages are not recognized.
Before the twenty-first century, no nation had ever legalized same-sex marriage but this situation changed from 1989 when some European nations created civil unions and since 2001, same-sex marriages have become a reality in some countries. This paper will argue that it is unfair for gays and lesbians to be denied the right to marry and as such, there should be a constitutional amendment that allows them to legally marry.
Why Gays should be allowed to Marry
Advocates of same-sex marriage demonstrate that since the primary goal of marriage is to give social recognition to two people who have an intimate relationship, exclusion of same-sex couples is tantamount to discrimination. This discrimination makes it impossible for same-sex couples to enjoy a fulfilling life with their partners.
Peplau and Adam assert that the love and satisfaction that comes about from relationships is experienced by same-sex couples in the same manner that it is by heterosexual ones (405). The discriminatory laws that society once enacted against gays and lesbians were fueled by the belief that same-sex relationships were a threat to the moral fiber of the society.
Since these views are no longer held and people have come to appreciate the fact that same-sex couples can play significant positive roles in society, they should not be denied marriage. Volokh demonstrates that while the government is adamant in its policy against discrimination, same-sex couples continue to be discriminated against by being denied the right to enter into marriage (1157).
In addition to this, while the government insists that it does not take a stand against gay unions, it is reluctant to take proactive action to ensure that gay and lesbian couples live a life free from harassment by those who hold strong anti-gay sentiments.
Culhane asserts that giving same-sex couples a right to marry is a matter of simple fairness and equality (486). This country is built on the foundation of democracy and the rights of all marginalized people in the society are protected. Refusing to allow same-sex marriages is therefore discriminatory and this should not be allowed.
Legally recognizing same sex marriages will make it possible for gay and lesbian couples to enjoy the benefits that are inherent in marriage. In the present age, the primary driver for marriage is need for companionship and love by two consenting individuals. Marriage brings about some tangible benefits to the couple involved. This fact is true for both same-sex and different-sex couples.
Refusing to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages leads to such couples failing to enjoy the benefits that are inherent in the marriage institute. Peplau and Adam states that legalizing same-sex marriages would give homosexual couples a chance to enjoy benefits such as income and wealth accumulation (407).
Culhane elaborates that the income and prospects of accumulating wealth are better for married couples than for single or cohabitating couples (488). As it currently stands, this couples lack the facilities that are freely available to heterosexual partners.
The denial of marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples has adverse effects on their mental health and overall well being. The discrimination that gay and lesbian couples face leads to some harmful mental health effects. The uncertainty gay and lesbian couples face about their partner’s status also exacerbates the stress felt by same-sex couples.
If this couples were allowed to legally marry, the amount of stress and social exclusion that they currently would reduce significantly leading to better health prospects. This statement is corroborated by Culhane who notes that married couples suffer from not only fewer mental health problems but also fewer chronic physical problems than the unmarried or cohabiting couples (488).
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As such, unmarried same-sex couples do not have a social support system, which can be used to protect them against discrimination. Research indicates that same-sex couples who have been granted legal recognition, for example civil partnership status, enjoy better health status than those who are denied this (Culhane 491).
A constitutional amendment that allows gays and lesbians to legally marry would therefore be the best for the mental and physical health status of same-sex couples.
Children being raised by same-sex couple suffer emotionally because of the lack of legalization of same-sex marriages. Lack of legal recognition of same-sex relationships has led to stigma being attached to such relationships. Clarke demonstrates that this discrimination against parents has a negative impact on children and impacts their education (556).
Lack of same-sex marriage also means that children cannot enjoy the stable family structure that children of married heterosexual couples enjoy. Clarke notes that while there is increasing public support for increasing rights of gays and lesbians, few are willing to support same-sex families (555). Majority of the public continues to maintain the tradition that a family should be composed of a heterosexual couple and their children.
Making same-sex marriages legal would remove the stigma and therefore stop the suffering that the children of same-sex couples currently face. Marriage as an institution has been undergoing significant changes over the centuries.
For example, the status of the woman partner in the marriage has changed from one of being the inferior party in the union to being regarded as an equal to the man. These changes have not reduced the importance of marriage as a social institution.
Majority of people justify their opposition to same-sex marriage based on their religious beliefs. In particular, the Christian perspective is used to make arguments against homosexuality. From such a perspective, homosexuality and lesbianism is deemed as sinful since it is against religious views. Religious rhetoric presents lesbian and gay parenting as sinful and a deviation from God’s plan for mankind.
Volokh reveals that denial of marriage to same-sex couples is mostly as a result of the religious views held by many public officials and religious leaders (1165).
Considering the fact that the constitution on which the nation is founded states that no faith should impose its standards on the citizens, same-sex marriages should not be denied on a religious basis. Volokh elaborates that religious beliefs should not be the basis on which the laws of our country is built on since there are many religions and some have conflicting views on many subjects (1166).
Arguments against Gay marriages
Opponents of gay marriages argue that legalizing same sex unions will inevitably pave way for the legalization of other outlawed practices such as polygamy and polyandry.
This argument is best articulated by Kurtz who states that amendments to the constitution to include same-sex marriages will change the marriage institute from its current distinctive definition as a contract “solely between a man and a woman” to a union of undefined form (1).
It will also make sexual preferences become a protected class and since gays and lesbians will be afforded some protection, other groups such as those who wish to engage in incest or polygamy will also demand for the same protection.
Kurtz goes on further to suggest that should gays and lesbians be given protection, the same protection would be demanded by other classes of people such as pedophiles (1). While it is true that same-sex marriages will led to gays and lesbian being afforded some protection, it is an exaggeration to claim that other groups such as pedophiles and polygamists will
A major argument presented against allowing same sex couples to marry is that this will result in a breakdown of the marriage institute. Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that this would be detrimental for the entire society. Duncan forcefully asserts that a redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples will remove the social meanings and connection to children from marriage (662).
Legalizing same-sex marriages will erode the current status that marriage has in the society. Somerville argues that marriage is and has been “the institution that forms and upholds for society, the cultural and social values and symbols related to procreation” (3). Redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships would inevitably destroy this important cultural and social role of marriage.
This will invariably erode the legitimacy that marriage currently holds as a valuable unit in the society. While it is true that an amendment of the constitution to allow gays and lesbians to marry will necessitate the redefinition of marriage, this will not have major impact on marriage.
Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that such unions are detrimental to the development of children. This is based on the premise that children should ideally be brought up in a relationship where they have a mother and father.
While having children is not a prerequisite to being allowed to marry, advocates of heterosexual marriages assert that marriage is inextricably linked to the reality that men and women will become parents as a result of their union (Duncan 662). It is further argued that children fair better in an environment where they are raised by their birth parents in a marriage union.
Gay and lesbian couples who insist on bringing up children are therefore deemed as irresponsible and not putting the interests of the children first. Duncan who is an opponent of same-sex marriages quips that the sexual liberty interest of adults should not trump the interest of children who are the future of the society (663).
This argument is flawed since gay and lesbian couples are capable of providing good environments for children to grow in. As a matter of fact, same-sex couples who intend to have children invest more financially and emotionally to their children. Cahill explains that this is because such couples get children through artificial means or adoption; both of which are costly and time consuming (407).
Great foresight and planning is therefore mandatory for the same-sex couple which means that the future of the children is more guaranteed than for heterosexual couples where procreation often occurs naturally and with little foresight and planning.
Gay and lesbian relationships have gained significant acceptability in contemporary society. However, the issue of same-sex marriage continues to be divisive with many same-sex couples being denied the right to marry in many states. This paper set out to argue that there should be a constitutional amendment that allows gays and lesbians to legally marry.
The paper has argued that legalizing same-sex marriages would benefit gay and lesbian couples and also the society. This is because the current denial of the right to marry has had many negative impacts on same-sex couples. This paper has demonstrated that opposition to same-sex marriages is driven by religious believes and some unfounded fears of what these marriages would do to children and the marriage institute.
The paper has conclusively shown that same-sex marriages would not compromise the marriage institute or have an adverse impact on children. As such, all progress minded citizens should therefore endorse a constitutional amendment that allows gays and lesbians to legally marry.
Cahill, Megan. “The Genuine Article: A Subversive Economic Perspective on the Law’s Procreationist Vision of Marriage”. Wash. & Lee Law Review 64.2 (2007): 393-468. Web.
Clarke, Victoria. “What about the children? Arguments against lesbian and gay parenting”. Women’s Studies International Forum 24.5 (2001): 555–570. Web.
Culhane, John. “Marriage equality? First, justify marriage (if you can)”. Drexel University Law Review 1.2 (2009): 485-511. Web.
Duncan, William. “The Litigation to Redefine Marriage: Equality and Social Meaning”. Journal of Public Law 18.1 (2005): 623-663. Print.
Kurtz, Stanley. “Beyond Gay Marriage”. The Weekly Standard 8.45 (2003): 1-2. Web.
Peplau, Letitia and Adam Fingerhut. “The Close Relationships of Lesbians and Gay Men”. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 58.1(2007): 405–24. Web.
Somerville, Margaret. The case against ‘same-sex marriage’. Montreal, Quebec: McGill Center for Medicine, Ethics and Law, 2003. Print.
Volokh, Eugene. “Same-Sex Marriage and Slippery Slopes”. Hofstra Law Review 33.1 (2005): 1155–1201. Web.