Merriam-Webster Dictionary first defines marriage as the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law. Secondly, it defines marriage as an intimate or close union. In the United States of America, marriage is only recognized, and considered legal, if both parties are of opposite sex. Because both parties are of opposite sex, it is presumed that they are heterosexual. However, not everyone in the United States is heterosexual. Many people are homosexual, and also fall in love. Some of these people desperately want to profess this love by marrying their partner, and spending their lives together. “Backers of same-sex marriage claim that society should define family and marriage in terms of people who care deeply about one another rather than use restrictive and outdated definitions of what families ought to look like” (Gay Rights 45). Same-sex marriages should be legalized in the United States because it is the right thing.
Some of the reasons people give for not wanting to legalize same-sex marriages in the United States include, but are not limited to, the family style of same-sex couples, child rearing by same-sex couples, and religious beliefs. Hate is what keeps same-sex marriages illegal in the United States. Because gay and lesbian couples cannot marry, they do not have certain rights, which creates many legal issues. People in the United States could greatly benefit if same-sex marriages were legalized.
One argument against the legalization of same-sex marriages is the accepted definitions of parents and family. “Heterosexual marriage is a matter of genuine social interest because the family is essential to society’s reproduction” (Civil Rights, 48-9). If people do not reproduce, then there will not be a next generation. Many feel that because people of the same sex cannot produce children together, they are not a real family. “For some, the best reason to ban gays and lesbians from marriage stems from their objection to gays and lesbians raising children” (Gerstmann 27). This simply means that, although same-sex couples cannot biologically have children together, it is wrong for children to be raised by same-sex couples.
This is a weak argument. Many heterosexual couples are unable to conceive children on their own. Some of these couples turn to fertility treatments to aid in the conception, while others choose to adopt children to make their family more complete. This does not make these heterosexual couples lesser parents, as it does not make homosexual couples lesser parents. Many children today are raised in a single parent household, without the presence of the other parent. Children need parents who will love them and care for them, not necessarily parents of opposite sex. Furthermore, many heterosexual couples simply decide not to have children. Just because a couple is married, does not mean they must produce offspring. Not all couples desire children.
Another belief is that if gay or lesbian parents raise children, then the children will grow up having emotional, and social issues. According to Dr. Ellen C. Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston, “A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual” (594-5). Dr. Perrin also goes on to state “Children’s optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes” (595). Therefore, the issue of having and raising children should not be a reason to keep same-sex marriages illegal.
Religion also greatly affects the legalization of same-sex marriages. Religiously, homosexuality is believed to be a sin. In many religions, it is the belief that sex should be reserved for procreation only. It is considered a sin to have sex if children are not being produced. Because same-sex couples cannot produce children together, these relationships are considered wrong. “Pope John Paul II, the [former] leader of the world’s Roman Catholics, issued a letter on family values in February 1994 in which he called proposed same-sex matrimony ‘a serious threat to the future of the family and society’” (Gay Rights 50). In 2003, the Vatican said, “Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose” (Rauch 13). Catholicism is not the only religion opposed to same-sex marriages. Protestants believe that God created marriage for a husband and wife to show their love, to have children, and to protect each other from sexual sin, which is described as prostitution, masturbation, and homosexuality. Therefore, Protestants believe that marriage saves themselves and their spouse from the sexual sin of homosexuality.
Marriage laws today are based on traditions formed by religions, but are legalized by the laws of states’ governments. It is important for people to remember “…that legal marriage is a secular institution, that the separation of church and state requires us to distinguish God’s law from civil law, and that we must refrain from using law to impose one group’s religious precepts on the rest of society” (Rauch 164). Marriages from the biblical days are much different than today’s marriages. Many biblical leaders were polygamous and owned their wives. This is no longer allowed in the United States today. Furthermore, half of all marriages today end in divorce. Divorce is freely allowed today, but was “…something Jesus unequivocally condemned” (Rauch 13). Because marriage is a contractual agreement by each state, it should be viewed as such, and not as a religious issue.
Because gay and lesbian couples cannot marry, they are not entitled to some of the benefits that married couples have. Because same-sex marriages are not legal, many gays and lesbians are denied certain rights that many people may take for granted. “Some of the many rights denied gay and lesbian couples include the right to:
Visit a partner or partner’s child in a hospital
Inherit from a partner if she or he doesn’t leave a valid will
Obtain joint health, home, and auto insurance policies
Enter joint rental agreements
Make medical decisions on a partner’s behalf
Take bereavement or sick leave to care for a partner or a partner’s child
Choose a final resting place for a deceased partner
Get an equitable division of property in a divorce
Obtain wrongful death benefits for surviving partner and child
Have the right to determine child custody, visitation, and child support issues in a divorce
Have joint adoptive or foster care parenting rights
Have a spouse covered under Medicare and Social Security
File joint tax returns
Obtain veterans’ discounts on medical care, education and home loans
Sponsor spouse in applying for residency status for partners from foreign nations” (Civil Rights 34-5).
Not all heterosexual relationships end in marriage, but they have that option. Currently, in the United States, no same-sex relationship can result in marriage. Therefore, the above rights are denied to all gays and lesbians.
How can people be denied the right to care for a sick loved one, when they have been a couple for years, all because they cannot legally marry? This seems like cruel and unusual punishment. Just as with a heterosexual couple, if a same-sex couple chooses not to marry, then they would be foregoing the above rights. But gay and lesbian couples do not have a choice in the matter. They are forced by the states’ governments to stay unmarried and live without the possibility of benefits.
Supporters of keeping same-sex marriages illegal are trying to pass domestic partnership laws. Several larger cities, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Madison, offer these laws. Domestic partnership laws “…allow relationships that do not fit into the category of heterosexual marriage to be registered with the city and qualify for benefits that up till now have been reserved for straight married couples” (Sullivan 587). But domestic partnership laws are vague. To qualify, domestic partners “…have to prove financial interdependence, shared living arrangements, and a commitment to mutual caring” (Sullivan 587). This is simply unfair. An elderly mother, and her middle-aged son could qualify for domestic partnership, as could college buddies. Gay and lesbian couples should not have to move to particular cities, register with that city, and prove their love for one another just to receive benefits. They should be allowed to marry, and let that serve as proof enough, anywhere in the country.
Same-sex marriages could greatly benefit society. If same-sex marriages are legalized, and succeed, then the overall rate of failed marriages could drastically decrease. Because homosexual couples have been fighting for the legalization of same-sex marriages, they may be more inclined to work things out, attend counseling, and put more of an effort into their marriage than many heterosexual couples.
Same-sex activists are lobbying for the legalization of same-sex marriages, and many groups are proposing trials in particular states. They are debating to have same-sex marriages legalized in only a few states. If same-sex marriages were legalized in only a select couple of states, then those states, as well as the nation, could watch the overall outcome. For example, do the amount of marriage licenses distributed raise drastically, or does the divorce rate change dramatically. By observing the select states over a period of time, this may prevent fear, and panic across the entire country.
In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled, “…Marriage is a basic right which cannot be denied to anybody” (Civil Rights 34). This being said, it is still illegal in all 50 states for same-sex couples to marry. In the United States, discrimination against race, the right for women to vote, and inter-racial marriages has been legalized. Same-sex couples are not looking for special rights in the United States; they are simply looking for equal rights.
There is no harm in legalizing same-sex marriages, and allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry each other. The beliefs that a good family style, child rearing, and religion will all be compromised seems ludicrous.
The idea that homosexual couples cannot provide a good family style for raising children simply does not make sense. There are millions of single parent homes. There are also many people in the United States that simply are unfit parents. They should not be allowed to raise children due to drugs, violence, or molestation. However, children are continually raised in these environments. A home with love and respect, where everyone cares for one another is a perfect home for raising children.
Everyone has to answer to God for himself or herself. If a particular religion does not believe in homosexuality, that is the business of those who believe in that religion, however they do not need to push their beliefs onto everyone else. Many religions today have outdated beliefs and policies. Just because that is the overall belief of the religion does not mean that everyone who practices that religion believes everything the religion preaches. For example, the Roman Catholic Church does not believe in the use of birth control. The author is Catholic, and is a firm believer in birth control. This is an issue that she has decided for herself. When the time comes to face the Lord, she will have to address that issue with Him, no one else. Homosexuals will be the ones who, ultimately, face God and deal with their issues, if He is disapproving. No one else has the right to tell someone what God will disapprove of, when they do not know themselves.
If two people are in love, and choose to spend their lives together, and then they should be allowed to do so, no matter if they are heterosexual or homosexual. Marriage is a sacred union of two people in love. The gender of those two people should not be the question. The love that they feel for one another should be all that is required for them to marry. Same-sex marriages should be legalized in the United States.
Illinois Department of Public Health. 1 June 2005
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