Legality of Gay Marriages
President George W. Bush addressed the nation on February 24, 2004 concerning a matter he termed to be of “national importance.” He declared that the union of a heterosexual couple is one of the most complicated human institutions, with honor and encouragement in all cultures and by many religions. Ages of practice have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife is to love and serve each other, which promotes the welfare of their children and the harmony and stability of the society. Marriage cannot be separated from its cultural, religious and natural roots without creating a weak society.
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Following this address, he made an appeal to the Congress to pass an amendment that would limit marriage of opposite-sex couples. This announcement drew a multitude of reactions across the political and social divide. Pro-gay groups such as the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce consider this amendment partisan, divisive and anti-gay one. The mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom dismissed the amendment referring to it as enshrining discrimination in the Constitution. On the other hand, proponents of opposite-sex marriage welcomed the amendment stating that it reiterated the age-old definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Most if not all cultures in the whole world over, both civilized and uncivilized, have defined marriage as the result of a union between a man and a fellow woman regardless of how they met. The constitutional amendment merely states that again.
In the United States, the battle to legalize gay marriages stretches back to the 1970s. At that time, gay couples tried to obtain marriage certificates and privileges of adoption but had little success. In the mid- 1980s, gay couples shifted their attention to gaining domestic partnership rights from their employers. The fight to legalize gay marriages has gained momentum in the new millennium. The fact that there is a small group of homosexuals who are opposed to the idea of legalization of same-sex marriages is of particular interest. Despite this fact, proponents of gay marriage have made important steps towards achieving their goal and objectives.
History of Gay Marriage Attempts
The landmark victory to recognize gay marriages came in the 1999 Baker v. State case in Vermont. The Vermont Supreme Court gave an order to the Vermont legislature to draft systems that would accord gay marriages the benefits and protections of a normal marriage. Prior to the Baker v. State case, a number of cases had been filled but achieved little in terms of success. I will highlight a few of these cases.
Baker v. Nelson (Minnesota, 1971). A male gay couple stated that since the Minnesota statute lacked any sex-specific language, it, therefore, was not opposed to gay marriages. In addition, they proclaimed that restraining them from marrying was a violation of their rights of equal protection as stipulated in the Constitution. The court terminated the case citing its failure to find support for those allegations in the United States Supreme Court (Lambda Law Student Association).
Jones v. Hallahan (Kentucky, 1973). A lesbian couple who had been denied a marriage license argued that their constitutional rights to marry, associate and exercise religion freely had been violated. The court dismissed the case claiming that their relationship was not a marriage and therefore did not warrant a marriage license.
These cases have been succeeded by many others including Thorton v. Tummers (Ohio, 1975), De Santo v. Barnsley (Pennsylvania, 1984) and Matter of Estate of Cooper (New York, 1990). Most of those cases ended in defeats until the 1999 Baker v. State case which produced a landmark victory in the fight to legalize gay marriages.
Gay Marriage Should Be Legal
It is my strong belief and conviction that gay marriages should be made legal. The question of whoever should dictate the institution of marriage is hard to answer. First of all, it is within the power of the government to provide couples with certain rights and privileges. In return, the government expects the couples to meet certain responsibilities like ensuring stability of the family. On the other hand, the society also has a stake in the institution of marriage to provide families with the means to sustain social pressure. In addition, religion also controls marriage because every religion has developed unique traditions that seek to address marriage in a spiritual aspect. Consequently, marriage is not one institution with a single meaning. It is controlled by a multitude of factors (Nussbaum).
The legalization of gay marriages will enhance the social stability of our society today. From time immemorial, marriage has been viewed as a conservative institution. It means that married couples are expected to adhere to certain civic and family obligations that unmarried couples would otherwise ignore. Therefore, spreading this degree of commitment to gay couples would increase the level of stability in the society. Moreover, welcoming gay marriages does not infringe on the rights of those opposed to them due to moral or religious grounds (Gerstmann).
It is of great concern that children living with gay families do not enjoy the legal rights and privileges that children with married couples do. It is the reason for legalization of gay marriages so that all children will be able to enjoy the same rights and privileges. These legal rights include full access to health insurance, inheritance, sharing of property and hospital visits. Being in a gay marriage does not mean lack of children since most gay couples tend to adopt them. In the end, children are number one priority in any society and making sure that they are protected legally should be our top priority regardless of whether some children live with gay parents or not.
Through the past many years, a description of marriage has changed a great deal (Malvern). Initially, marriage was viewed as a religious institution. Therefore, everything pertaining to marriage had to be in accordance with the teachings of the religion concerned. The thought of gay marriages could not be entertained. However, times have changed, and the definition of marriage has broadened to include the government, the society, and religion. The growing population of people now sees marriage as a different institution compared to what it was a century ago. Hence, the government should begin to represent a broader spectrum of citizens whilst respecting the views of religion and society.
Issue of Procreation
The survival of a given society is dependent on the family based on marriage. Consequently, legalizing gay marriages would transform marriage into an institution that lacks factors associated with heterosexuality. These include procreation of children and raising them. Gay marriages cannot produce offspring using the natural and right method of reproduction. Hence, these unions have no positive impact on the ultimate survival of the human race. However, this counter-argument can be readily dismissed as follows. First of all, gay marriages provide a chance to adopt children. These children are given the opportunity to experience family love and care. In addition, advances in technology enable gay couples to sire children without sexual contact outside the marriage. These include surrogate mothers and test tube babies. This issue can also be considered in terms of population control. The inability of gay marriages to procreate means there is reduced population growth. Therefore, dangers of overpopulation such as disease, hunger, and poor sanitation are averted to some extent.
Conservatives who are against gay marriages argue that they threaten monogamy and that preserving marriages will help children live in families of dedicated parents (Gallup and Newport). However, the number of failed heterosexual marriages is on the rise. It has resulted in the social lives of the children being affected because of living with separated parents. The loss of sanctity of family life today is largely due to polygamous men in heterosexual relationships and not gay couples. Progressive and democratic organizations should join the movement to have gay marriages legalized. Through the legalization of gay marriages, other avenues will be created to legalize other relationships.