The Issue with Same-sex Marriage

*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.

The Issue:

In the last election, four states voted on the issue of whether to legally recognize marriages between two members of the same sex.  This discussion has been a public issue in the United States since the peak of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights movement in the 1980s and continues to hold national interest as states pass and reject laws regarding same-sex marriage.  Because marriage is the basis of the family structure its definition holds many legal as well as social implications.  Adoption procedures, child custody cases, and taxes are only some of the instances in which the legal recognition of marriage is a deciding factor.  The question is one of opposing moralities – the immorality of threatening the family institution against the immorality of denying gay men and women the right to marry.

Arguments Against: The ma and pop definition of marriage

Arguments For: Equal rights for all families

Recognition of the rights of LGBT americans and people around the world is slowly increasing.   However people are still being attacked, jailed, and humiliated because of something as intrinsic as  love and attraction.

How to Help:

Voting is power! Register to vote and make it to the polls every election.
Contact your local and state congressmen.
Educate yourself.
Learn about the discrimination and criminalization of homosexuality in the US and internationally.

And most importantly… Talk to people! You can be an advocate for marriage equality.  It is the personal conversations we have that creates change in the world.  Don’t shy away from the discussion of same-sex marriage.

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Arguments For Same-Sex Marriage

Arguments For: Equal rights for all families

Contrary to these arguments are supporters of same sex marriages who argue that anti-discrimination laws did not go far enough in creating equality among different sexual orientations.  By not allowing gay men and women to enter same sex marriages the government is denying them rights given to heterosexual couples.  Even in states which allow same sex marriages, discrimination will not be eliminated until the federal government acknowledges those marriages.

The lack of federal acknowledgment is discriminatory because it prevents married gay men and women from having the 1,138 federal rights given to heterosexual marriages including:

  • Social Security benefits upon death, disability or retirement of spouse, as well as benefits for minor children.
  • Family and Medical Leave protections to care for a new child or sick/ injured family member.
  • Workers’ Compensation protections for the family of a worker injured on the job.
  • Access to COBRA insurance benefits so the family doesn’t lose health insurance when one spouse is laid off.
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) protections such as the ability to leave a pension, other than Social Security, to your spouse.
  • Exemptions from penalties on IRA and pension rollovers.
  • Exemptions from estate taxes when a spouse dies.
  • Exemptions from federal income taxes on spouse’s health insurance.
  • The right to visit a sick or injured loved one, have a say in life and death matters during hospitalization 11

Even state level civil unions fail to recreate these rights to any extent because there is no state level equivalent.  Social Security benefits, tax exemptions, shared property rights, and decision making/ visitation rights during hospitalization are real consequences of federally recognized marriage.  These inequalities affect the quality of life of same sex families by preventing children and spouses from having access to extended healthcare insurance provided by the other spouse’s employment, a right protected for heterosexual marriages. Continue reading

Arguments Against Same Sex Marriage

*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

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