Over the past three decades, few debates have evoked more commend and political turmoil as the efforts to redefine marriage as it is traditionally understood so as to include same-sex relationships. Traditionally, marriage is understood to mean the joining of two heterosexuals in a union that is sanctioned by both religious and political authorities in the country.
However, there has been increased advocacy for the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions due to the prevalence of homosexual relationships in the society as well as the overwhelming acceptance of gay relationships in many countries in the world. In the beginning of the 19th century, homosexual relationships were shunned by the society with some states even criminalizing them.
Volokh states that this state of affairs has changed and from the 1960s, the society stated to be more accommodative of homosexuals with laws being established to stop discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation (106). From this acceptance of gay relationships, there have been increasing calls for the universal legalization of gay marriages.
Specifically, gay rights activists hope to achieve the same rights and benefits accorded to married heterosexual couples for gay couples. This call for legalizing gay marriages has been met with substantial opposition from people who are in favor of the opinion that the marriage institute is exclusive to heterosexual couples. This paper will argue that gay marriages should not be allowed since they would lead to a breakdown of the institute of marriage, have a negative impact on children, and lead to a surge of marriages of convenience.
Why Gay Marriages should not be allowed
If gay people are allowed to marry, it will lead to the breakdown of the institute of marriage as it is currently understood and this will be detrimental for the whole society. For gay marriages to be allowed there has to be a redefinition of marriage so as to include same sex couples. Such a move would invariably purge the social meanings and connection to children from marriage (Duncan 662).
The claim that legalizing gay marriages will harm the marriage institute is not baseless since as Kurtz demonstrates, it will transform the institute from its currently solid definition as a union “solely between a man and a woman” (1). Dents notes that validating same-sex marriages could “destabilize the cultural meaning of marriage” since it would erode the specialness of marriage (426). Arguments for same-sex marriage might are also arguments for polygamy, endogamy and even incestuous marriage.
This is because allowing gay people to marry will result in sexual preference becoming a protected class and this will have multiple dire consequences for the institute of marriage. Advocates of gay marriages quip that a redefinition of marriage would not have any impact on marriage since it is unlikely that anyone will leave their marriage just because homosexual couples have been given the right to marry.
They proceed to state that other groups such as polygamists and endogamy differ significantly since their unions would not be made up of two people as is required in a legally sanctioned marriage. While it is true that allowing same-sex couples to marry will not have an effect on heterosexual couples, it will have repercussions on what marriage is as a social institution.
Duncan demonstrates that marriage regulates the relationships and sexual conducts of individuals who are not married and who many not even marry (669). It does this by informing people (especially the youth) on the end to which they aspire since it is a social. Giving gay couples the right to marry will require that homosexuality be deemed as a special class that requires legal protection. Other classes of people such as polygamists or even more troubling, pedophiles, will have the basis to demand for the same legal protection.
Allowing gay marriages will have a negative impact on children since the ideal environment for children to grow in is one where they have a mother and a father. While the ability to have children is not a prerequisite to being allowed to marry, majority of the marriages result in children who are then raised within this setting. Same-sex marriages have introduced the endorsement of radically fatherless or motherless homes and in such a union, there are serious questions about what the roles of father and other would mean.
The ideal of marriage is inextricably linked to the reality that men and women will become parents as a consequence of the union and they are encouraged to commit to one another “in a binding relationship for the sake of the children and to further society’s interest in ensuring that those children are provided for” (Duncan 662).
However, gay right activists assert that children are not an important aspect of marriage and instead, love and commitment is. In addition to this, gay rights activists reveal that same-sex couples can have children through means such as adoption or artificial reproduction. Becoming a parent through adoption or by “artificial” means is both costly and time consuming. The same-sex couples who intend to have children by this means are therefore required to invest heavily both financially and emotionally to the process (Cahill 407).
This calls for a great deal of foresight and planning and the future of children in such a setting are more guaranteed than in the opposite-sex couple where procreation can occur naturally and without any foresight or planning. This claim ignores findings from extensive research which demonstrate that a heterosexual marriage is the best context for rearing children and studies confirm that this traditional setting is most beneficial to children.
Dent reveals that looking at the measures of: physical and mental health, academic performance, social adjustment, and obedience to authority, children who are raised by their birth parents in a marriage union fare significantly better than children who are deprived of this setting (429).
Duncan states that the sexual liberty interest of adults in choosing their own family forms should never be allowed to “trump the interest of state and society in trying to strengthen marriage and reverse the current trends towards family fragmentation” (663). Gay marriage should therefore be prevented since children are the society’s future and ensuring that they are given the best opportunity to develop is beneficial for the entire community.
Recognition of same-sex marriages would lead to a repression of the freedoms of speech and of religion by many members of the society. Recognizing same-sex marriages would make it necessary for people to be engaged in homosexuality awareness programs.
Some of these programs would be institution wide which means that they would be mandatory for everyone and failure to participate would result in reprimanding. As it currently stands, the constitution gives citizens the freedom of speech through the First Amendment. If same-sex marriages become legally valid, this protection afforded to people will disappear.
If same-sex marriages are made legally valid, there will be consequences for people or institutes whose religious beliefs prevent them from endorsing such unions. Dent notes that just as government benefits are denied to organizations which engage in discriminatory behavior, the same will be denied to institutes that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages (444). Vocally stating your anti-homosexual views will be regarded as hate speech which is punishable by the law.
Proponents of gay marriages note that this alleged repression of the freedoms of speech and of religion will only occur since religion continues to be intolerant to homosexuality. As can be seen, the widespread opposition to homosexuality has its roots in the religious beliefs of people which regard same sex relationships as a perversion of nature and sinful. Gay activists therefore declare that religious beliefs should not be the basis on which laws are built (Wilson 563).
However, religion has and continues to be of great importance to many Americans and it guides their conduct in society. The government cannot be neutral on the gay marriage issue; it can either favor different-sex marriage or treat it as equal to gay marriage. Same sex marriages will result in the curbing on expressions of this traditional religious beliefs and this will be grossly unjust for many Americans.
Why Gay Marriages should be allowed
Denying gay couples the opportunity to enter into the institute of marriage denies them of their right to enjoy a fulfilling life with their partners and the benefits that legally recognized marriages bring for the partners. In a marriage union, the couples are able to benefit from income and wealth benefits since they can pool their resources and their tax is also reduced. Refusing to allow same-sex marriages denies same-sex couples of the opportunity to enjoy from this benefits which are available for heterosexual couples.
In modern day, marriage is built on the need for companionship by two individuals and the love that they have for each other. The love and satisfaction experienced in relationships is not limited to heterosexual couples and research indicates that the quality of love and satisfaction achieved by same-sex relationships is very similar to that of heterosexuals (Peplau and Fingerhut 405).
Same-sex unions are today not regarded as threats to society’s moral fiber and it has been shown that same sex couples can play significant roles in society just like their heterosexual counterparts (Feldblum 10). The only difference between heterosexual marriage unions and those of homosexuals is that the heterosexual couple is able to procreate. However, procreation is not a legally prescribed basis for marriage and gay couples should not be refused marriage because of this (Cahill 395).
Opponents of gay marriages declare that marriage is more than two people united for their mutual convenience and protected by laws and having certain rights. Marriage is about socially embodied meanings and practices and it not only reflect individual desire but shapes and channels it (Blocher 1). Most of the financial benefits that married couples enjoy from the government are because of the financial responsibilities they are expected to bear in raising children.
If homosexual partners are allowed to marry, they will enjoy similar benefits as those heterosexual couples who have to invest significant portions of their finances in raising children. Dent goes on to warn that since gay couples cannot bear children, legalizing gay marriages would result in an escalation of marriages of convenience by gay couples whose only goal would be to gain the tangible benefits accrued from marriage unions (424).
The tangible legal benefits that come along with marriage (like inheritance of property) can be attained by other means such as private acts (for example a will) and same-sex couples therefore do not need to resort to marriage to gain these benefits. In addition to this, there are legally recognized institutes such as “civil unions” that gay couples can enter into and therefore achieve recognition from the society as well as the government. Same-sex couples can therefore enjoy a fulfilling life with their partners even without being allowed to marry.
The denial of marriage rights to gay people has negative outcomes to their mental health and overall well being. As it currently stands, gay couples are suffer disproportionately from mental health conditions due to the various social realities they have to face each day. Herdt and Kertzner document that due to the discrimination that many homosexual couples face, these classes of people suffer from harmful mental health effects such as stress and depression (11).
This claim is reiterated by Culhane who proceeds to suggest that if gay couples were allowed to marry, they would not suffer unnecessary from the social exclusion and legal uncertainty that is commonplace in their lives today due to the lack of recognition for same sex marriages (491). Allowing gay marriages could offset this negative health outcome as is demonstrated by a research in Britain on the effects of civil partnerships.
The study showed that couples who had been granted civil partnership status experienced better health outcomes than those who had not (Culhane 491). Opponents of gay marriages assert that this alleged suffering is self inflicted since homosexuality is not natural but rather a choice that an individual makes. They also go on to highlight that gay couples do not suffer from discrimination since the modern society is tolerant of such practices.
Past prejudice against gay unions were based on the popular delusions of the time that same-sex couples were evil and harmful to the society. Today, this misconstrued view is no longer popular and majority of the people are more accommodative of gay unions. In addition to this, there are laws in place which make it illegal for a person to be discriminated against because of their sexual preferences.
Gay rights activists declare that that refusing gay couple’s marriage amounts to discrimination which is against the government policy. Refusing to allow gay people access to an institute (marriage) that is available to heterosexual couples is discriminatory. Volokh states that while the government continues to affirm that it does not condone discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, homosexual couples are still denied the right to enter into marriage and enjoy the benefits provided by the institute (1157).
Instead of remaining neutral in the gay marriage debate, the government has taken on a stand against such unions. In addition to this, the government has shown a lot of reluctance in taking steps to ensure that gay couples can live openly and enjoy a life free from harassment from people who are against homosexuality. The religious undertones that most public officials hold have been the main cause for the denial of marriage to same-sex couples (Volokh 1165).
As it is, marriage is defined from the Christian religion perspective and this makes it difficult for many citizens to advocate for same-sex marriages since it is against their religious beliefs (Wilson 563). Gay rights activists assert that religion should not drive public policy on the issue of marriage since the constitution on which the nation is founded states that no faith should be allowed to impose its standards and beliefs on all citizens.
Proponents of gay marriages go on to compare the discrimination against gay couples to the discriminatory apartheid system in the US that made prohibited interracial marriages. This claim is disputed by Blocher who argues that the assertion that denial of gay marriages is discriminatory and can be compared with the prohibition of interracial marriages under an apartheid system is misleading since gay relationships are not a natural condition but rather a matter of personal preference (1).
In addition to this, the level of acceptability for homosexual relationships today is higher than it has been in any other decade. However, there is still popular objection for same-sex marriages in many states all over the US. Feldblum reveals that in a survey seeking to find out publics opinion on the legal recognition of same-sex couples, 50% of the sample group were against same-sex couple legalization.
Since the law should be a reflection of the opinions of the citizens of a country, it can be stated that same sex marriages should not be legal due to the majority public opinion not in favor of it. Gay couples should therefore not be given the same legal protection
This paper set out to argue that gay marriages should not be allowed since they will have an overall negative effect on the society. The paper has highlighted how there has been a shift from the traditional prescription of marriage as a union between a man and a woman to a new definition that includes same sex couples.
The arguments presented have shown that opposition to gay marriages is not driven by hateful attitudes by anti-gay activists but rather by the desire to ensure that marriage maintains its specialness. The paper has argued that while the rights of gay couples should be respected and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should never be allowed, marriage rights should not be afforded to gay couples.
From the discussions presented herein, it is clear that there are a number of legitimate claims against the affordance of marriage rights to gays. The paper has taken care to note some of the benefits that same-sex couples hope to enjoy by joining the marriage institute. This includes fulfilling life with their partners, better mental health outcomes, and even further reductions in discrimination.
However, it has been shown that marriage is not the only avenue through which these favorable benefits can be enjoyed by gay couples. From the arguments raised in this paper, it can be authoritatively stated that the denial of marriage rights to gay couples is justifiable and should remain the case indefinitely so as to ensure the protection of the marriage institute, safeguard the future of our children, and the protection of our freedoms of speech and of religion.
Blocher, Mark. A Case against “Gay Marriage”. NY: Christian Worldview Concepts, 2004. Print. .
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.
Culhane, John. “Marriage equality? First, justify marriage (if you can)”. Drexel University Law Review 1.2 (2009): 485-511.
Dent, George. “Traditional Marriage: Still worth defending”. BYU Journal of Public Law 18.1 (2004): 419-447.
Duncan, William. “The Litigation to Redefine Marriage: Equality and Social Meaning”. Journal of Public Law 18.1 (2005): 623-663.
Feldblum, Chai, Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion. Jan 2006. Web 04 Oct 2010.
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 3.1 (2006): 33-49.
Kurtz, Stanley. “Beyond Gay Marriage”. The Weekly Standard 8.45 (2003): 1-2.
Peplau, Letitia and Fingerhut, Adam. “The Close Relationships of Lesbians and Gay Men”. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 58.1(2007): 405–24.
Volokh, Eugene. “Same-Sex Marriage and Slippery Slopes”. Hofstra Law Review 33.1 (2005): 1155–1201.
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 14.1 (2007): 561-578.