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Civil marriage is more than merely a commitment to love one another. It enables married couples additional financial responsibility as well as benefits. It is the institution that provides automatic legal protection for spouses. Prohibiting same-sex marriages is discrimination. Denying homosexuals the opportunity for a legal marriage is morally wrong. By denying them marriage, we also are denying the benefits that go along with a marriage.
According to the Legal Information Institute, the traditional definition of marriage is: “a contract based upon a voluntary private agreement by a man and a woman to become husband and wife.” Why do people want to be married? Marriage is a symbol of being an adult and shows a status of social maturity. Marriage is a basic human right that should not be denied to anyone. People grow up; fall in love, and if they are lucky, they want to marry the person they love and live with them in fidelity and commitment for the rest of our lives. But for one group of Americans, it is denied. Why would anyone want to deny this basic human right to a group of people in our society who wish no one any harm, but wish to affirm the values of commitment and fidelity?
In the United States, marriage has changed drastically throughout the years. African-Americans and interracial couples were once prohibited from marrying. Just as the Supreme Court required states to allow interracial marriage, states should be required now to recognize the fundamental right of homosexuals and allow same-sex marriage.
B.A. Robinson lists the history of marriage in, Changes In Marriage: Past, Present And Future:
“In the early part of the 19th century, marriage was a legally sanctified contract of mutual support between two consenting non-Afro-American adults of opposite gender. Afro-Americans were prohibited from marrying.”
Afro-Americans were permitted to marry. The definition was changed to read, “a contract between two consenting adults of the same race and of the opposite gender.”
“In 1967, over the objections of many conservative folks, mixed-race couples were permitted to marry.” The definition was changed again to be, “a contract between any two consenting adults of opposite gender.”
“For a few hours in 1996-DEC, in the state of Hawaii, over the objections of still another generation of conservative folks, gays and lesbians were theoretically permitted to marry. Unfortunately for gay and lesbian couples who wished to get married, the state refused to issue marriage licenses.” Once again the definition was changed to read, “a contract of mutual support between any two consenting adults.”
In mid 2000, Vermont created civil unions. “For heterosexual couples, this will be a marriage; for gay/lesbian couples this will be a civil union. Both give the spouses the same rights, benefits and obligations; just the legal name is different. If they separate, they may go to state courts to obtain a divorce.”
On November 19, 2003, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts has legalized marriage between two adults of the same sex. Robinson quotes Justice Margaret Marshall, “Barring an individual from the protections, benefits and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts constitution.”
Our country was founded on the Constitution, in which all men are created equal. We, as a nation, have a moral responsibility to treat each person with human dignity and respect. The country should not deny the basic and legal right of marriage to a group of individuals because of their sexual preference. Doing this shows that we do not respect homosexuals. It only makes sense for us to have the right to marry whomever we want. T. Stoddard (n.d) explained it simply: in 1967, the Supreme Court declared marriage, [as] “one of the basic civil rights of man.” The freedom to marry, said the Court, is “essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness.” However, being able to marry the one you love has its own stipulations. Outside of Massachusetts, same-sex couples are not allowed to obtain a civil marriage.
The Vermont Supreme Court recognizes the commitment between same-sex couples as but refers to them as unions and Massachusetts accepts same-sex marriages. Banning same-sex marriage has been declared a violation of the constitution in the state of Massachusetts. However, the federal government has designed a public law that authorizes other states to deny these recognitions. Public Law 104-199 explains the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This act has defined marriage for federal purposes, “In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” This law, as written, prevents same-sex couples from receiving survivor and pension benefits among other benefits. It also authorizes states to deny recognition of same-sex marriage performed in other states.
Our country is based on equality for all people. This was stated by the founding fathers of our nation. “We held 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” (Declaration of Independence).
The United States has strived for full equality among people of all races and genders. African-Americans and women were given the right to vote and segregation laws have been abolished. By enacting affirmative action laws, the United States has moved forward the fight for equality. We cannot stop now. We must continue to move towards furthering equality. Equality for homosexuals must be recognized.
Directly across the street from our house lives a gay couple. They do the same exact things that we do; food shopping, barbeques, shoveling, going to the moves. They have just as much right to intimacy and want for marital rights as we do. It is morally right to allow a legal marriage be granted to every citizen. In 1998, at a Gay Pride Rally Speech, Steve Bryant argued, “Legal marriage is a basic privilege and responsibility of adulthood. Without it, our partners remain strangers under the law. Without it, we are subject to discrimination that we have too long taken for granted” (Legal Marriage Primer). One writer in agreement explains, “The civil right of legal marriage is not just a mere matter of semantics, culture, or social grace. It is the right to be considered a full adult and be treated the same as any other U.S. citizen” (Legal Marriage Primer).
By denying same sex partners the right to marry, the government is also denying them the benefits that are part of a marriage. Even though some companies may offer benefits to same-sex partners, without the state recognizing the civil union or same-sex marriage, same-sex partners are denied federal and state benefits such as: their partner’s federal pension; medical decisions on behalf of their partner; domestic violence protection, immunity from testifying against spouse, sick leave to care for partner; visitation of partner in hospital or prison (Demain, Legal Marriage Primer).
During the same speech given in 1998, Bryant speaks out for homosexual marriage and its benefits, “Legal marriage allows recognition of a partner as next-of-kin. And for committed couples, that’s all important, especially in times of crisis. For example, next-of-kin status would allow you to make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner.” His partner, Demain, of 15 years states, “Too often, partners have been shut out of wills and even funerals by phobic blood relatives. Being next-of-kin would give you incontrovertible access to your partner’s funeral and allow you to automatically inherit, even without a will. It is not just a nice thing to have your relationship legally recognized. It’s vital to the social and economic security of your family, especially those of you with children.”
Chris Ryan, president of the Utah Log Cabin Club, a group of gay republicans, said, “All we want are the legal rights that go along with marriage” (Dunlap). Included in those things are: visiting a partner in the hospital, inheriting property, providing insurance coverage, filing a joint tax return, and distributing assets in a divorce. All Ryan wants are the things that would be entitled to him if he were a heterosexual.
There are those people who believe homosexual behavior is immoral because it is contrary to God and to nature. The Roman Catholic Church states, “Marriage exists solely between a man and woman … Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.” People argue that marriage is designed for procreation. Procreation is part of natural law. Since homosexuals cannot procreate together, many people believe that this is against natural law and, therefore, it is a strong reason that same sex marriages should be prohibited. Marriage isn’t solely about procreation. However, many opposite sex couples choose not to, or are not able to, procreate. Couples decide everyday not to bear or raise children. Nonetheless, they are still allowed to marry. It is about love and friendship and wanting to share your life with someone you love and trust. My husband and I may or may not have children. How would we feel if in five years the state came and told us that since we had no children our marriage wasn’t valid? Marriage shouldn’t be based upon the act of childbearing. On the hand, gay and lesbians do bear children and same sex couples jointly care for their children together.
Another argument is that some people in society find homosexuality to be offensive. J. Boss explains, “Homosexuality is immoral because it is offensive and disgusting to those who are forced to witness public displays of homosexual affection” (p. 374). The display of homosexual affection may be unfamiliar to you, but it is an affection of love, friendship and commitment. I would rather see two men or two women holding hands than I would see a man hit a woman on the street. Homosexuals have been the objects of vicious and cruel behavior. Still they continue with their beliefs going so far as living in areas such as San Francisco and Ft. Lauderdale trying to live with peace and societal acceptance. Our gay friends would prefer to work in companies that accept the openly rather than companies that wouldn’t accept them. A person’s sexual preference has no relation to his or her performance in society. Simply put, the reason people are against same-sex marriage is that people are unaccustomed to it. Hatred and bigotry still exist today in our society. People fear what is different and unfamiliar to them, therefore, denying homosexuals their place in the United States of having the choice to marry their loved ones
In the article, Here Comes the Groom, (1989), Andrew Sullivan explains that same-sex marriage, “allows for recognition of gay relationships, while casting no aspersions on traditional marriage. It merely asks that gays be allowed to join in” and he continues, “it says for the first time that gay relationships are not better or worse than straight relationships, and that the same is expected of them…There’s a legal benefit to a clear, common symbol of commitment.” In the end, it comes down to marriage provides a “common symbol of commitment” between two people. The United States should allow same-sex marriages.
My marriage is a private and intimate commitment with my spouse. To the outside world, it shows as we are united together in life. Whom we marry is our personal choice and I would not want the government to interfere with my choice of spouse. Nor should states dictate whom a gay or lesbian person can and cannot marry. We are born in America with the fundamental and basic right of freedom to marry and we should not be prohibited from that right in any way. The government does not pose on its citizens how many children we must bear, it should not pose on us whom we can and cannot marry. Marriage is the essential building to a good society. It is the essence of our families and our lives. The two gentlemen across the street from us should be able to have a legal commitment of marriage between them. Their relationship isn’t hurting my life. How is it hurting yours?
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