How Government Policy Affects Gay Rights?
Gay rights and the policy of the American government with regard to it have been a cause of heated debates, arguments and discussions amongst all the various different segments and sections of the society.
It has been of a particular interest to the various thinkers, intellectuals, policy-makers and moralists and dictators of public trends and opinions and is equally of great interest and value to the general public as it mostly threatens their established beliefs and value-system and morals as they mostly take them.
Recently some states have legalized the gay marriages and they have sanctioned and decided to protect people getting married in this way.
“For much of American history, indeed, for much of world history, homosexuality has been a taboo subject. Often, it has been considered a crime in itself. Yet today, millions of gay and lesbian Americans are not only open about their sexuality, they are campaigning for new laws which they say would grant them the same rights accorded to heterosexuals, including the right to marry. Same-sex marriage, now legal in Massachusetts, Ontario and the Netherlands, places gay and lesbian relationships brings such families on an equal footing with traditional families for the first time in Western history. What’s more, there’s been a notable shift in the public’s attitudes toward homosexuality over the last two decades. Not all that long ago, for example, it would have been unimaginable to have an openly gay bishop, as the Episcopalian church now does. About half of Americans now say in surveys that homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle, compared to only one in three people 20 years ago” (http://www.publicagenda.org/issues/overview.cfm?issue_type=gay_rights)
However the Government is subject to constant disapproval and faces opposition from some quarters that it has allowed such a thing to happen. This sentiment is mostly echoed by the conservatives and the Bush Government itself as it is itself constituted of conservative and right-leaning elements.
However others such as the women rights activists and the campaigners of the rights of the lesbians, gays and transgender have hailed this move. However they think that this move and measure is not enough and a lot still needs to be done to protect the rights of gays and lesbians and others. We would now consider the viewpoints of different people in this regard
Views of Gays and People and Organizations Supporting Them
This stance tells us that the pro-gay rights activists are against the Government and accuse it of not doing enough. Following is an excerpt from the website of human rights watch which advocates the gay rights: “This vote is an aggressive assault by the U.S. government on the right of sexual minorities to be heard. It is astonishing that the Bush administration would align itself with Sudan, China, Iran and Zimbabwe in a coalition of the homophobic. “
This paragraph tells us how strongly such organizations feel about gay rights. They think that a question to determine the issue of gay marriages is itself a breach on human rights and unbecoming to a country such as America that champions or rather claims to champion democracy and freedom and values supporting them. According to them, it is nobody’s business to decide another’s sexual orientation and inclination and thus, it could not be decided by law.
They counteract the argument of those that say that gay and/or same sex marriages lead to an undermining of the institution of marriage by the statement that they actually end up doing the contrary. In the views of the pro-gay marriage party, the institution of marriage is actually strengthened by the permitting of same sex marriages. This happens by way of contrast and the importance of an institution is felt. In the aftermath and as a consequence of recent state, “federal and Canadian court decisions, the controversy over gay marriage has reached a critical point in American political life” http://www.temenos.net/articles/09-21-04.shtml
As politicians and moralists and the right-wing activists and the moral crusaders see the legalizing of the same sex marriages as a major threat to the institution of marriage as well as the threat to all established values and beliefs. Jonathan Rauch, the pro-gay activist and a writer as well as a journalist has proved convincingly in his book with arguments that could sway some votes in favour of same sex and/or gay marriages.
He says and claims that the politicians are going fast in a backward direction. Jonathan Rauch is an original and creative social commentator and observer of the current American political, social and cultural scene.
In his book, he elucidates why is gay marriage so important and how is it linked and is directly proportional to the benefit and survival of the ancient and long-existing institution of the marriage. His argument is seeped in and based on the existing values of society.
He explains in a logical and rational manner that marriage as a system is very significant to the sound functioning of a society that is healthy and efficient and functioning well and properly for its citizens. He tells us that marriage is important because it’s available and accessible to all members of the society and how is this fact of accessibility important to the efficient working of marriage. He then explains to us why and how the institution of marriage shall benefit greatly from the legalizing of the same sex marriage. The gays and lesbians shall obviously benefit but so will the straight people. He outlines and gives the ways in which it would become possible and practical for application.
He also annihilates, successfully to a great extent, the arguments and the counter-arguments put forward and rose by the conservatives and the so-called right-wingers and moralists. They call and name themselves as the defenders and the champions of the cause of the institution. He tells us that they are none of that.
In the end, he introspects how the gay marriage shall work practically and feasibly in the real world. The problems that the same sex marriage would face and counter in the forms of established institutions such as the religion, social acceptability, law and order, the issue of children and adoption and also divorce. It shall explore a variety of such issues.
“It is a time when marriage is losing ground to cohabitation and is in danger of becoming just another lifestyle choice and that too an obsolete and old-fashioned one. Marriage is the gold standard and the haven and refuge for committed, serious relationships. Love, sex, and marriage go together -- not just sometimes but always, not just for some people but for everyone. Gay marriage, in the opinions and views of the pro-gay marriage campaigners is in reality a "win-win-win" for strengthening the bonds that tie us together and for remaining true to our national heritage of fairness and equality and grants equal rights to all” (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&endeca=1&isbn=0805076336&itm=5.)
Marriage is more than a social and sexual contract between the two individuals but is a wider social bond and contract between the society that links it together and is meant for the community on the whole.
Prohibiting some people from getting married because the people they want to marry do not fit our stereotypical definitions is highly dangerous and downright crude. It does not only have negative effects on those people that are concerned and harm them but also does irreparable damage to the institution and structure of marriage. It is also against all forms and norms and values of decency.
The position is the same that is taken by the majority of army as well. The organization known as the American Veterans for Equal Rights, Inc. supports gay rights. The views of an ex-army man who was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff GEN John M. Shalikashvili (Ret.) are as follows: “In the early 1990s, large numbers of military personnel were opposed to letting openly gay men and lesbians serve. President Bill Clinton, who promised to lift the ban during his campaign, was overwhelmed by the strength of the opposition, which threatened to overturn any executive action he might take. The compromise that came to be known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” was thus a useful speed bump that allowed temperatures to cool for a period of time while the culture continued to evolve. The question before us now is whether enough time has gone by to give this policy serious reconsideration. Much evidence suggests that it has”. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/opinion/02shalikashvili.html?ex=1325394000&en=171a9a25f632cbde&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss)
Family Policy Makers and Formulators Middle Perspective on Issue
The critics of the policy are numerous. Many oppose allowing gay marriages in a state. They think that it will open the way to other states also allowing this sort of a thing and it becoming the standard norm.
“Even though public acceptance of homosexuality has increased dramatically in the past 20 years, there is still tension between wanting to be fair to people and unease about same-sex relationships. Surveys show the extent to which Americans are conflicted. Most say the government should treat homosexuals and heterosexuals equally. Yet most Americans say the government should not get involved in the issue of homosexuality, and more than half oppose gay marriage. The vast majority of Americans say that the gays should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities, yet support declines when elementary school teachers are clergy are mentioned. More than half say gay partners should receive domestic partner benefits like inheritance rights, health insurance and Social Security, yet the public generally tends to favor extending those benefits to all Americans. Support for gay rights measures can also vary depending on survey wording. Americans also have a tradition of wanting to be inclusive. For many, it’s a matter of live and let live. But, despite the change in attitudes, Americans clearly struggle with how much they want to incorporate into public policy”. (http://www.publicagenda.org/issues/overview.cfm?issue_type=gay_rights)
This is an extremely important and vital issue as far as American society and culture is concerned. The decision to legalize the same sex marriages and gay marriages is a decision that affects the way people perceive marriage and the whole institution of marriage. It is one decision on marriage that will have resounding effects throughout the next generations. The State of Massachusetts has already started to give out licences that permit such marriages.
So it’s too late for the conservatives to think and take action on it now. However it’s better late then never in the views of those opposing the move. They think it is good that people of this intellectual caliber and capacity are brought into the folds of debate. The reasons why the family policy formulators have stayed out of the debate are genuine, simple and authentic. They have wanted to stay out of the conspiracy because of an over-powering reason. They did not want to side or favour the left as it presented the issue as an equal rights debate and the gender equality and civil rights debate. They did not want to get entangled in the issue of freedom and accompanying values.
On the other hand, they did not want to get on the side of the right as well because it concerned getting in a moral debate. It was a debate about the morality of homosexuality. Thus siding with the right meant practically and in the eyes of the public means that they are casting a vote for homosexuality.
And both the sides of the perspective are in truth correct and true on the basis of their own logics and foundations. But gay marriages and same sex marriages are a much more complex issue rather than such trivial and stereotypical arguments.
It is essentially a question of how to make and formulate a policy that serves everybody’s interests being served and serves them rightly. It has the right and correct ingredients to an excellent social policy.
Approach of Critics
“A new book by Brookings writer-in-residence and National Journal columnist Jonathan Rauch, titled Gay marriage: why it is good for gays, good for straights, and food for America (Henry Holt and Co., 2004), argues that gay marriage presents an opportunity for policymakers to shore up marriage's embattled status as the living arrangement of choice for couples in serious relationships. Rauch says the gay marriage ban damages marriage by guaranteeing the proliferation of substitutes and alternatives”. (http://www.brookings.edu/comm/events/20040401.htm)
The views of the critics claim that gay marriages shall destroy the whole institution of marriage as we perceive it and as we see it. All its foundations shall crumble and marriage as we see it today. The traditional marriage, that is, between a man and a woman.
The main opposition to the gay and/ or same sex marriages has been the issue of the child adoption. Many including the public think that the gays or lesbians and the homosexuals are not able to take care of their children and thus they are not brought up in a sociable manner. This distorts their personalities and hinders their achievements.
Gays and lesbians are being deprived of the ability to produce children of their own want to fulfill the needs of having a family through an alternative way that is the adoption of children.
These children are surrogate and compensate the need for actual families in the gay or lesbian and a same sex setup. But the society questions whether these children would be brought up in the way that their personalities do not face any harm because largely the society is still against same sex and gay marriage.
“Public opposition to "marriages" between homosexuals is at an all-time high, according to a poll released. When asked whether they thought same-sex "marriages" should be recognized by the law as valid and come with the same rights as traditional marriages, 68 percent of the respondents in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll said they should not. Twenty-eight percent said same-sex "marriages" should be valid and 4 percent had no opinion. The survey of 443 adults was conducted March 18 to 20. The survey from New York-based Rivendell Media found that spending on advertising in 139 homosexual publications reached $207 million last year, an increase of 28 percent from 2003. Fifteen percent of ads for services were for same-sex "wedding" consultants, the analysis found”.
The other concern that people have with the gay marriage system is the fact that how would the two people be able to effectively run a household and operate it efficiently.
These concerns are economic, social as well as individualistic. Would it be possible for people in a same sex relationship to operate in a society that is full of normal relationships rather the perceptions of what is deemed as a normal and natural way of maintaining relationships and functioning efficiently? This question requires a close scrutiny. This scrutiny should be carried out by the thinkers and the intellectuals and philosophers of our society. It should also be looked into by the various NGOs that work for the family and equal rights.
In the conclusion, it shall be noted that both the approaches are partially right in their assessment and analysis. This includes the one adopted by the traditionalists of being anti same sex marriages or of the one adopted by the liberals of supporting the same sex marriages. Then there is another approach adopted by the family policy-makers and the sociologists that ascribe to middle-of-the- road strategy.
It depends upon the people to decide what they want for themselves. It could be that they decide their sexual orientation and also the decision to marry because it is after all a free society. And the matter involves two consenting individuals and is thus devoid of the need of the interference of the state. However, there should be specific laws governing adoption of children as far as gay marriages are concerned. Special care should be taken in this regard. A policy should be formulated that benefits all the various stakeholders and the parties involved in the process.
American Veterans for Equal Rights, Inc. “Second thoughts on gays in army”. http://www.glbva.org/ Accessed, February 28 2007
Brookings Briefing: Can Gay Marriage Strengthen the American Family? : Journal article: http://www.brookings.edu/comm/events/20040401.htm Accessed, February 28 2007
Barnes & Noble.com - Books: Gay Marriage, by Jonathan Rauch, Hardcover
Can Gay Marriage Strengthen the American Family?
http://www.brookings.edu/comm/events/20040401.htm Accessed, February 28 2007
Gay Rights. An overview. http://www.publicagenda.org/issues/overview.cfm?issue_type=gay_rights Accessed, February 28 2007
Gay Rights. The issue at a glance. Newspaper article
http://www.publicagenda.org/issues/overview.cfm?issue_type=gay_rights Accessed, February 28 2007
Human rights watch, “U.S aligned with Iran in anti-gay vote”. Newspaper report: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/01/25/iran12535.htm Accessed, February 28 2007
Second Thoughts on Gays in the Military - New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/opinion/02shalikashvili.html?ex=1325394000&en=171a9a25f632cbde&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss Accessed, February 28 2007
The Washington Times: “More Americans oppose gay marriages, poll finds”: Newspaper article.2005.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20050401-114205-2153r.htm Accessed, February 28 2007
Temenos: Gay Marriage
http://www.temenos.net/articles/09-21-04.shtml Accessed, February 28 2007