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 the traditional, heterosexual married couples receive. As time passes, more and more ‘mainstream’ Americans support this sentiment. “Most Americans are ready to see committed couples and kids get the equality that all human beings deserve.” (Wolfson, 2005 p.24) Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage soon followed by its neighbor state Connecticut. This year Iowa and (this month) Vermont have joined these ranks. The Washington D.C. Council voted unanimously to acknowledge gay marriage just last week. California voters, somewhat surprisingly, rejected the legalization of gay marriage but a State Supreme Court fight is imminent. (Stewart/Craig, 2009). The arc of gay-hating history is long but is glacier-like slowly bending towards justice. What gay persons want is simply equality and not be discriminated against. The struggle for basic civil liberties continues in an effort for a more perfect union.
Integrated but Unequal
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, have the right to sue on their partner’s behalf and cannot be forced to testify against them in court. Married couples also pay less in taxes and receive 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 (Eagle, 2006). In 1997, the General Accounting Office reported that heterosexual married couples enjoyed more than 1000 benefits and protections. These marriage incentives range from survivor benefits through Social Security, the ability to take sick leave from work to care for a sick partner, federal and state tax breaks and veteran and insurance benefits. They also include things like “family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to” (Belge, 2006).
The Traditional Marriage Argument
Opponents to gay marriage also argue that in a traditional relationship, it is the woman that domesticates men. The man trades a promiscuous life for the stability and security of marriage. If both of the partners are men, there is no stabilizing force indicating that both men will continue to be promiscuous. This will lead to the breakdown of the institution of marriage as a whole. Society’s increased acceptance of homosexuality in general has already weakened marriage enough. This line of reasoning has many factual errors. Most obviously, it does not account for lesbian relationships. It seems to imply that they are free of fidelity issues and that there is evidence that traditional relationships suffer from less incidences of cheating spouses than do gay relationships. Taking into consideration that a very large percentage of both genders in a traditional marriage admit to having an affair and half of all marriages end in divorce, this argument has little credibility. Finally, homosexuality, if at all, is at the end of a very long list of factors causing the break-down of marriage. The cultural transformation of the 1960’s and 70’s gave women increased economic and birthing autonomy.
This along with liberalized laws allowing quick divorces have been a much larger influence on the traditional view of marriage than has the general acceptance of homosexuality. 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 claimed to fear in the first place. (Rauch, 2004 p.140). “Marriage is a personal commitment and an important choice that belongs to couples in love. Marriage is also a social statement, preeminently describing and defining a person’s relationship and place in society. Marriage is also a relationship between couples and the government. Couples need the government’s participation to get into and out of a marriage. Because it is a legal or ‘civil’ institution, marriage is the legal gateway to a vast array of protections, responsibilities and protections” (Wolfson, 2005 p.4). The concept of gay marriage is repugnant to those in opposition for religious reasons, not for practical or social concerns as has been shown.
Many believe that being gay is a choice and therefore individuals should choose to be heterosexual for the reasons previously discussed. They largely 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 more than it is 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.
Gay Couples Raising Children
Those opposed to gay marriage believe that these relationships do not serve the best interest of the state. Since they 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. 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). The 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 have yet to provide evidence those 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.
Gay couples exhibit similar family and societal values as those the traditional couple do while engaged in the activities of their daily lives. Other than the fact that 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 more perfect union is on hold for gay couples but the arc of justice will eventually encompass homosexuals too.
Belge, Kathy. “The Difference Between Marriage and Civil Unions.” About Lesbian Life. (2006). Web.
Eagle, Jeremy. “Same-Sex Partnerships 2006.” Facts on File News Service. (2006).
Kolasinksi, Adam. “The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage.” The Tech. Vol. 124, N. 5. (2004). Web.
Rauch, Jonathan. “Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America.” Holt Paperbacks. (2004).
Stewart, Nikita/Craig, Tim “D.C. Council Votes To Recognize Gay Nuptials Elsewhere” Washington Post Wednesday. Page A01 (2009).
Sullivan, T. Richard & Baques, Albert. “Familism and the Adoption Option for Gay and Lesbian Parents.” Queer Families, Common Agendas. New York: Haworth Press. pp. 80-82. (1999).
Wolfson, Evan. “Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry” Simon & Schuster. (2005).