*Disclaimer: I believe that marriage is a right that belongs to every consenting adult. I support state, federal, and international recognition of same-sex and different-sex marriages as well as the marriages of those that do not fit into binominal gender categories.
However I have had many conversations with people who are against the government’s recognition of same-sex marriages. It is important to understand where they are coming from. In parts of this entry I present common arguments against same-sex marriage in a -hopefully- unbiased manner. I don’t want to offend anyone but I do wish to respectfully summarize the opposing view
before pointing out their flaws.
Arguments Against: The ma and pop definition of marriage
The legal recognition of same sex relationships in the United States started with Vermont’s legalization of civil unions in 2000, six years after the Romer v. Evans Supreme Court decision which ruled that exempting gays and lesbians from anti-discrimination laws was unconstitutional. The trend in extending rights to gay men and women – which recently has culminated in same sex marriages – is argued by critics to exceed basic equality and now trespasses into changing social institutions.
The argument is that anti-discrimination laws protecting gay men and women create equality while civil unions and marriages are unique privileges which create the legal basis of the family institution. Gay men and women cannot procreate or raise a family without outside measures such as adoption or fertilization with another biological participant. Because of this they do not have a basis for creating a family and have no need for the legal institution of marriage. The reality is that facilitated measures such as adoptions and third party fertilizations have resulted in legal issues ranging from custody battles to changes in the language surrounding the parent-child relationship.
At the basis of the argument against the government recognizing same sex marriages is the definition and function of marriage.
Marriage creates familial ties, generates lines of decent, defines the status of children, solidifies economic ties and dependencies, and regulates sexual relationships 1 . Government acknowledged marriage functions as the legal foundation for the cultural institution of family. Marriage has a procreative purpose and the rights given to those in such a union are meant to ease the socially necessary burdens of raising children and to protect property rights so that families can inherit wealth.
This definition of the function of marriage is supported by the nature of the measures listed in the 1,138 federal rights given to heterosexual marriages such as Social Security benefits upon death of a spouse or exemptions from federal income taxes in certain cases 2. Most of them either ease the burden of maintaining a family or protect property rights. The government gives tax breaks to and makes sharing insurance easier for married couples because doing so is an investment in their potential and purposive function of birthing and raising children.
The reason same sex couples are excluded from this function of marriage, and subsequently from marriage itself, is that there is evidence which supports the view that households without the biological mother and father present are detrimental to the development and outcome of children raised in such homes. One recent study found that people who report that their mother has had at least one same sex relationship are statistically different in terms of education attainment, depression, employment status, and marijuana use than people who were raised in a household with both their biological mother and father 3. This study measured a large sample of approximately 3,000 participants who came from a diverse background of family structures and supports many of the claims made by those who favor male-female unions as the optimal family structure. Continue reading