Same Sex Marriage, Acceptance in the United States
Marriage is much more than merely a commitment to love one another. Marriage entitles financial responsibility, as well as authorized financial benefits. It is the institution that provides automatic legal protection for the spouse, including medical visitation, inheritance of a deceased spouse’s property, as well as pension and other rights. Society has become accustom to what they believe is “normal” by their traditions and religious beliefs. Many people believe that same-sex marriage is not “normal.” The simple fact is that banning same-sex marriage is discrimination. Marriage is the basic human right that should not be denied to anyone. Marriage among minorities has come a long way in becoming accepted as “normal” in the eyes of society. Interracial marriage was prohibited, and unacceptable in the United States, until the Supreme Court ruled such bans unconstitutional in 1967. There is no reason that the federal government, or anyone for that matter, should restrict marriage to a predefined heterosexual relationship. Because it is the right of the homosexual legally, socially, and economically, matrimony between lesbian and gay couples should be accepted in the United States.
Because our country has been founded on the Constitution, in which all men are created equal; we cannot deny the basic human and legal right of marriage to a class of individuals due to their sexual preference. Banning same-sex marriage has already been declared a violation of the constitution in the state of Hawaii. The case began in 1991 when three same-sex couples who had been denied marriage licenses, by the Hawaii Department of Health, brought a lawsuit to the state court against the director of the department. Hawaii law required couples wishing to marry
to obtain a marriage license. New York Times reporter David Dunlap notes that while the marriage license did not explicitly prohibit same sex marriage at that time, it used terms of gender that clearly indicated that only heterosexual couples could marry…. In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a refusal to grant marriage licenses violated the state constitution (18). Even though the court found that the state of Hawaii’s constitution had discriminated against homosexuals, which should legalize marriage nationally, presently there have been no same-sex marriage license that have been issued anywhere in the United States.
Conversely, an Online US News columnist acknowledges that one state court should not dictate marriage laws for the entire nation:
If gay marriages become legal in Hawaii, other states may have to recognize them, as well,
because the U.S. Constitution requires each state to grant “full faith and credit” to the acts
of other states. But, he argues, many states do not want to recognize same-sex unions, and
should not be forced to do so by a few judges in Hawaii. The bill [allowing other states to
ban same sex-unions] introduced in congress would preserve the right of the other 49
states to determine their marriage laws.(“Pros and Cons of Legalizing Same-Sex
Although some may believe it would be unfair for Hawaii to begin the process of recognizing same-sex marriage licenses, Article IV, Section One of the United States Constitution avers, “Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records and proceedings of every other state”(Madison et al.). Therefore, regardless of whether or not certain individuals believe it is fair for one state to begin the process of same-sex marriage, the law is the law.
Similarly, lawyers specializing in the constitutional and civil rights laws said the legislation could be fought in two ways: either by arguing that same-sex marriages must be allowed to “full faith and credit” clause requiring states to recognize the laws of other states (Roane 7). The
case is very similar to the ban of interracial marriage, which was declared unconstitutional just a few decades ago by the Supreme Court. Interracial marriage was struck down as a violation of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees all persons the equal protection of the laws.
Even though marriage should not be denied legally to gay and lesbian couples, matrimony between same-sex couples should be accepted socially. Andrew Sulivan, a former editor for the New Republic magazine comments;
Homosexuals are in many ways your sons and daughters, your mothers and fathers, your
uncles and aunts, people in your families, human beings. Homosexual marriage is really
the case for heterosexual marriage. We grow up; we fall in love; and if we’re really lucky,
we want to marry the person we love and live with them in fidelity, and monogamy, and
commitment for the rest of our lives. It’s a day that all of us, from the moment we grow
up, look forward to. But for one group of Americans, it is denied. The question is not,
why would we want to marry? Why would any human being want to marry? The
question really is: why would anyone want to deny this basic human thing to a group of
people in our society who wish no one any harm, but wish to affirm the values of
commitment and fidelity that every other American takes for granted. (1)
Homosexual couples are not asking for anything more than the opportunity, the chance, the free will of marrying whom they wish as heterosexuals do. This is an act that is better for the well being of that individual, this is their pursuit of happiness. What would happen if homosexuals tried to make themselves “normal” in the eyes of society? There would be homosexuals living a lie, forcing themselves into a marriage of the opposite sex, to satisfy society. What would happen when the spouse found out that their husband or wife was actually gay? The best solution is to allow homosexuals the freedom to be themselves, to live their life the way they choose, not harming anyone in the process.
On the other hand others believe that heterosexual marriage is sacred:
Same-sex marriage is a violation of basic biblical tenets. No culture has endorsed the idea
of men marrying men or women marrying women. America’s laws were written to
preserve the Judeo-Christian tradition, which deems homosexuality aberrant. Marriage as
an institution is already threatened by divorce and by the erosion of religion and family
values. If gay couples were allowed to marry, it would set a bad example for children, and
could spell the downfall of one of the cornerstones of our society. After all, what’s next?
Legalizing polygamy? Marriage between brothers? (Hetter 28-31)
Hetter displays one belief of a large group of individuals who confuse what is right, and fair for society as a whole, with what is based on her one-sided religious beliefs. It is very difficult for some people to accept a change in things that differ from their everyday life and the way they were brought up. If those individuals could look at same-sex marriage open-mindedly they could see that they have been withholding, a precious right that could socially benefit a large group of society.
In the same manner, Professor Barbara J. Cox, of California Western School of Law, reveals;
When her and her partner decided to have a commitment ceremony, they did so to express
the love and caring that they felt for one another. To celebrate that love with their friends
and family, and to express that love openly and with pride. “It angers me when others,
who did not participate or do not know either of us, condemn us as a part of a mindless
flock accepting a dehumanizing ceremony.” she proclaims.
Professor Cox, along with many others, has made a commitment ceremony to her partner. Sadly, this is a “counterfeit” form of marriage that she has had to accept, without the social support of her community. A “counterfeit marriage” is a ceremony that will not be acknowledged by anyone. There is no marriage license, no acceptance or acknowledgment from outside parties.
A great deal of society believes that it is offensive to even see homosexuals together. There is no question that homosexuals have historically been the objects of vicious and sustained hostility. There have been several cases in which people have gone as far as “gay bashing”, or acting violently against gay couples, because they were seen holding hands in public. Still homosexual couples have continued with their beliefs, only to be forced to concentrate into areas such as San Francisco, Ft. Lauderdale, and Montrose in Houston, trying to find peace and acceptance in society. It is evident, by the powerful and responsible positions of many gay men and women, that their sexual orientation clearly has no relation to a person’s ability to perform in society. The fact is that the case against same-sex marriage is that people are simply unaccustomed to it. Bigotry and hatred still exist in our society, and traditionally people fear what is strange and unfamiliar to them, therefore robbing homosexuals of their place in America of having the choice to marry their loved ones.
While homosexual couples are struggling to find acceptance in society, homosexuals have suffered economically because they have been denied the same compensation that people in heterosexual marriages have taken for granted. A Hawaii commission created to examine marriage discrimination concluded that banning gay marriage cut same-sex couples off from a host of tangible advantages, including health and retirement benefits; life insurance; income tax, estate tax and wrongful-death benefits, and spousal and dependent support (“Pros and Cons of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage). However, one argument came about that those financial benefits are for married couples to help raise children financially. But, what about all of the families that do not or can not have children, these families still receive all of those benefits. The only fair solution to that argument is to take away those benefits to those families without children.
Likewise, one columnist from the New York Times wrote that the importance [of same-sex marriage] for homosexual couples goes far beyond an emotional desire to have their unions
recognized. Currently couples…face financial and legal problems if one partner becomes ill or dies, including the inability to make medical decisions for a partner (Roane 7). These decisions can benefit, or harm the life of the loved one, which can effect the life of their partner financially.
Likewise, Chris Ryan, president of the Utah Log Cabin Club, a group of gay republicans, said, “All we want are the legal rights that go along with marriage.” He also mentioned visiting a partner in the hospital, inheriting property, providing insurance coverage, filing a joint tax return, and distributing assets in a divorce (Dunlap 18). Ryan wants all of the things that should be entitled to him. It is unfair that only heterosexuals can benefit from this economic government support. Just because the majority of society has not felt the effects of the beneficial neglect that homosexuals have struggled with for so long, does not justify our government in not taking action in correcting this problem.
Marriage is much more than the fundamental institution that completes the journey of life for many individuals. Marriage has legal and financial benefits that one’s “significant other” should be entitled to. Some may not be lucky enough to find someone “to have and to hold, in sickness and in health.” Although, those few who are fortunate enough to find their “soul mate” should not be denied their basic human right of matrimony with the one person they love. Like abortion, same-sex marriage has emotional issues which will probably take generations, if at all, to come to an overall agreement. But, this is one issue that cannot be “put on the back burner” for long. There is no logical reason that society should reject the act of same-sex marriages because it is the right of gay and lesbian couples legally, socially, and economically.
Cox, Barbara “A Personal Essay on Same-Sex Marriage”. National Journal of Sexually Oriented
Law 1.1:(28 pars.)
Dunlap, David. “Some States Trying To Stop Gay Marriages Before They Start”. Wall Street
Journal 15 March 1995, Late Ed.:18
Hetter, Katia. “The New Civil Rights Battle”. U.S. News and World Report 3 June 1996:28-31
Madison, James, et al. The United States Constitution. Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, 4 March 1789
“Pros and Cons of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage.” Online U.S. News 16 Sept. 1996: (10
pars.). WWW.USNEWS.COM. On-line. America Online. 24 Nov. 1999
Roane, Kit. “Gay Couples and the Law, At Odds Over the Right to Marry”. New York Times
2 Feb 1997, late ed. eastern ed., sec. 13NJ: 7