In the United States, married couples receive many legal benefits that couples who live together but are unmarried do not. More and more, gay couples are insisting that they receive the same legal rights that the traditional, heterosexual married couples receive. Gay rights advocates believe that it is inequitable and biased to refuse to give certain privileges to any couple, gay or not. For example, marriage enables spouses to receive insurance through their partners’ employers. They are also allowed many other rights such as the ability to make decisions for their partner who is being hospitalized, have the right to sue on their partner’s behalf, and cannot be forced to testify against them in court. Married couples also pay less in taxes and receive many other social and financial benefits.
But because gay couples are legally prevented from marrying, they are excluded from receiving the same considerations that married heterosexual couples enjoy.
The argument proposed by the opponents of gay marriage is that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a republican form of government in which elected officials are intended to set social policy for the nation. Legislators do this by representing their constituent’s moral views when drafting laws.
Because the Constitution bars the intertwining of state and religion, the only method of ensuring that moral and ethical codes are enforced throughout society is through acts of legislation.
In fact, lawmakers draft laws that address moral issues constantly and not just in high profile matters such as abortion, pornography, and gay rights. When courts determine morality issues, they counteract legislation meant to protect the moral fabric of society and break down the constitutionally guaranteed separation of powers within the government. “When judges erode the power of the people’s representatives to set society’s moral compass, they likewise undercut the authority of parents, schools, and other community groups to set the standards they would like to see their children and fellow citizens live by. Indeed, it is a frontal assault on community values writ large” (Raul, 2003).
Advocates of non-traditional marriage counter this argument by saying that there is no constitutional basis for denying legal matrimony to gay couples. The Constitution not only legitimizes gay marriage but implies that the government should never have considered a ban and should instead actively pursue legalizing gay marriage. As citizens of the United States, all people are guaranteed the inalienable right to pursue happiness. It does not exclude on the basis of sexual preference. The government was originally formed as an entity meant to champion the rights of the individual whether they are on the majority or minority side of public opinion. Laws that were enacted in the South disallowed the marriage between black and white people but were struck down by the Supreme Court. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act followed the tenets of the Constitution by prohibiting this type of discrimination. The opposition to gay marriage is based on prejudice and, as time passes, the concept will become more and more accepted. It, like racial prejudice, will become socially abhorrent (Sullivan, 2000).
In addition, the disallowing of gay marriage by legislation violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “The law [against same-sex marriage] discriminates on the basis of sex because it makes one’s ability to marry depend on one’s gender.” The ACLU continues by saying, “Classifications which discriminate on the basis of gender must be substantially related to some important government purpose. Tradition by itself is not an important government purpose” (American Civil Liberties Union, 1996, pp. 14-15).
Benefits for gay partnerships
In 1997, the General Accounting Office reported that heterosexual married couples enjoyed more than 1000 benefits and protections. These marriage incentives range from survivor benefits through Social Security, the ability to take sick leave from work to care for a sick partner, federal and state tax breaks, and veteran and insurance benefits. They also include things like “family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to” (Belge, 2006). Following the enactment of the Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMA), an amendment added to many states’ constitutional definition of marriage, many lawsuits have been filed all over the country against local and state governments whether or not they offer health insurance and other benefits to their employees’ unmarried domestic partners. DOMA prohibits the state governments from providing benefits to a dependent in a relationship that does not comply with the state’s constitutional definition of marriage. Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Gay-rights groups disagree with these amendments.
Shortly after Alaska adopted a similar marriage amendment in 1998, the Alaska ACLU took the State to court on behalf of several gay couples who had a partner employed by the state. The suit claimed that the government practiced institutional discrimination by disallowing benefits to employees’ partners because those same benefits were offered to the heterosexual partners of state employees. The ACLU lost in the trial court but in 2005, but the state Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision. The court ruled that “the benefits system is discriminatory because benefits are extended to employees’ married partners and because same-sex couples are constitutionally barred in the state from marrying” (Gentile, 2006).
Gay Couples Raising Children
Those opposed to gay marriage believe that these relationships do not serve the best interest of the state. Since they cannot bear children that would ultimately add to the tax base of a community, there is no incentive for the state to recognize their union and provide them the benefits of marriage, an expensive burden to the state. Advocates of gay marriage have not been able to show what financial benefit their marriage would be to the state. “If sexual love alone becomes the primary purpose of marriage rather than procreation, the restriction of marriage to couples loses its logical basis, leading to marital chaos” (Kolasinksi, 2004). The marriage laws, established by the state, ensure that the couples who do get the benefits of marriage are those who benefit the state by having children.
Those that oppose gay marriage have yet to provide evidence those children of gay couples whether biological or adopted are harmed by this living arrangement. Some have expressed fears that these children will be more likely to become homosexuals suggesting that it would be appalling if that were the situation. In today’s world, the fact is that most children do not live in ‘Leave it to Beaver’ type households with a housewife and a father who works at the office from nine to five. 25 percent of children are born out of wedlock to single women who are predominately young and impoverished according to Bureau of Census statistics. Half of all marriages end in divorce and ‘traditional’ married couples with children comprise just 26 percent of U.S. families. “It is unrealistic to pretend that children can only be successfully reared in an idealized concept of family, the product of nostalgia for a time long past.” (“Social Norms”, 1999).
Gay couples exhibit similar family and societal values as those the traditional couple does while engaged in the activities of their daily lives. Other than the fact that one couple is of the same sex and the other is not, the neighbors would notice no difference. They cherish and are involved in family life, abide by the law, and are committed to making their communities a better place for all to live. The legalization of gay marriage benefits society because the very obligations of marriage itself discourage promiscuous sex which carries the advantage of decelerating the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Marriage also encourages a family-type atmosphere in the house, neighborhood, and community.
Many believe that being gay is a choice and therefore individuals should choose to be heterosexual for the reasons previously discussed. They largely base their opposition on this assumption. Of course, they have no answer when asked when they made their choice of which sex to be attracted to. Very few people make the choice of the gay lifestyle and why would they?
Who would choose to be constantly ridiculed and discriminated against? In addition, the conservative, right-wing propaganda proposes that homosexuality only concerns the act of sexual intercourse and believes it to be a perversion.
Homosexuality is multi-faceted involving true love and affection more than it is about sex, much the same as the traditional relationship. It’s past time that being gay means being considered a second-class citizen by society and by the laws of the land. All citizens of the U.S. should expect to be treated with respect and equality.
This remains the goal but the fact is, it should already be a reality.
American Civil Liberties Union. “Gay Marriage.” California: Greenhaven Press. pp. 14-15. (1996). Web.
Belge, Kathy. “The Difference Between Marriage and Civil Unions.” About Lesbian Life. (2006). Web.
Gentile, Annie. “Employee Fringe Benefits.” City and County. Vol. 121, I. 5, p14-16. (2006).
Kolasinksi, Adam. “The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage.” The Tech. Vol. 124, N. 5. (2004). Web.
Raul, Alan Charles. “How Legalizing Gay Marriage Undermines Society’s Morals.” The Christian Science Monitor. (2003). Web.
“Social Norms and Judicial Decision-making: Examining the Role of Narratives in Same-Sex Adoption Cases.” Columbia Law Review. Lexis-Nexis. (1999). Web.
Sullivan, Andrew. “Why ‘civil union’ isn’t Marriage.” Gay Forum. (2000). Web.