To make a valid argument concerning the legalization of homosexual marriage, one must consider a few important factors. First, is whether or not the right to marry one that should be granted to everyone regardless of sexual orientation. Secondly, is sexual orientation an innate feature or a personal choice? Third, would legalizing homosexual marriage threaten the sanctity of the institution itself? Lastly, when making a judgment considering people’s rights, one must consider whether or not that judgment will infringe on the rights of others.
Marriage is important to all families and though civil unions do offer the same benefits and protections, they do not carry from state to state. Benefits such as joint ownership of property, insurance, tax filing status, and the ability to make important medical decisions are not given in homosexual relationships. For example, a gay couple gets into a car accident and one needs surgery of some kind, the partner may not even be able to have visitation rights at the hospital because he or she is not a legal spouse or considered an immediate family member. Just because a person’s relationship does not fit the state’s definition of what a marriage should look like, is it okay to deny them access to their loved ones?
Prohibiting same-sex marriages is an act of discrimination against a minority. There are many laws against minority discrimination including equal protection amendments, the Bill of Rights and anti-slavery laws. Denying the right to marry for a homosexual couple is the same as denying marriage to a Hispanic couple, or even an interracial couple. If civil unions were really the same, why don’t heterosexual couples get them?
On one hand, denying marriage to homosexuals is a violation of religious freedom, as religious and civil marriages are two separate institutions. The main cited reason for prohibiting the marriage of homosexuals is that most major religions consider homosexuality a sin. The Constitution, however, states that religious affiliation and even lack thereof, is to be protected. Civil unions and marriage by the state are not religious rites or activities. Is it to slight a religion to recognize activity as legal that it considers a sin? Hinduism, for example, states that to eat meat is to sin. Is it okay to make a law saying that Americans can no longer eat meat because of this?
On the other hand, as discussed in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Roger Severino explains that the legalization of gay marriage is in direct correlation with telling churches what they can and cannot do. He expresses the fear if gay marriage were to be legalized, churches could not only lose their tax-exempt statuses for refusing to marry people, but they could end up in legal trouble for discrimination. He also says that restricting a church’s right to discriminate would be an attack on their morals and freedom to practice their faith. However, there are already churches who will not allow homosexuals and people of other faiths to participate as part of their congregation, marry couples that have already been living together before marriage, or marry individuals who are single as a product of divorce and this has not affected their tax-exempt statuses or gotten them into legal troubles.
Many studies have been done on the subject of homosexuality and whether or not it is an innate phenomena or a personal choice. This subject needs to be explored to conclude whether or not subject of legalization of homosexual marriage can be treated as a civil right. If it is a personal choice than it could not be treated such. However, if enough evidence can be found that it was indeed, innate then, and only then, can it be treated as a civil rights issue.
According to an excerpt from the Human Genome Project published in the Journal of Homosexuality, “Nearly 50 years of psychiatric research have established that homosexuality is not voluntarily amenable to change.” A separate study published in Science News states that male sexual orientation is genetic, citing that in that study, genes played a role in thirty-one to seventy-four percent of the subjects. Another study from the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded the same among women. Therefore, to treat someone as a second-class citizen because of their genetic predispositions can be considered discriminatory. It is the way they are born. To be honest, would someone really want to choose to lead a lifestyle where they will have less rights, be treated as a second-class citizen, and be patronized by their fellow students, co-workers and human-beings?
Another factor important to this topic is the role of bias in shaping legislation concerning homosexual marriage. A study published in College Teaching shows that the amount of exposure to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues and lifestyle is in direct correlation with students’ amount of bias and support for equality legislation. After participating in diversity courses which discuss these issues, students showed less prejudice and more sympathy to the plight of LGBT individuals, and were more supportive of legislation which would ensure equal treatment of these individuals. Therefore, it is understood that LGBT education is just as important as the diversity education offered in schools today concerning race and culture.
According to most who oppose same-sex marriage, the idea of its legalization threatens the sanctity of the institution of marriage. If America were to allow homosexual couples to marry, that could clear the way for people to have multiple wives and husbands, people marrying objects or animals, or adults marrying children. However, what is missing in these arguments is what defines the ideal of marriage: two consenting adults. What two consenting adults decide is their ideal form of a relationship does not harm anyone in particular. For example, the legalization of interracial marriage has not made same-race marriages less valid or fulfilling. People did not stop getting married after interracial marriages became legal, and the divorce rate was not affected.
The biggest threat to the sanctity of marriage is the option of divorce, not homosexuality. A recent New York Times article shows that the divorce rate has actually lowered in states that do not have a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Since legalizing gay marriage in 2004, Massachusetts’ divorce rate has dropped twenty-one percent. In comparison, Alaska, which was the first state to make an amendment to its state constitution banning gay marriage in 1998, has had the largest increased divorce rate of over seventeen percent. Statistics show that race, religion, and age do not have a large impact on divorce rates and the divorce rate has been rising steadily despite the lack of recognition of homosexual relationships. In fact, sixty percent of all heterosexual marriages are doomed within their first ten years, and eighty percent within twenty years.
The legalization of homosexual marriage would actually encourage family values and discourage risky lifestyles. Problems such as sexually transmitted diseases which come to mind as associated with sexuality are hallmarks of promiscuity. Marriage encourages monogamy and faithfulness, the types of behaviours that should be encouraged. In his article for Time Andrew Sullivan writes, “For today’s generation of gay kids, all that changes. From the beginning, they will be able to see their future as part of family life…And as they date in adolescence and early adulthood, there will be some future anchor in their mind-set, some ultimate structure with which to give their relationships stability and social support…They [heterosexuals] have never doubted that one day they could marry the person they love.”
Lastly, when discussing the making of a law one needs to be sure to not tread on the rights of others. Would legalizing homosexual marriage affect the legal rights of anyone else? As stated before, a marriage is a legal binding contract between two consenting adults. Those involved in a wedding are the two people that are getting married, the magistrate or preacher or clerk that officiates the marriage, and any witnesses should they choose to attend. In the marriage ceremony or civil ceremony there is no one involved that is not willfully intent on being there. After the marriage license is signed, the last name of one or both of the individuals gets changed if they so choose, they now have a new tax filing status, they have the opportunity to hold joint property, medical decision-making and employee health benefits, etc. No one other than the two consenting adults has rights that change at that point in time. No one else’s rights get enhanced, diminished, or changed.
Concerning this legalization, maybe most importantly one should consider the feelings of the minority involved. In the poignant words of Emerson Collins, “Those who wish to ‘love the sinner and hate the sin’…you can’t. You can’t have it both ways. You cannot love me and hate who I am. It is ridiculous, because at the end of the day, if either of us controlled the government personally, saying that you would create society in a way that makes who I am less than who you are, negates your ability to say you love me.”