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Same-sex marriage--why is it even an issue ? To put it into perspective, 10% of the American population is homosexual, meaning this is not just a minor issue (Harbinger 681). Also, with our society making significant strides toward equality in recent decades both in gender and racial issues, one has to think about sexual equality. I will explain to the reader why we should legalize gay marriage, particularly in terms of justice and the benefits society reaps from same-sex marriage. Also, the ramifications of the legalization of gay marriage, both for gays and society, will be examined. Finally, I will refute arguments against same-sex marriage.
Society benefits by having fewer "closet gays." "Closet gays" are homosexuals who try to abide by society's standards, and marry a partner of the opposite sex (Harbinger 683). However, due to the different sexual orientations of the two partners, problems often occur, causing emotional harm to"closet gays," their partners, and their children (Harbinger 683). If gay marriage were legal, homosexuality would be legitimate. Thus, the number of "closet gays" would decrease, as acceptance of their sexual orientation increases. In short, society would be spared a lot of trouble--the breakup of a family or dissatisfaction with one's life, especially of the homosexual partner, as she or he tries to comply with society's standards.
Same-sex marriage is just in that it provides gay couples with the same rights as heterosexual couples. Only marriage binds a couple in the eyes of the law ("Let Them Wed" 13). It enables partners to make life-or-death decisions, gives them the right to inheritance, medical benefits, and jurisprudence, among others ("Let Them Wed" 13). As in heterosexual relationships, homosexual partners are the significant other of one another. Unlike heterosexual couples, however, they are denied the right to marriage and all the benefits that go with it.
Gay marriages also provide sufficient reasons for society to promote them. They at least fulfill two of the most important reasons for marriage: the domestication of men and the provision of a reliable care giver (Rauch 22).
Civilizing men is one of society's biggest problems (Rauch 22).
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"America Needs Gay and Lesbian Marriage." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Jan 2019
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Everybody needs someone to take care of her or him (Rauch 22). There must be one person who will help one no matter what. This is another reason why marriage exists and why the marriage laws are designed that they treat the two spouses as one--to make sure that one will take care of the "better half" when she or he is not doing well. Society will benefit, since marriage is not just a deal between two people, but it is also a deal between that couple and society (Rauch 23). This ensures that one person is going to take care of the other, instead of society and our government stepping in.
Society has a vested interest in marriage as single people are unhealthier, unhappier, and economically more vulnerable than married people ("Let Them Wed" 13). Why should homosexuals who are in a committed, long term relationship not enjoy the same benefits ? If homosexual couples did enjoy the same benefits, prosperity among gay couples would increase, and society would be better off as a whole. Every person needs somebody else to become whole. This is why the IRS (taxes), insurance companies (medical benefits), and our justice system (jurisprudence) treat married people as one.
Many gays also have children that they are parenting (Harbinger 682). Society has an interest in promoting a stable family unit and allowing gay marriage to provide properly for the children(Harbinger 682). Children of homosexual couples, as well as those of heterosexual couples, need a sense of security and belonging that only a family can provide.
Gay marriage may help to improve marriage. Gay marriages are often more egalitarian than heterosexual relationships, living out the gender blind marriage laws (Harbinger 682). They may serve as models as to how marriages should really be, as we still have a long way to go until we reach gender equality.
As conservatives like to point out, marriage is our society's most fundamental institution (Rauch 19). Excluding any group of people from the right to marriage is an extraordinary deprivation, unless one can give specific reasons for it (Rauch 19).
Taxpayers benefit, for example, when one partner loses a job or falls ill. The legal partner is much more likely to take care of her or his partner ("Should Gay Marriage Be Legal ?" 31). Married people are less likely to look for government assistance, because they tend to take care of one another more ("Should Gay Marriage Be Legal ?" 31). Thus, they relieve the government and taxpayers from a big burden.
A big problem one encounters when one deals with the issue of homosexuality is stereotypes. The stereotypes stem from either misperceptions, misconceptions, or outright lies. I will now attempt to refute common prejudices about gays and gay marriage.
A popular misconception is that gay marriage gives homosexuals special rights. Many people believe that homosexuals should not be given preference in any area. However, the truth is that gays want equal rights. They want the right to marry the person they love, the person they care for, the person they are committed to. Of course, they demand the privileges a heterosexual couple is enjoying, but they are neither taking anything away from straight couples, nor do they expect special rights for being gay. On the contrary, they want the same rights. Denying gay couples the right to marry is discrimination ("Frequently Asked Questions" 3). Proponents of same-sex marriage want the same rights and responsibilities for gay couples that marriage confers upon them.
Our marriage laws are anything but perfect, and have been revised throughout history. Until 1967, interracial marriage was illegal in several states ("Let Them Wed" 13). Opponents of interracial marriage argued that interracial marriage is unnatural (Harbinger 682). In 1959, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, an interracial couple married in Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty to violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriage (Harbinger 682). In passing the sentence, the judge presiding over the case stated: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangements, there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix (Harbinger 682)." Today, religious fundamentalists argue quite similarly against same-sex marriage. As homosexual couples cannot bear children naturally, they argue that gay marriage is unnatural (Rauch 21).
Opponents of gay marriage argue that the issue of race is different from the issue of sexual behavior in that one is a choice and one is a given (Harbinger 682). However, one has to recognize that this is indeed a very similar issue, as the judge suggested that Mr. Loving marry a white woman instead. The same argument is brought today, namely that gays can marry--but only people of the opposite sex, just as people of any race were then allowed to get married--but only to someone of their own race. Today few would argue that lifting the ban on interracial marriage was wrong. However, to be consequent and just, same-sex marriage must be legalized as well.
Another popular argument is that legalization of same-sex marriage would weaken our family structure. However, marriage licenses are not rationed out, so gay marriages would not take anything away from the traditional heterosexual marriage (Harbinger 682). In fact, the number of families, both homosexual and heterosexual would increase, because the number of heterosexual marriages will roughly stay the same, while gay marriages will increase drastically.
Opponents of same-sex marriage also like to point out that homosexual couples are far less likely to have children (Harbinger 683). However, there are many heterosexual couples as well who cannot have children because they are infertile or sterile (Harbinger 683). Other heterosexual couples choose not to have children, yet they are not denied a marriage license (Harbinger 683). Apparently, a double standard exists. The fact that heterosexual couples who, either by choice or by fate, remain childless, still may get married shows that children may be one important aspect of marriage but hardly the only one. It follows that one should not base the decision of whether a couple is allowed to get married upon their likelihood of having children.
It is argued that homosexuals are more promiscuous, and that because of this, they do not deserve the right to marriage (Harbinger 683). In order to be just, we would have to deny a heterosexual person with a history of promiscuity the right to marry, but we do not do that (Sullivan 12). Again, a double standard exists, and showsthe faultiness of this argument.
We should ask why homosexuals are more promiscuous than heterosexuals. One reason might be that they do not have an incentive to be monogamous like heterosexuals do with the institution of marriage (Sullivan 12). Indeed, this is another argument why we should make marriage legal: to provide an incentive for homosexuals to be
monogamous (Sullivan 12).
A popular argument against gay marriage is that, once same-sex marriage is legalized, polygamy will follow (Sullivan 10). However, there is a big flaw in this argument. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are states that people are in, while polygamy is an activity that people engage in (Sullivan 10). Although heterosexuals
and homosexuals can choose to have polygamous relationships, polygamous people do not choose to be either heterosexual or homosexual. They were born with a homosexual or heterosexual orientation that is not likely to change during the course of their life (Harbinger 682). Thus, the issue of polygamy is totally unrelated to the issue of same-sex marriage, and a mere device of opponents to detract from the real issue.
Opponents like to tell us that marriage is an institution with a long tradition of no change, and that we should not tamper with it now (Rauch 19). However, the truth is that until 1967, interracial marriage was illegal in some states (Harbinger 682). Women used to be subordinated to men in a marriage, which, thankfully, has gradually changed as well ("Frequently Asked Questions" 4). Several decades ago it would have been considered outrageous for a married woman to own individual property (Rauch 21). Changes have been made and will be made in the future.
As I have shown, the arguments for lifting the ban on gay marriages clearly outweighs the arguments for the status quo. Gay marriage is not very different from heterosexual marriage, and it would not change the family structure in our society as much as it would enhance it. Arguments against gay marriage are very similar to those against interracial marriage thirty-forty years ago, in that the arguments do not contain much substance but the spreading of hatred and fear. Prohibiting same-sex marriage is as much a mistake as prohibiting interracial marriage until 29 years ago was. Also, children, whether they be of a heterosexual couple or of a homosexual couple, have a right to grow up in a stable family. There would be fewer closet gays who indeed threaten our family structure as those marriages inevitably break up. Both heterosexual and homosexual marriages provide for two of our society's biggest problems: the domestication of men and the provision of a care giver. Indeed, homosexual and heterosexual relationships are not that different from one another, so same-sex marriage would not be that different from our current, traditional form of marriage. Other arguments against gay marriage are often unrelated to the issue. Finally, marriage has changed significantly over the years, and it will continue to do so. One major change must take place today: the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Sources Cited and Consulted
Rauch, Jonathan. "For Better or for Worse?" The New Republic 6 May 1996: 18-19,21-23.
"Let Them Wed." The Economist 6 Jan. 1996: 13-14.
"Should Gay Marriage Be Legal ?" U.S. News & World Report 3 June 2012: 31.
Harbinger, Brent. "A Case for Gay Marriage." Commonweal 118 (1991): 681-683.
Sullivan, Andrew. "Three's a Crowd." The New Republic 17 June 1996: 10, 12.
"Frequently Asked Questions." Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington. no date: 1-8.
Addendum O'Brien, Dennis. "Against Gay Marriage I." Commonweal 118 (1991): 684-685.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke. "Against Gay Marriage II." Commonweal 118 (1991): 685-686.
On Being Gay / A Conversation with Brian McNaught. TRB Productions, 1993. 80 min.
Callahan, Sidney. "Why I Changed my Mind." Commonweal 121 (1994): 6-8.
Geest, Hans van der. "Homosexuality and Marriage." Journal of Homosexuality 24 no3-4: 115-123.
Slavin, Edward A.:Jr. "What Makes a Marriage Legal ?" Human Rights 18 (1991): 16-19.