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Same-Sex Marriages: a Question of Legality or Morality

The existence of same-sex relationships and the eventual legalization of such marriages have been controversial in different societies around the world. In the US, before the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 26, 2015, that same-sex marriages are a right protected by the constitution, 13 states had illegalized this practice. On the one hand, the proponents of gay marriages argue that banning such unions amounts to discrimination, which is unconstitutional. On the other hand, opponents claim that same-sex marriages go against the traditional tenets and definitions, and functions of marriage whereby the union should be between males and females with the main purpose being procreation. These differing stands between proponents and opponents still exist even in societies that have legalized gay marriages, such as the US. This paper presents an objective discussion of the proponents and opponents of gay marriages to understand the underlying principles that inform the differing views.

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Historical Context

In the US, gay rights movements started back in 1969 in New York after police raided the Stonewall Inn on June 28, provoking gay and lesbian patrons to fight back. This confrontation sparked the Stonewall Riots, which effectively marked the start of a political movement for gay rights in the country (Chauncey, 2005). At the time, gay relationships were illegal in all states, except in Illinois. In the 1970s, the number of gay organizations increased unprecedentedly with activism focusing mainly on personal liberation and visibility as opposed to agitating for institutions, such as marriage. In December 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, and with the American Psychological Association following suit in 1975 (Kinney, 2015), the gay movement received the impetus it needed to advance its agenda.

The debate on same-sex marriages escalated between 1990 and 2010, and within this period, over 40 states passed the Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMA) categorically stating that marriage was meant to be a legal union between a man and a woman. However, in 2011, the Obama administration supported the repealing of DOMA, and ultimately, after protracted debates and legal suits, same-sex marriages were legalized in the US on June 26, 2015. Nevertheless, even with the legalization of such marriages, society is divided on the morality of the issue as discussed in this paper.

In Defense of Gay Marriages

The proponents of gay marriages draw largely from a section of the Declaration of Independence, which states, “All men are created equal” with some unalienable rights. In other words, the right to marriage is a human right and thus denying some people that right is tantamount to outright discrimination, which creates second-class citizens (Gerstmann, 2017). As such, same-sex couples should be entitled to all benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy, including rights and protections by federal laws. Additionally, proponents observe that the concept of traditional marriage between a man and a woman has been overtaken by time with changing societies. Similarly, gay marriages are protected by the US constitution, and thus such unions should be protected, recognized, and honored in line with the spirit of the constitution, specifically under the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment (Gerstmann, 2017). In addition, under the same premise, marriage is an internationally recognized human right, and thus regardless of the parties involved in the union, the institution of marriage should be protected. Additionally, under the rights issue, marriage is part of civil rights; hence, the need to allow its legal existence.

Another claim is that marriage is not purely for creation, and if this were the case, infertile couples would not be recognized as legally married. Likewise, some couples simply do not want to have children from their union, and thus they should be prevented from marrying if gay marriages were to be banned. From an economic perspective, gay marriages are a potential source of revenue for governments in license fees and marriage penalties. A series of 2014 reports showed that legalizing same-sex marriages would bring $273 million to 11 states in the US over a period of 3 years (Chokshi, 2014). Other points raised in support of same-sex marriages include gay parents make good parents and legalization removes stigmatization, especially for children brought up under these unions.

In Opposition of Gay Marriages

The central argument against same-sex unions is that the institution of marriage is traditionally supposed to be between a man and a woman. Additionally, marriage is deemed to be primarily for procreation, and thus same-sex couples cannot achieve this goal naturally. These two arguments are backed by religious beliefs, especially in the story of creation whereby it is believed that God created a man and a woman and instructed them to procreate and fill the earth (Van der Toorn et al., 2017). Additionally, opponents argue that children need both a mother and a father for a healthy upbringing. Another major argument is that the legalization and acceptance of same-sex marriages open the way for people engaged in untoward behaviors, such as bestiality and incest among others to advocate for such marriages, which would ultimately break down to social and moral fabric that holds societies together. Above all, homosexuality is seen as unnatural and immoral, and thus it should not be allowed in any civilized society.

Possible Resolutions

Possible solutions to the quandary of same-sex marriage are two-pronged. First, human rights should precede any other forms of rights. As such, religious and personal beliefs concerning the issue of gay marriages should not be used as standards when making laws that involve human rights. Second, in the past, science has been used to solve some of the world’s complicated problems, such as diseases. Therefore, science could be used to produce reliable data on whether being gay is genetic or a matter of choice. Concrete evidence concerning this issue could go a long way in allowing both sides of the debate to review their stands based on hard evidence. If homosexuality is genetic, then the opponents of same-sex marriages could reconsider their stands or offer a better way forward for the affected individuals. If it were a learned behavior, the proponents would also reconsider their stands and have a cohesive society not divided on lines of sexual orientation.

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Conclusion

The debate on homosexuality is as old as humanity and it continues even in contemporary times. In the US, the road to the legalization of gay marriages has been long, and even after the US Supreme Court made it legal, the society is divided between proponents and critics of such unions. As shown in this paper, both the critics and proponents of gay marriages have valid points to support their stands and views. Therefore, the principles of sound scientific methods could be applied to test whether being gay is genetic or not for both sides to make informed decisions about this contentious issue.

References

Chauncey, G. (2005). Why marriage? The history shaping today’s debate over gay equality. Basic Books.

Chokshi, N. (2014). Gay marriages could generate hundreds of millions in first year of legalization for 11 states, studies find. Washington Post. Web.

Gerstmann, E. (2017). Same-sex marriage and the constitution. Cambridge University Press.

Kinney, R. L. (2015). Homosexuality and scientific evidence: On suspect anecdotes, antiquated data, and broad generalizations. The Linacre Quarterly, 82(4), 364-390.

Van der Toorn, J., Jost, J. T., Packer, D. J., Noorbaloochi, S., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2017). In defense of tradition: Religiosity, conservatism, and opposition to same-sex marriage in North America. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(10), 1455-1468.

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