In the landmark case of Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Kennedy delivered the majority ruling, stating “When homosexual conduct is made criminal by the law of the State, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.”
However, we still criminalize it in many states today, and the effects are seen in many aspects of life: the higher rate of suicide amongst gay teens, the only recently repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy which allowed individuals to be fired by the U.S. government because of their sexual orientation, the very fact that many gays remain closeted out of fear that they will face repercussions if their sexual orientation is known.
Although legalizing same-sex marriage is only one step in the process of ending discrimination, it is one of the most tangible steps we can take at the moment.
Same Sex Marriage and the Constitution lists 4 of the most often cited reasons for “heterosexual monopoly on marriage” and then gives counterarguments. Here is my brief summary and extrapolation of these issues.
- Definition, Tradition, Religion
In Jan. 2000, Sen. Clinton said “Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been: between a man and a woman.”
Traditions in marriage have changed much over the course of time. In Roman times, before Christianity became the adopted religion,same-sex marriages were commonplace. As for the religious component, there are even Christian sects in favor of gay marriage now, but since when has religion dictated civil policy in America? Some churches do not recognize divorce, but civil divorces are still legal.
- Natural Law
Women and men are meant to reproduce, therefore a coupling which cannot result in offspring is not natural.
Immanuel Kant recognized that if satisfaction from marriage came from the potential for reproduction then sterile or post-menopausal marriages would not be allowed. In today’s society many couples choose not to have children or are biologically unable to, but they are not seen as “unnatural” in the eyes of the law, and their legitimacy as a couple is not questioned, why can’t those same benefits extend to same-sex couples?
- Equation of Marriage with Procreation and Child Rearing
Same-sex couples can’t provide a stable and nurturing family structure for children since they are not comprised of a mother and father.
Assuming a gay couple wanted to have kids, it is a double-standard to examine their ability to provide for their children, when there is no system in place to monitor opposite-sex couples’ relationships and ability to provide for their children. (In addition, there is not credible data to support the claim that same-sex parents would be any worse than opposite-sex parents.) If adoption comes into the equation then the same policies should apply to couples of all sexual orientations, but otherwise, it is not the state’s right to approve or deny consenting individuals’ right to procreate and raise their children.
- Eroding Institution of Marriage
If same-sex marriages are legalized, it is a slippery slope of moral depravity and legal malaise. It will harm the family unit and institution of marriage.
There is no evidence that same-sex marriage has had much of an impact on opposite-sex marriage or divorce rates, and in fact Denmark, (the first country to recognize same-sex couples as “registered partners”) has the highest marriage rates it has had since the 1970’s. Although allowing more people into the marriage club will make it less exclusive, why would that make marriage less attractive to opposite-sex couples? This same argument was used when interracial marriages were still illegal, but that does not seem to have hurt the incidence or sacredness of marriage.
If you know of other arguments for or against that you would like to discuss, please post them.