Professor Michael Boylan stated in his book “A Just Society” that ethics is a science that deals with the right and wrong of human behavior (Boylan, 2004). Ethical theories emphasize on different points, each theory trying to reach a morally accepted conclusion. If a gay marriage is blessed in a church, what are its consequences? Does immorality only apply to an individual who feels immoral? Gay marriages pose certain ethical issues and these issues are discussed in this paper. In addition, the paper discuses how utilitarianism and deontology can be used to resolve this problem. As an introduction to this paper, let me explain what theses ethical theories mean.
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Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that defines the moral value of a persons behavior in terms of consequences and whether those consequences produce greater good than harm. As a consequentiality theory, it is contrasted with non-consequentiality theories, such as deontology. Deontology relates to moral obligation and need. Deontologists believe that an individual does an action because he or she believes it is the correct thing to do. They do not look deeper into their actions or think of the possible consequences of their actions. People who fall under this theory normally do actions since they believe it is a right action. The theory disapproves using the consequences of an action to determine whether that action is moral. This makes it a non-consequentiality theory. Virtue ethics theory assesses the morality of the person doing a certain act, rather than the morality of the act itself. Virtue ethics therefore directly studies the character of an individual to determine whether he or she is morally upright.
Utilitarianism and Gay Marriage
Gay marriage (also known as same sex marriage) is marriage between two people of the same gender or biological sex. Proponents of legal recognition for gay marriages normally use the terms marriage equality to refer to this recognition. The utilitarianism theory depicts gay marriages as ok and acceptable since marriage is meant to be special union based exclusively on love and happiness of the couple. This does not put in mind the sex of the couple. This is good, but it is not the complete meaning of marriage. Marriage is a covenant. It is an agreement made between the man and woman to commit to each other and live together, but more importantly, it is a covenant made between a couple and God.
Many countries including the following countries have recently allowed gay marriages: Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden and parts of Mexico and the United States of America. Introduction of gay marriage has differed by jurisdiction. This is because of changes to marriage legislation or court challenges based on constitutional provision for marriage equality, or a combination of the above two reasons. The recognition of gay marriage is civil rights, ethical, religious, social and political, issue in many countries (Micheal, 2004). Debates have been ongoing on whether gay people should be allowed to marry each other, or not.
Utilitarianism as a theory in ethics, proposes that the correct course of action is the one that exploits usefulness. Particularly actions that maximize peace and happiness while reducing distress. If we refer to Utilitarianism, homosexuality would only be unacceptable to the society if the act in some way caused more harm than good. Therefore, Utilitarianism ideologists tend to present gay marriages as okay as long as the marriages do not affect the society.
From time immemorial, the normal concept of marriage (heterosexual) is over and over again found across cultures worldwide and throughout history. This does not mean that customs and traditions have not evolved over the years. It plainly depicts that different sex marriage has always been with us and properly followed and understood in all societies throughout man’s existing history. In regard to utilitarianism theory, a person is a morally upright person when his or her actions benefit the need for his or her happiness and the society’s too. This theory seems to protect and support gay marriages but gay marriages have been rejected by most societies in the world hence these marriages do more harm than good. Utilitarianism tends to put an individual’s happiness above the society’s hence gay couple have every right to be happy in marriage.
Deontology and Gay Marriage
A deontologist’s view of gay marriage is almost similar to Utilitarianism view since they both base their ideologies on the decisions of an individual over those of the society. Utilitarianism and Deontology have a structured belief or view on gay marriages. Deontology, as earlier mentioned in the paper, relates to moral obligation and need, deontologists believe that a gay couple seeks to get married because they believe it is the correct thing to do. They do not look deeper into their actions or think of the possible consequences of their actions. If we consider the Virtue ethics theory, we find that a gay marriage would only be immoral if the purpose of being gay was immoral.
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A philosopher by the name Immanuel Kant is deontology theorist who has been widely studied over the years. In his theory, the philosopher stated that actions are morally wrong if they are not in agreement or contradicting with the status of a person as a free thinking, correct and normal human being. This makes one assume that gay marriage is morally right and accepted in the society. This is because it advances the status of a person as a free thinking, correct and normal human being. This maximizes and satisfies good results, happiness, and equal rights. To contrast the two theories (utilitarianism and deontology), we can say that utilitarianism view on gay marriage is that the couples make their decisions believing the results will be beneficial for larger proportion of people. A deontologist view is that gay people make their decisions with the knowledge that whatever they are doing respects life, equality, and honesty without considering consequences of their actions, especially the effects on the society.
Ethical Effects of Gay Marriages on the Society
Throughout the world, different anti-gay rights organizations are in existence. They continuously fight against the homosexual lifestyle and gay marriages as a legal union recognizable by governments worldwide. Frank Turek is an anti-gay right activist from American Family Association. While writing in one of the association’s articles, he stated that celebrating or honoring actions that lead to diseases and deaths are more of hate than love. This was in reference to people accepting and endorsing gay marriages. Center for Disease Control produced data revealing how homosexual men comprise of more than 80 percent of the people who contract sexually transmitted diseases. This is despite the homosexuals comprising of less than 2 percent of the total population. The data also revealed that men who had intercourse with other men had an HIV infection rate that was 60 times more than the general population. According to this data from Center for Disease Control, homosexuality behavior results in very tragic results. The behavior is socially unacceptable and unethical.
According to utilitarianism ideologists, legalizing gay marriage would enhance social stability of people. Their view is that marriage is an intrinsically conservative institution that needs a more serious commitment to social and family responsibilities compared to that of unmarried people. Gay marriages would therefore increase the level of commitment from more couples. Allowing same sex marriages as a civil right does not encroach on the rights of those who are morally or religiously against it. Separation of church and government is a policy that allows people to support freedom and opportunities for all, even if people decide to live according to different values than those of their neighboring societies or cultures.
The Sanctity of Marriage
Marriage is a wholistic union of couples; this means two people will share their lives together and all their resources. It is therefore considered a union of hearts, thoughts, souls, minds and body. In this regard, people should seek for proper approval before a marriage takes place. In addition, marriage signifies a bit more as well: the bodily unification of a man and a woman, these two are meant to become one flesh. When people are united in regard to marriage, they must also join each other bodily. This is to say that they also have to interact by satisfying their bodily desires through having sexual intercourse. Sexual reproduction in human beings is the only body function that can not be completed by one individual person. He or she has to get an opposite sex partner in order to successfully have sexual reproduction. Other bodily functions and organs function completely well. These are the heart, the brain, the lungs, the stomach and others. These organs do not require the input of any other human being to function completely, just one’s self. This clearly depicts that human beings were designed to have sexual intercourse with mates of opposite sex in order to reproduce. Gay marriages change this normal order of reproduction.
The marriage sacrament signifies a shared love between two people and towards God too, reciprocally, God towards the couple. In my own opinion, I do not believe homosexuals are capable of true love. It is a blessed union preordained to symbolize the great love God has for man (Samson, Notermans and Jansen 2013). Some scholars describe marriage as the last union with God at the peak of all human life. Generally, one can define marriage as the type of covenant whereby a person lives for others: lives for God first, secondly, lives for his or her spouse and, thirdly, lives for the children and other people then, lastly, lives for him or herself. Changing the definition of marriage to accommodate unions that are not the type of unions that bring forth children naturally or biologically removes the basic justification for same sex marriage. Children brought up by a same-sex couples more often come from outside that marriage. This might be through the use of a surrogate parent or use of technology like test tube babies or through a previous relationship of one of the partners. Altering the meaning of marriage would therefore pose a big blemish on parenthood in general. This is coupled by the fact that some governments are withdrawing their firm stand on heterosexual type of parenthood and marriage.
Arguments that are against gay marriage are often based on the clashing of customs, moral values or religious. The utilitarianist and deontologist theories would look at these as barriers that are against social change and progress in the society. The question people should be asking is: Are human beings supposed to change for the worse moral standards or to better moral standards? (Herek, 2006). These arguments against gay marriages are, however, normally presented in court rulings to give a picture of the negative effects of same-sex marriage. For example, those children brought up by gay couples face social developmental risks, however, these arguments are not statistically substantiated.
In the world today, marriages have become like long-term dating relationships or cohabiting relationships. Couples seem to stay together, even bring forth children together, but still always have an option of bailing out of the relationship anytime they want. These kinds of unions which have become very common in the world today are very shallow because there is no complete covenant between the couple and God in these relationships (Patterson, 2009). Some people have gone ahead and redefined marriage as a relationship where two people who love each other and live together, leaving out the part of the covenant with God. These kinds of unions also give more strength to utilitarianism theory in allowing or supporting gay marriages.
Gay Marriages Would Harm the Society
Over the years, anti gay marriage activists have faced decline in their influence over this ethical issue. The reason for this is that they have not been coming up with solid and constitutionally correct arguments against gay marriages. If there were no many failed or unsuccessful heterosexual marriages, social activists fighting against gay marriage would have found it easier to push for their cause. At the end of the day, the purpose of protecting conservative heterosexual marriage is to prevent the ethical change in the marriage institution. The purpose of getting married is not just love but also financial security, companionship and the other aspects related to marriage. The marriage institution advocates for the union of men and women; this is the only union capable of reproducing children. This is the only ethical way for the society.
Relativism and Gay Marriage
If marriage is relative, any couple, whether gay or not, can be united according to the laws of marriage and get divorced for whatever reason they have or even with no reason totally. Marriage has digressed into the individual. According to relativism theory, a gay marriage is neither right nor wrong. In addition, the theory tends to consider any moral judgments made about gay marriages are only true and applicable to persons making the judgment. Altering marriage to be what it never was dilutes the sacrament/covenant of marriage.
These changes to the marriage institution have detrimental results or effects when professed. The effects can be on individuals, societies, cultures, or even globally. It is well known that a sin committed is never an isolated occurrence; it can happen in many places. Another important and key question that people should be asking is what are the possible results of these changes to the marriage institution? Most probably the world will experience more divorces, more broken hearts, and more broken families and hurt people. In a matter of years to come, the world will experience the expected horrid results of the wrong decisions people have made to alter the marriage institution.
Emotivism and Gay Marriages
According to emotivism school of thought, saying gay marriages are wrong or right expresses an individual persons own attitude or opinion towards homosexuality, not the societies. In regard to this, emotivism is more of a method for understanding the nature of moral positions rather than it being an ethical theory, In terms of theology. Emotivism questions the basis of the content of ethical statements against gay marriages.
Regardless of whether people accept it or not, or truth or reality is not relative. What is true – is true to everyone, whereas what is false – is false to everyone. What is unethical is unethical to everyone. Gay marriages despite being supported by some ethical theories are not good and should not be supported. They are not good for the marriage institution well as the society. Utilitarianism theorists may ask how gay marriages affect other kinds of marriage and the society in general. As clearly seen in this paper, gay marriages alter the meaning and sanctity of marriage. This way, the gay marriages obliterate the marriage institution, that normally and ethical unite men and women to one another other. Therefore, these marriages should not be supported by ethical theories.
Boylan. M. (2009). A Just Society. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Herek, G. M. (2006). Legal recognition of same-sex relationships in the United States. A social science perspective. American Psychologist Journal, 9(12), 19-22. Web.
Mello, M. (2004). Legalizing Gay Marriage. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
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Patterson, C. J. (2009). Children of lesbian and gay parents: Psychology, law, and policy. American Psychologist Journal, 12(64), 727-736. Web.
Samson, J., Notermans, C., N., & Jansen, W. (2013). Homosexuality: Representing the Devil or a Spiritual Gift? Two Opposing Views in the Same Marian devotion. J Homosex, 60(1), 31-50.