Marriage is an institution long recognized by our government under the right to pursue happiness, and denying that right to any couple, regardless of gender, is unconstitutional. This argument, though, is not disputed. In fact, none of the arguments raised in opposition to the allowance of homosexual marriages takes into account the constitutional rights afforded to all humans. The arguments are only in relation to the possible repercussions (real or imagined) of granting these rights. Our nation was built and has always been based on the fundamental principles of freedom expressed in the Declaration of Independence and through our Constitution. The opponents of homosexual marriage need to remember what freedom means to America, and understand the significance of setting a precedent that denies that freedom.
The Supreme Court has long recognized that the institution of marriage is one of the rights guaranteed to all Americans by our Constitution. On the Internet, you can find the full text of the following Supreme Court cases. In the case of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court said, “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” In the case of Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, the Supreme Court said, “This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” At this time, however, marriage is only granted to heterosexual couples.
Although homosexuals live under the same constitution, they are not afforded the same rights as heterosexuals. The reasons presented against the allowance of homosexual marriage are flimsy, and have nothing to do with the constitutional rights that are supposed to be afforded every American. All of the arguments against homosexual marriages have to do with the repercussions of granting the constitutional right of marriage to homosexuals, but not with the constitutional rights of homosexuals. The arguments offered are remarkably similar to the arguments offered 30 years ago against interracial marriages. An internet article, Homosexual Marriages: Religious Aspects, says, “…all (arguments) seem to echo the debates heard in the late 1960’s when the morality of racially mixed marriages was being debated.
One only needs to change a few words in the 1996 arguments against gays and lesbian marriage in order to produce replicas of those earlier racist statements.” The arguments against homosexual marriage can be grouped into four categories: religious, the potential influence that the allowance of homosexual marriages will have on children, the psychological effects on children of homosexual parents, and the overall damage that will be done to society with the acceptance of homosexual marriages. The religious argument, in short, is that God doesn’t condone homosexuality. In Leviticus 20:13 of the Bible, the words are cited, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood upon them.” According to Gail Stewart, the punishment for homosexual behavior during the 18th century – usually death – was handled by the Church.
Since marriage is considered by the Church to be a covenant with God, the popular view in the Church is that homosexual marriages can not be allowed. There are a couple of problems with this. First, constitutional law can not be determined by religious grounds. The 1st amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Second, the Church will not be forced to acknowledge homosexual marriages even if they are condoned by the State. The same amendment that keeps religious grounds from determining law is the amendment that will allow the Church to continue denying homosexual marriages once they are allowed by the state. Third, homosexuals will be allowed in many churches to be married.
Part of the Homosexual Marriages: Religious Aspects page on the Internet says that the following churches support marriage for all adults, including homosexual couples: the Central Conference of American Rabbi’s, the California Council of Churches, the Church of Religious Science, the Pacific Congress of Quakers, the Reconstructionist Rabbinial Association, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. The argument of the potential influence that the allowance of homosexual marriages will have on children is just plain ridiculous. In a nutshell, the argument says that if we allow homosexuals to marry, then children will get the message that homosexuality is okay. If children get the message that homosexuality is okay, then they may decide to explore homosexuality.
The problem with this argument is that it’s advocates do not see the contradiction in the argument. The whole argument only works on the basis that there is something wrong with homosexuality. Richard Mohr cites that the American Psychiatric Institute dropped homosexuality from their registry of mental illnesses in 1972 after concluding that homosexuality was not a mental illness (3). Under this, the nation has accepted that homosexuality is just a deviation from the sexual norm. Since it is okay to be homosexual, what is wrong with children getting the message that homosexuality is okay? It is not the nation, but the church that continues to teach that homosexuality is bad. As with the fight of interracial marriages, this fight stems from old values — incorrect values — that die hard. The argument does not change the fact that homosexual couples are being denied their constitutional rights.
The argument against homosexual parenting is that children of same-sex marriages will suffer psychological problems, as evidenced by the children now who are suffering psychological effects because of family breakups and single-sex parenting. The argument contends that it would be wrong to send the message that both a mother and a father are not important by condoning homosexual marriages. The problem with this argument is that it tries to pin the psychological problems of children involved in family breakups on single-sex parenting. The problem is not with single-sex parenting, but with single parenting. An internet article, Homosexual Marriages: Statement By “Hawaii’s Future Today”, says that various studies of families with same-sex and opposite-sex parents were quoted at the September 1996 Circuit Court trial in Hawaii, where the original case for homosexual marriage was tried.
The studies showed that the genders of the parents are unimportant to the quality of child-rearing, but that family breakdowns are very harmful to children. Under these grounds, these studies could actually be used to support the homosexual position in that a committed homosexual relationship would be more stable for a child than an unstable heterosexual relationship. Again, these concerns are the same concerns voiced with interracial marriages. Thirty years ago, people were concerned over the psychological effects of interracial parenting on children. Any psychological problems posed to children by having homosexual parents would be imposed by the attitude of the general public, not by the parents. As with interracial marriages, this attitude of the public would change with time. This argument is no reason to deny homosexuals their constitutional rights.
The last argument is that overall society will be damaged if homosexual marriages are allowed. Richard Stengel cites William J. Bennett as saying that same-sex marriages “would do significant long-term social damage” to “society’s most important institution”, and that stretching the definition of marriage would jeopardize an already shaky institution (24). The main argument is based on the fact that marriage is the greatest civilizing agent for young men. Both sides agree to this point, but they disagree on who should be allowed to marry. The argument against homosexual marriage contends that homosexuals can not have committed relationships and remain faithful to one another. That homosexuals maintain some kind of inherent unfaithfulness by the nature of their sexual inclinations is simply not true. Homosexual couples are the same as heterosexual couples in their abilities to remain faithful and committed to one another.
The couples that are so adamantly fighting for their constitutional rights to marry are evidence of stable, committed, homosexual relationships. In an internet article, Homosexual Marriages in Vermont, the following couples and their length of commitment to each other are listed: Stan Baker and Peter Harrigan (20 years), Nina Beck and Stacy Jolles, and Lois Farnham and Holly Puterbaugh (25 years). Other arguments that contend that overall society will be damaged by allowing homosexual marriages are that an increased burden will be placed on society by extending the economic and legal benefits of marriage to homosexual couples, that a vast number of laws and private company policies will have to be addressed and modified, and that the economic burden of all of this will fall on society.
Since Americans were able to handle this burden with the legalization of interracial couples, I think that Americans could handle it now. Those opposed to homosexual marriage need to remember that America liberated itself to obtain freedom not for most men, but for all men. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was unanimously signed into place by the thirteen united states of America. This document, while proclaiming the colonies’ freedom from British rule, set down the principles under which America would be founded. It states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Under the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution was set in place and has continued to be ratified when these principles were found to not be upheld. As with the case of Loving v. Virginia, where the Supreme Court cited that the right to marriage was part of the right to pursue happiness, the miscegenation laws outlawing interracial marriages were found to be unconstitutional.
Those opposed to homosexual marriage need to remember why the freedom of our country is so important. Obviously, our forefathers felt that the price of freedom was worth freedom. Our country would not exist today if our forefathers had not signed the Declaration of Independence, and braved the repercussions of it. They were absolutely certain that they wanted a nation of their own making, a nation where everyone was equal and entitled certain rights. I can not imagine that any American would not choose to hold to these beliefs. Any African-American should understand the importance of upholding the fundamental beliefs on which America was based. It was these fundamental beliefs that abolished slavery, and called for equal rights. Any woman should understand the importance of upholding these fundamental beliefs. It was these beliefs that have worked toward ending woman’s suffrage.
Any parent, any working man, any American, should understand the importance of our fundamental beliefs. Without them, there is a never-ended list of the atrocities that could be committed: cruel and unusual punishment, sweatshop labor, unsafe work standards, unfair work practices, and on and on. Without them, America simply would not be the free nation that it is. To deny any one of our beliefs even once for anyone sets a precedent for them to be denied again and again, to anyone. Personally, I believe in the adage, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Homosexuals deserved to be treated equally, and if they love one another, they deserve to be able to get married.
- Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur. 21 Jan. 1974: www.law.vill.edu/Fed-Ct/Supreme/Flite/opinions/414US632.htm.
- Homosexual Marriages In Vermont. 8 Mar 1998: www.religioustolerance.org/hom_mar8.htm.
- Homosexual Marriages: Religious Aspects. 7 Mar 1998: www.religioustolerance.org/hom_mar7.htm.
- Homosexual Marriages: Statement By “Hawaii’s Future Today”. 2 Feb 1998: www.religioustolerance.org/hom_hft.htm.
- Loving v. Virginia. 12 Jun. 1967: www.ftm.org/loving/loving-v-virginia.html.
- Mohr, Richard D. A More Perfect Union. Boston: Beacon, 1994.
- Stengel, Richard. “For Better Or For Worse?” Time. 3 Jun. 1996: 23-25.
- Stewart, Gail B. The Other America. San Diego: Lucent, 1997.