The concept of same-sex marriage is considered to be a union that is recognized by the state in both a social and legal context wherein the marriage of two individuals of the same sex is considered to be legally and socially binding. It must be noted though that its inception and implementation within a few U.S. states and countries has only been established within the past decade and a half.
In fact the very concept itself is widely considered to be the result of the gay rights movement that gained popularity in the U.S. during the early 1960s which subsequently spread to a world wide gay community as a direct result of its popularity and the freedoms it entailed.
What must be understood though is that while the concept of same sex marriage exists it is not widely accepted within the general population; in fact it is often considered to be a social aberration which has actually resulted in delays in its widespread acceptance and institution as a standard practice (Sherkat et al., 2010).
An examination of the underlying factors behind this apparent resistance to the implementation of same-sex marriage as a standard social institution reveals that religious and social precedent play distinct roles in promoting the idea that allowing same-sex marriage is an aberration towards what is normal (Ellison et al. 2011). It must be noted though that such arguments are based on historical precedent rather than factual evidence indicating that same-sex marriage is actually bad for society.
Further examination of the issue reveals that there are actually no negative effects beyond that of social aesthetics in implementing same-sex marriages. Society is already well aware and has somewhat accepted the fact that same-sex relationships do in fact exist. Extending such relationships towards a legalized union does no apparent harm to society and thus can be considered an inherent right of an individual.
It is on this basis of inherent rights that various countries and states in the U.S. have begun to adopt new forms of legislation that actually allow same-sex civil unions (marriages) since it is argued that people have an inherent right to choose who they want to marry with religious and social institutions having no right to interfere with a person’s inherent freedoms.
What must be understood is that the basis for the creation of recent legislation allowing same-sex unions is not one where the unions are inherently approved of based on the predilections of the individual actors or groups that brought about the legislation in the first place but rather are a direct result of responding to the request of a community within a nation who are advocating their right to a civil union bases on their inherent human rights which the state has the responsibility to uphold.
Religious and Social Views on Same-Sex Marriage
The basis for this apparent social abhorrence behind the act is actually the result of two distinct factors, namely: religion and the adherence to traditional partnerships within society.
Religion, particularly Christian and Muslim groups, are thoroughly against the concept of same-sex marriage and due to their population majority within society with both groups numbering in the 2 billion to 3 billion range this means that a large percentage of society already has developed the preconceived notion that same-sex marriages are a travesty and are against the natural order.
It must be noted though that while a majority of Middle Eastern countries are thoroughly against the concept of same-sex marriages a large percentage of countries, of whom most of the population is inclined towards Christianity, are actually more tolerant of the concept of lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and transsexuals (LGBT) (Ellison et al. 2011).
This tolerance though should not be considered as thorough acceptance since LGBT groups within such countries still experience various forms of harassment and discrimination. An examination of the various arguments presented by religious groups against the act of same-sex marriages usually coincides with various references towards religious texts which specifically state that same-sex marriages are not allowed within their respective religions (Healy, 2011).
The attitude of religious groups has extended towards presenting the message that LGBTs are an aberration to the natural order of the world and as such claim that these individuals will not go to heaven and are destined for hell (Healy, 2011). While such messages are highly inappropriate they are actually keeping with the rather conservative nature of religious groups who are usually at odds with liberal ideas of which same-sex marriages are extensions of.
Another factor that has caused delays towards the adoption of same-sex marriages as a standard practice is the traditional idea of man-woman partnerships within society. As noted by institutional theory, people are more likely to adhere to traditional financial, economic, government or social institutions despite their inefficiency and the presence of better alternatives due to the fact that they have been around for such a long period of time.
This longevity is thus equated towards stability which most people consider vital in everyday existence. When applying this particular concept towards the establishment of same-sex marriages as a new social institution it becomes obvious that people would initially be against it and would not immediately accept it due to the fact that it is relatively new and that they prefer to stick to traditional social institutions as their basis for defining what is and what is not acceptable within society (Sherkat et al., 2010).
Government Legislation and Same-Sex Marriages
As such it can be seen that religion and traditional societal concepts are one of the inherent problems behind widespread acceptance of the practice of same-sex marriage however what must be understood is that while religions and established social norms are inherent parts of society they are categorized under influential aspects of society rather than binding legal institutions (Messerli, 2011).
Religions and societal norms cannot enact legislation in government, they can be thought of as methods to influence the creation of legislation but in the end individual actors or groups within the government are the primary creators of all legislation and as such it is only them that can determine whether the act of same-sex marriage can be considered legal or not.
This is one of the reasons why same-sex marriages are increasingly being allowed in various U.S. states and countries since most legislators and individual actors who help enact legislation take into consideration factors such as inherent individual and human rights when they legalize certain practices and cannot allow themselves to be influenced by social and religious advocacy since when creating effective legislation what is needed is not a person’s religious or social orientation but rather a consideration of the moral and ethical standards behind the creation of the new law or piece of legislation.
On the other hand this also explains why same-sex marriages are not allowed within various Middle Eastern countries since religion and the creation of government laws and pieces of legislation often overlap with the concept of “Shariah law” often taking precedent resulting in individuals being unduly influenced by the necessity of making sure new laws and enacted legislation often stays true to religious concepts and opinions.
Legal Rights and Non-Discrimination
When examining arguments in support of same-sex marriage terms such as “inherent human rights” and “non-discrimination” are often used as methods of justification for same-sex marriages. It is argued that people have an inherent human right to freely marry who they choose to and as such the state should support such unions. This particular argument is based on the freedom of choice which is cited in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which most states ascribe to (Barry, 2011).
What must be understood is that states have the inherent responsibility to uphold the basic human rights of its citizens. While some states such as China, the Middle East and several countries within Africa do limit certain human rights in favor of national security the fact remains that states that are set in a more democratic orientation (such as the U.S.) do often take into account the individual rights if its citizens in shaping new pieces of legislation (Glass et al., 2011).
Since the right to choose is a basic human right, it is used as method of justifying same-sex marriages since people are entitled to choose who they wish to marry (Glass et al., 2011). What must be understood is that before any legislation is passed that condones a particular action sufficient impetus must be proven to show that such actions are beneficial towards society, the state and are methods of upholding individual rights.
In the case of same-sex marriages this took the form of establishing the fact that a sufficiently large LGBT community is in place within a particular country/state and that same-sex relationships do occur on a regular basis so as to justify the creation of legislation that allows civil unions between same-sex couples.
When examining the justification behind the creation of legislation allowing same-sex civil unions it is often the case that such pieces of legislation are created since it is necessary for the government to uphold individual and community rights, in this particular case it is the inherent human right of same-sex couples to get married (Barry, 2011).
Another factor that should be taken into consideration (which is often expressed by the LGBT community) is their right not to be discriminated against by the government.
The 1960 gay rights movement that occurred as a direct result of the influences of the 1960 Civil Rights movement resulted in the passing of various forms of legislation that made discrimination on the basis of gender illegal within the United States. This particular piece of legislation is often utilized as a basis for the creation of legislation within states to allow same-sex marriage since to limit marriage to people of opposite genders is taken as a form of discrimination under the law.
While it may be true that individual states have the prerogative to subjectively interpret the law based on their inherent predilections that fact remains that it has been noticeable that states are often siding against religious and social groups and are in effect interpreting the law to allow same-sex civil unions.
What must be understood is that from a legislative standpoint, same-sex marriages should be allowed by the law since states need to uphold the individual rights of their citizens. Same-sex marriage is thus continuing to be interpreted under the basis of an inherent right and as such is one of the reasons why individual states within the U.S. as well as other countries are beginning to allow same-sex civil unions.
While it may be true that religious and social institutions vilify the practice the fact remains that the right to choose who to marry is an inherent human right that states need to uphold. As such, the creation of legislation allowing same-sex marriages can be considered an evolution in the way in which the terminology of the institution of marriage is formulated so as to take into consideration the inherent human right of individuals who wish to marry despite being of the same gender.
Barry, P. (2011). Same-Sex Marriage and the Charge of Illiberality. Social Theory & Practice, 37(2), 333-357. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Ellison, C. G., Acevedo, G. A., & Ramos-Wada, A. I. (2011). Religion and Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Marriage Among U.S. Latinos. Social Science Quarterly (Blackwell Publishing Limited), 92(1), 35-56.
Glass, C. M., Kubasek, N., & Kiester, E. (2011). Toward A ‘European Model’ of Same – Sex Marriage Rights: A Viable Pathway for the U.S.?. Berkeley Journal of International Law, 29(1), 132-174. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Healy, M. (2011). St. Paul, Ephesians 5 and same-sex marriage. Homiletic & Pastoral Review, 111(8), 12. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Messerli, J. (2011). Should same-sex marriages be legalized? . Retrieved from
Sherkat, D. E., de Vries, K., & Creek, S. (2010). Race, Religion, and Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage. Social Science Quarterly (Blackwell Publishing Limited), 91(1), 80-98.