A Debate on Gay Marriage
Same-sex marriage has become one of the most argumentative topics in American society. One portion of the population is pro gay marriage, while the other is strongly against it. This continuous argument lead to a debate titled “A Debate on Gay Marriage” where Andrew Sullivan, in “For Gay Marriage”, summarizes some of the reasons why he feels that gay marriage would be a constructive step in American society. In contrast, William J. Bennett, in “Against Gay Marriage”, argues that legalizing gay marriage would in fact be detrimental to American society. The two authors disagree on the impact of gay marriage on children, the impact of gay marriage on society, and finally on their definition of marriage. A comparison of Sullivan’s and Bennett’s arguments highlights both sides of the debate on gay marriage and explains why this debate is occurring.
Both Sullivan and Bennett discuss about the impact gay marriages have on children. Sullivan sees the legalization of gay marriage as beneficial for children of homosexual parents and possibly constructive for gay children. He says that, “a law institutionalizing gay marriage would merely reinforce a healthy trend” (268). He thinks that this institution would form a healthier view for children with gay parents and a stable ground for them to walk on. Sullivan tackles the conservative belief that having gay parents possibly causes the collapse of stable family life by saying that “…there is no evidence that shows any deleterious impact on a child brought up by two homosexual parents…” (268). He continues by mentioning that there is “…considerable evidence that such a parental structure is clearly preferable to single parents or no effective parents at all…” (268). He believes that legalizing same-sex marriages will be fundamentally productive in providing “…role models for young gay people, who, after the exhilaration of coming out can easily lapse into short-term relationships and insecurity with no tangible goal in sight” (Sullivan 268). Whereas Sullivan sees this as primarily beneficial, Bennett completely disagrees. He says that it is far better for a child to be raised by a mother and a father than by two homosexuals. Bennett also mentions how the “…sex education curriculum of public schools would have to start teaching that heterosexual and homosexual marriage are equivalent” (273). This, according to Bennett, violates the rights of parents since the laws would be forcing them to tolerate with this teaching. Bennett and Sullivan actually agree that same-sex marriage would also send out signals and impact the shaping of human sexuality, particularly among the young. However, while Sullivan sees this impact as beneficial, Bennett thinks of it as detrimental. Bennett cites an article from 1993 that states how “…it has become “cool” for students to proclaim they are gay or bisexual – even for some who are not…” (273). He claims that children are declaring to be gay when they’re really not and that this is detrimental to youth’s sexual identity. Because Sullivan sees gay marriage as fundamentally positive for children, while Bennett sees it as essentially detrimental, the two authors fundamentally disagree about the role of marriage in the lives of American children. Partially because of their disagreements about children, the two authors have different ideas about the impact of gay marriage on American society.
Sullivan, who doesn’t think gay marriage would be a problem for kids, also thinks that allowing gay marriage is essentially not going to change what marriage is. He even argues that domestic partnership would be the bigger change since it doesn’t require a sexual relationship between the two partners. Having this partnership wouldn’t make any difference from simply being called roommates, whereas the “…formal sanction of marriage…” consists of deep “…commitment to one another and to society…” (Sullivan 267). He also mentions that withholding marriage along the guidelines of age and incest would be fundamentally different since homosexuals do not fall into a similar category. They are “…able to form long-term relationships…moreover, giving these people an equal right to affirm their commitment doesn’t reduce the incentive for heterosexuals to do the same” (Sullivan 267). In contrast, Bennett says that allowing same-sex marriage would do significant, long-term damage to the American society. Besides his view on children, Bennett argues that homosexual marriage would lead to “extramarital outlets” (272). He says that marriage is not an open contract and that its essential idea is fidelity. Although “…that is not always honored in practice…it is normative, the ideal to which we aspire precisely because we believe some things are right (faithfulness in marriage) and others are wrong (adultery) (Bennett 272). He continues and says that supporting this gay marriage is destroying the “…very thing that supposedly has drawn them to marriage in the first place” (Bennett 272).
While Sullivan doesn’t think that allowing same-sex marriage will change the meaning of marriage to society, Bennett argues that it actually brings in extramarital outlets, which leads to significant, long-term damage. The authors disagree about the impact of gay marriage because they have fundamentally different definitions of what marriage is. Sullivan defines marriage as the “…highest public recognition of personal integrity” and claims that it is not procreative but instead is an “…emotional, financial, and psychological bond between two people…” (266). However, Bennett says that “Marriage is not an arbitrary construct; it is an “honorable estate” based on the different, complementary nature of men and women – and how they refine, support, encourage and complete one another” (272). Compared to Sullivan’s definition that marriage is between two people, Bennett significantly highlights that a marriage is strictly between men and women. This is the major difference in the two authors’ views on marriage
. Besides this difference, they have a fairly common definition. Although the only major change is to the assumption that marriage is between a man and a woman, this change makes a significant difference between the two authors. In the debate titled, “A Debate on Gay Marriage” Andrew Sullivan and William J. Bennett discuss their point of views on gay marriage. While Sullivan feels that gay marriage would be a constructive step in American society, Bennett argues that legalizing gay marriage would be detrimental to American society. Their disagreement of the impact gay marriage have on children, the impact it has on society, and their definition of marriage highlights both sides of the debate and explains why this debate is occurring.
Bennett J. William. “Against Gay Marriage.” Writing and Reading across the Curriculum. Ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. Boston: Longman, 2011. 271-273.
Sullivan, Andrew. “For Gay Marriage.” Writing and Reading across the Curriculum. Ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. Boston: Longman, 2011. 266-269.