Gay Marriage Essay, Research Paper
Homosexuals should be allowed to marry because the disallowance of it violates their constitutional rights. 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. Banning same-sex marriage is discriminatory. Marriage is a basic human right and should not be denied to any individual. At various times in U.S. history, other minorities have been prevented from marrying: African-Americans, for example. Interracial marriage was also legally prohibited in various states, until the Supreme Court ruled such bans unconstitutional in 1967 (?Should Gay? 31).
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. Marriage plays an important role not only in people?s experience of daily living but also in our culture?s received ideals.
Marriage viewed as a cultural ideal is one way to explain the strength of the backlash against gay marriage. Legally married heterosexuals would not lose any legal right or material benefit if gays were allowed to get legally married (Mohr 22). Then why the fuss? There is no moral reason to support civil unions and not same- sex marriage unless one believes that admitting homosexuals would weaken a vital civil institution. This was the underlying argument for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which implied that allowing homosexuals to marry constituted an “attack” on the existing institution. The DOMA basically concludes that homosexuals are inherently depraved and immoral, allowing them to marry would inevitably spoil, and defame, the institution of marriage (Sullivan ?State? 18). This claim strays from the realm of traditional social policy enters the realm of cultural symbols. But symbols matter: it is chiefly in terms of symbols that people define their lives and have identities. Marriage viewed as a symbolic event, enacts, institutionalizes, and ritualizes the social meaning of heterosexuality. Part of the attraction of marriage for some heterosexuals, is that it confers status. One of the ways it does this is by distinguishing such people from homosexuals. If you remove that cultural status, you further weaken an already beleaguered institution (Sullivan ?State? 18). Marriage is the chief means by which culture maintains heterosexuality as a social identity, and is the social essence of heterosexuality. In consequence, on the plane of symbols and identities, if one did not get married, one wouldn?t be fully heterosexual. Using the same argument, if others were allowed to get married, one wouldn?t be heterosexual either (Mohr 22). This analysis explains why our government can claim that marriage by definition is the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife, even though this definition is circular, lacks any content, and defines nothing. The function of this definition is not to clarify or explain; its function is to assure heterosexual supremacy as a cultural form. (Mohr 22)
Supporting the civil union while opposing marriage is an incoherent position, based more on sentiment than on reason, more on prejudice than principle. Marriage, under any interpretation of American constitutional law, is among the most basic civil rights. “Separate but equal” was a failed and pernicious policy with regard to race; it will be a failed and pernicious policy with regard to sexual orientation. The many advances of recent years, the “domestic partnership” laws passed in many cities and states, the generous package of benefits finally granted in Hawaii, the breakthrough in Vermont–should not be thrown out. But neither can they be accepted as a solution, as some straight liberals and gay pragmatists seem to want. In fact, these half-measures, far from undermining the case for complete equality, only sharpen it. For there are no arguments for the civil union that do not apply equally to marriage. To endorse one but not the other, to concede the substance of the matter while withholding the name and form of the relationship, is to engage in an act of pure stigmatization. It risks not only perpetuating public discrimination against a group of citizens but adding to the cultural balkanization that already plagues American public life (Sullivan ?State? 18).
Particular religious arguments against same-sex marriage are rightly debated within the churches and faiths themselves. That is not the issue here: there is a separation between church and state in this country. Supporters are only asking that when the government gives out civil marriage licenses, those who are gay should be treated like anybody else. Of course, some argue that marriage is by definition between a man and a woman. But for centuries, marriage was by definition a contract in which the wife was her husband’s legal property. And that changed. For centuries, marriage was by definition between two people of the same race. That also changed. These things were changed because society recognized that human dignity is the same whether one is a man or a woman, black or white. No one has any more of a choice to be gay than to be black or white or male or female (Sullivan ?Let Gays? 26)
The matter is ultimately simple enough. Gay men and women are citizens of this country. After two centuries of invisibility and persecution, they deserve to be recognized as such. A random woman can marry a multimillionaire on a Fox TV special and the law will accord that marriage no less validity than a lifelong commitment between Billy Graham and his wife. The courts have upheld an absolutely unrestricted right to marry for deadbeat dads, men with countless divorces behind them, prisoners on death row, even the insane. In all this, we make a distinction between what religious and moral tradition, expect of marriage and what civil authorities require sanctioning it under law. It may well be that some religious traditions want to preserve marriage for heterosexuals in order to encourage uniquely heterosexual virtues. And they may have good reason to do so. But civil law asks only four questions before handing out a marriage license: Are you an adult; are you already married; are you related to the person you intend to marry; and are you straight? It’s that last question that rankles. When civil law already permits the delinquent, the divorced, the imprisoned, the sterile, and the insane to marry, it seems revealing that it draws the line at homosexuals (Sullivan ?State? 18).
Mohr, Richard D. “The Stakes in the Gay Marriage Wars.” The Gay and Lesbian Review 2000: 22.
“Should Gay Marriage be Legal?” U.S. News & World Report 3 June 1996: 31.
Sullivan, Andrew. “Let Gays Marry.” Newsweek 3 June 1996: 26.
—. “State of the Union – Why “Civil Union” Isn’t Marriage.” The New Republic 8 May 2000: 18.