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While marriage has traditionally been prescribed as a union between heterosexuals, there has been a shift towards giving marriage rights to homosexual couples. This change has been brought about by the prevalence of homosexuality in the society and the widespread acceptance of gay relationships.
While until recently homosexuality was looked upon as vile and even criminalized by some governments, the 1960s saw a change in trend that saw many states making laws that decriminalized same-sex conduct and abolished discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (Volokh 106).
Riding on this momentum, gay activists all over the country have been calling for the legalizing of gay marriages all through the country. This legalization would ensure that gay couples were afforded the same rights and benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.
Despite this advocacy, the ultimate goal of gay marriages legalization remains unachieved. This paper will set out to argue that gay marriages should be legalized. The paper shall outline various arguments to demonstrate that same-sex marriages should be legitimized. The major oppositions presented by anti-gay right activists will also be highlighted to give a balanced view on the topic.
A case for Gay Marriages
The denial of marriage rights to the gay hinders their mental health and well-being. The American Psychological Association has issued statements that demonstrate that harmful mental health effects result from the discrimination that lesbians and gay men face (Herdt and Kertzner 11).
This is a notion that is corroborated by Culhane who states that marriage would result in reduction in the stress associated with the social exclusion and legal uncertainty that same-sex couples currently face (491).
As it currently stands, gay couples lack the social support system to help cope with the stress that comes about from the discrimination that they face. Legalizing gay marriages would reverse this situation therefore improving the wellbeing of the gay community.
A research on the effects of civil partnership status in Great Britain demonstrated that the partnerships resulted in better health outcomes for the couples inasmuch as stable same-sex relationships lead to better health (Culhane 491).
Marriage is a benefit not only to the two people being joined by the union but to the society as well. This is true for both heterosexual and same-sex couple marriages. By refusing to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages, the individual as well as the society is affected.
Giving same-sex couples same marriage rights as heterosexual couples would enjoy them to enjoy the benefits that are inherent in the marriage institute (Peplau and Fingerhut 407). In particular, same-sex couples would benefit greatly from the income and wealth benefits that are realized from marriage since marital status enjoys substantial legal and financial privileges.
The lack of legal recognition of gay marriages as a denial of the gay person’s right to enjoy a fulfilling life with his/her partner. This is because marriage is an institute that is fundamentally built on love and the need for companionship by the two parties involved.
Research by Peplau and Fingerhut on love and satisfaction in same-sex relationships found that there were striking similarities in the reports of love and satisfaction between same-sex and heterosexual couples. Gay activists suggest that the only difference between same sex and opposite-sex couples is the procreation ability of opposite-sex couples.
Since procreation is never the basis of legal marriage, gays should not be denied marriage since they union is not unlike that of heterosexual couples. Culhane states that the marital status would reduce the outsider status currently given to gay couples therefore allowing them to enjoy the benefits that heterosexual couples accrue from marriage (491).
Past views about gay unions were based on the misconception that being gay is inherently evil and detrimental to the society. This traditional view has undergone radical changes ever as the society has evolved.
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Feldblum proposes that the world is changing significantly and as such, the principles which guide our society should also change towards a system whereby liberty for all is guaranteed (6).
Feldblum contends that since homosexuality has become acceptable and is not viewed as being harmful to the society’s moral fiber, gay people should be afforded the same rights as heterosexuals (10). To reinforce his assertion, he reveals that according to surveys only 40% of the people object to legal recognition for same-sex couple (11).
This is an important assertion since legal recognition of same sex marriages is mostly objected to on the basis that the general public is against such establishments. Duncan notes that there has been a clear change in public opinion related to sexual behavior and the law should reflect the reality of how people are living (647).
Refusing gay couples the right to marriage is tantamount to unjustified discrimination and as a nation founded on the grounds of democracy and equal rights for all, the United States of America should not engage in this discriminatory behavior.
While the government is adamant that it protects all citizens equally in spite of their sexual orientation, this is not the reality since gay couples continue to be deprived of right to live together in consensual relationships (Volokh 106).
Feldblum agrees with this view by observing that while the government purports to be neutral in the “gay marriage debate”, it in essence takes a stance on the moral question every time it fails to take action to ensure that gay people can life openly and safely from harassment.
The stigma that is attached to same-sex relationships has an adverse effect on the children of same-sex couples. Clarke reveals that there is discrimination against same-sex parents in schools where their homosexuality is perceived as a threat to the education of children (556).
This has a negative effect on both the parents and the children who are stigmatized as a result of their parent’s sexual orientation.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court declared that exclusion from marriage affected the children of same-sex couples in that they were prevented from “enjoying the immeasurable advantages that flow from the assurance of a stable family structure in which children will be reared, educated, and socialized” (Culhane 492).
Legitimizing the same-sex unions through marriage would in essence lift this stigma therefore stopping the unnecessary suffering that children are forced to undergo by denying their parents the right to marry
Denial of the right to marriage by same-sex couples has resulted mostly from the religious undertones that surround the marriage institute.
The imposition of the religious definition of marriage on the larger society is what makes it difficult for many Americans to agree on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Wilson articulates that “opposition to homosexuality and gay rights is derived primarily from religious beliefs” (564).
This assertion is reinforced by statistics which indicate that the most commonly cited reason for opposing same-sex marriages is that it goes against one’s own religious beliefs. The Christian religion is especially vocal in its opposition to gay marriages and goes ahead to label homosexuality as “unnatural” and lesbian and gay parenting as sinful and a perversion of god’s plan for the human race.
From this perspective, protecting lesbian and gay rights is seen as undermining religion (Clarke 559). Religious beliefs should not drive public policy and as such, same-sex marriage should not be prohibited because it goes against the religious beliefs of certain people.
Wilson rightfully reveals that the Christian precept that one-man, one-woman marriage as “ordained by God” results in the superiority of heterosexual relationships and the subsequent inferior status of same-sex unions (565). This is wrong since the American constitution does not allow for any faith to impose its religious beliefs on others.
Objections and Counterarguments
One of the objections raised by opponents of gay marriages is that recognizing these marriages would compromise the institute of marriage. To support this claim, opponents assert that gay rights advocate see gay marriage as a step towards the abolition of the marriage institute as they seek to reorder society’s view of the family.
Crawford goes so far as to claim that gay couples are only encouraged to marry so as to undermine the significance of the marriage institute in our society (244). While it is true that gay couples are encouraged to marry, the aim is not to undermine marriage but rather to reinforce the need for legalizing gay marriages.
The claim that gay activists are seeking to abolish the marriage institute is false since in reality, the gay community wants to be able to enjoy the privileges that heterosexual couples enjoy as a result of the marriage institute.
Duncan suggests that the ideal of marriage is “inextricably linked to the reality that men and women become mothers and fathers as a natural result of their relationship” (661).
Gay marriages would by extension endorse fatherless or motherless homes since the gay couples cannot have children in the natural way. In the event that the gay couple had children through some other means, the same-sex couple headed family would compromise the roles of father and mother.
The argument about role models is based on the assumption that lesbians and gay men have a faulty gender identity and therefore lack the ability to successfully rear their children. Research indicates that lesbians and gay men do not have any faulty gender identity and raise children in the same manner as their heterosexual counterparts.
Another issue raised by opponents of gay marriages is that it negatively affects children. This argument is best articulated by Clarke who states that according to critics of same-sex marriages, “Children in lesbian and gay families grow up gay and confused” (564).
According to this argument, being brought about by same-sex parents increases the likelihood that children will end up being gay or at least confused about their sexual identity.
Opponents who use this line of argument propose to be concerned about the welfare of children. This argument is based on the false premise that gay parents might produce gay children; or at least pressure their children into a same-sex sexual orientation.
The argument assumes that gay people actively seek children to recruit into their ranks. As a matter of fact, heterosexuality is the sexual identity that is actively imposed on children. Gay couples do not impose their values on their children and in the event that their children became gay, it should not be an issue unless the society is uncomfortable with the prospect of more gays.
In addition to this, research overwhelmingly indicates that gay and lesbian parents do not directly affect their children’s gender development and as such, there is little difference between the gender role behavior of children brought up by heterosexual and gay parents.
In the past half century, gay relationships have moved from being perceived as inherently evil to wide acceptability. Even so, debate still rages about same-sex marriages and despite the increasing visibility of same-sex couples, marriage rights remain unattained for many.
This paper set out to demonstrate that legalizing gay marriages universally would result in great benefits to the individuals and society at large.
From this paper, it is clear that denying same-sex couples the right to marriage negatively affects their wellbeing as well as their mental health. This discrimination also results in the stigmatization that same-sex couples continue to face. The paper has also shown that arguments that suggest that gay parents may negatively affect their children’s development are flawed.
This paper has shown that the only difference between same sex and opposite-sex couples is the procreation ability of opposite-sex couples and this should never be grounds for discrimination. From this paper, it can be authoritatively stated that the denial of marriage rights for same-sex couples is unjustifiable and as such, the government should overturn this discriminative policy.
Clarke, Victoria. “What about the children? Arguments against lesbian and gay parenting”. Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol. 24, No. 5, pp. 555–570, 2001.
Crawford, David. Liberal Androgyny: “Gay Marriage” and the Meaning of Sexuality in our Time. Communio: International Catholic Review, 2006.
Culhane, John. Marriage equality? First, justify marriage (if you can). Drexel University Law Review, Vol. 1:485, 2009.
Duncan, William. The Litigation to Redefine Marriage: Equality and Social Meaning. Journal Of Public Law, Volume 18 pp. 623-663.
Feldblum, Chai, Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion. Jan 2006. Web.
Herdt, Gilbert and Kertzner, Robert. “I Do, but I Can’t: The Impact of Marriage Denial on the Mental Health and Sexual Citizenship of Lesbians and Gay Men in the United States; Sexuality Research and Social Policy”. Journal of NSRC, Vol. 3, Issue 1, pp. 33-49.
Peplau, Letitia and Fingerhut, Adam. The Close Relationships of Lesbians and Gay Men. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 58:405–24, 2007.
Volokh, Eugene. Same-Sex Marriage and Slippery Slopes. Hofstra Law Review, Vol 33. http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/marriage.pdf
Wilson, Justin. “Preservationism, or the elephant in the room: how opponents of same-sex marriage deceive us into establishing religion”. Duke Journal Of Gender Law & Policy Volume 14:561 2007.