Monday, February 13, 2012

Same-sex couples deserve marriage rights

Reasons for restriction of marriage rights to gays, lesbians lack logical bases

Social issues have dominated the headlines as of late as the Republican nomination for president has heated up. One of the issues that continually comes up (thanks in part to candidate Rick Santorum's extreme views on the subject) is the issue of same-sex marriage.

In the wake of the GOP "conversations" on the subject, as well as passage in Washington state of same-sex marriage rights (and legislative passage of a same-sex marriage law in New Jersey), it behooves us to review the subject matter, to examine what's behind the debate and why same-sex partners deserve to have the same recognition that straight couples are afforded.

Marriage is involved in two separate aspects of our society. On the one hand, there is a traditional sense of what a marriage is, usually viewed as a religious ceremony that links two individuals together as one. This is what is argued over when the right in this country talks about the "sanctity of marriage."

Yet there is a second version of marriage that's also important to keep in mind within the debate -- the secular, state-sanctioned marriage. No marriage, religious or otherwise, is valid in the state's eyes without a license granted to couples from the government. Upon issuance of this certificate (and agreement between the two parties involved), a couple is conferred basic contractual rights, including (but not limited to) visitation rights when one is in the hospital, rights of inheritance, rights to share health insurance plans, rights of custody, and so forth.

In fact, there are literally thousands of rights that are conferred to "married" partners, rights that aren't accessible to those who are in civil unions, domestic partnerships or other pacts that are offered to same-sex couples.

Flawed arguments
The arguments that opponents of same-sex marriage put forth often point towards a "protection" of one thing or another. Some arguments even try to connect homosexuality to other forms of relationships, connections that oftentimes fail to have any weight to them whatsoever once you truly look at them close-up.

The "slippery-slope" argument, for example, tends to believe that if you legalize same-sex marriage, then other forms of marriage -- such as polygamy, bestiality, etc. -- MUST become legalized as well through the same rationale that same-sex marriage would been legalized under. Some opponents of marriage equality also compare the practice of homosexuality to pedophilia, a comparison that is wholeheartedly without merit.

To combat these arguments, one needs only to look at what exactly a same-sex marriage would entail, and what specifically couples hoping to gain recognition are desiring: a same-sex marriage would create a state-sanctioned bond between two consenting individuals of the same sex. Compare that to what a "traditional" marriage is (a recognition of two consenting individuals of the opposite sex) and it's clear that the slippery-slope comparisons are outrageous ones to make:
  • A same-sex marriage is in no way going to lead to a polygamist marriage because both a same-sex marriage and a opposite-sex marriage limit the bond to two. The comparison between same-sex marriages and polygamist marriages is purely that both are unrecognized, nothing more.

  • Relationships involving bestiality aren't going to occur as a result of same-sex marriage either because the two are different, in that the latter requires both participants to be "individuals," not an individual and an animal, just as an opposite-sex marriage does.

  • So, too, is the comparison to pedophilia equally incomparable, seeing as same-sex marriage advocates are pushing for a relationship between two consenting adults, not a relationship that requires one of the participants to lack the facilities to give consent. You could make an equally convincing argument that opposite-sex marriages could also lead to pedophilia being recognized, as many cases of abuse occur between an older individual and a younger, opposite-sexed child as well. In both cases, the rationale lacks adequate argument.
Opponents of same-sex marriage also try to state that they're merely "protecting" the sanctity of marriage (more on that later), or "protecting" family values by limiting what relationships are recognized or not. But in many cases, families of same-sex households are just like children of any other family.

Scientific studies tend to agree: according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Children’s optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes."

The AAP adds, in another similar study: "There is ample evidence to show that children raised by same-gender parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents. More than 25 years of research have documented that there is no relationship between parents' sexual orientation and any measure of a child's emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral adjustment" (Emphasis added).

Unsanctimonious -- and recognized -- marriages
The concept that marriage has always been sanctimonious is also a troubled view -- though likely to have been a part of many marriage ceremonies, and himself a married man, Martin Luther believed "[marriage] was a part of life and even a part of Christian life, but it was not a sacrament." Indeed, the religious pilgrims who came to America had similar views, as the Puritan Church (once it came to control Parliament in the Mother country) passed a law maintaining "marriage to be no sacrament."

Obviously, to a great many of people, marriage still IS a sanctimonious event, one that they choose to include their preferred religious belief within. But those words -- "choose" and "preferred" -- aren't accidental. In U.S. law, a marriage may have the blessings of a church (or other religious institution), but it cannot become valid unless the two partners enter into a state-sanctioned agreement as well.

And while it's true that a marriage may include a religious aspect to it, it's similarly true that a couple can purposely choose to omit such a ceremony from their vows as well. Couples who are atheists, or even couples who ARE religious but merely want to keep things simple, can wed at a courthouse or in a secularized ceremony, without any religious aspects whatsoever involved, and still have a valid marriage in the eyes of the law.

The reasons against same-sex marriage are important to those that want to preserve THEIR ideas of what marriage should be (some would even die for those ideas). But their ideas aren't the ONLY ones available -- indeed, couples have already formed same-sex relationships, living in a way that is already basically marriage but without the all-important recognition from the government that straight couples have.

What this debate amounts to, then, is ultimately discrimination in a state-sense. Churches are free to discriminate couples from marrying in their doors any time that they choose to do so -- there's no denying them that right, as doing so would interfere with the beliefs of that particular faith. They do it to this day even, with same-sex couples as well as straight couples who they deem living outside of that church's belief system.

But denial of the right to partake in a state-sanctioned event on the basis of being a gay or lesbian couple is, in effect, discrimination without merit, since the state is not permitted to discriminate on the basis of a particular group's belief. It's fine for the state to define what a marriage is in order to truly protect the interests of the state -- but no interests are being threatened whatsoever within a same-sex union.

The state itself has no right to tell a gay or lesbian couple that their relationship is less valid than a heterosexual relationship. As outlined above, there is no basis for that denial. And financially speaking, whether a person marries in a straight marriage or same-sex one doesn't matter. Either way, the same amount of benefits would be conferred onto that couple.

Is there a right to same-sex marriage? In the sense that there is also a right to opposite-sex marriage, there surely is. The benefits granted to married couples may change, but the right of any couple (be they hetero- or homosexual) to receive the recognition they deserve should not be infringed upon on through the government's hand.


  1. What an interesting post!

  2. I do agree with you. Gays and lesbians out there deserves to be happy!
    Well, some of the countries out there legalized the same-sex marriage and it's no longer a shocking issue because of the legalization of this matter.