Same Sex Marriages Should Be Legally Sanctioned
Some of the most pervasive problems that exist within American society today are the problems of prejudice, stemming from fear of what is different and seems to be alien. Only by making what is alien seem to wear a more familiar, human face, can such deep-seated hatred be uprooted and destroyed. Prejudice, and the violence that is the result of such hatred, is particularly virulent against those individuals whom identify as homosexual, even if they wish to form stable and legitimate marital unions until death do them part. One of the reasons for this is because homosexuality is still seen as a vice, rather than as a legitimate bond between two loving people. The solution to this problem is to legally sanction same-sex marriages, giving same-sex unions equal legal and moral legitimacy as heterosexual unions.
Conservative opponents of same-sex marriages are quick to cry that such legal sanctions cheapen the institution of marriage. Marriage, conservatives are, have been traditionally formed between a male and a female partner. However, to argue that expanding the definition of marriage threatens existing unions is no more logically coherent than to argue that merely because an individual disapproves of a particular union between two opposite-gendered individuals means that his or her own union is cheapened. Heterosexuals wed for what could be viewed even less legitimate reasons than homosexuals, at times — because the heterosexual couple is emotionally incompatible, but sexually enamored of one other or a pre-existing arrangement between the two spouse’s parents. A man and a woman can marry more for financial matters rather than for reasons of the heart. But none of these worst-case heterosexual examples means that, by extension, that other loving heterosexual unions between opposite-gendered spouses are cheapened. Marriage is not a cohesive institution, but a societal union that must be flexible with changing societal and personal needs. Also, imperfect unions will be formed because marriage is an emotional as well as a legal bond, but the mere existence of different reasons for entering into, staying in, or severing a marriage does not threaten this sublimely fluid yet strong institution.
Some have also argued that marriage is primarily for procreative purposes. But what of marriages between couples who are sterile, or who chose to adopt children, as many homosexual couples do? This argument seems particularly absurd, given that homosexual couples can have children from pre-existing heterosexual unions, while healthy heterosexual couples capable of having children may deign not to give birth. Robert P. George has criticized the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, because of its ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, legitimizing same-sex unions. George argued that the court has “radically redefined marriage to remove the requirement of sexual complementarities that link marriage as an institution to procreation and helps to provide its intelligible moral structure.” But the intelligible moral structure of marriage surely relates to more than procreation, and surely a loving and mutually beneficial relationship between same sex couples is again, more legitimately moral than an abusive heterosexual relationship? In short, the existence of a martial bond in legal terms is no guarantee of moral legitimacy for either same-sex or heterosexual couples. Rather, the legal bond of matrimony is merely recognition of the beginnings of an attempt of the couple to make such a moral bond and to enter into a social framework of unity. (George, 2003, p. A8)
Recently, an authority as high as the Supreme Court of the United States stated that gays “are entitled to respect for their private lives,” according Justice Anthony Kennedy. Under the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, Kennedy ruled, gays were entitled to a right of privacy. “The state cannot demean’ the existence of gays “or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime,” said Justice Kennedy. “In the crowded courtroom, some of the gay activists and lawyers silently but visibly wept as they listened.” (Thomas, 2003, p. 38)
But what of civil unions? The existence of merely allowing gays to enter into civil unions to secure equal health benefits, or domestic partnerships, implies a hierarchy between different types of non-blood ties between loving couples. When there is such a legal presumption of distinction, as Plessy v. Ferguson’s separate but equal doctrine of the races shows, society feels free to discriminate and to treat others in a discriminatory fashion. Only when unions between gay men and women are able to be solidified in the same legal terms as heterosexual unions will the fear began to dissipate, and intolerance against homosexuals cease to be tolerated.
The argument that allowing homosexuals to marry threatens heterosexual marriages seems tenuous. However, the evidence that creating distinctions between different kinds of people, based on race and based on gender, seems to create a legitimating for hatred and inequality seems real and justified. The interest of society in preventing violence and discrimination outweighs any possible interest of the state or society, or the logical or legal claim that the allowance of same-sex unions cheapens the moral validity of same-sex unions, simply by the existence of same-sex unions within the civil and legal framework of the land. Moreover, the moral arguments used to justify limiting marriage to a union of different genders, such as the procreative purpose of marriage, really do not separate same-sex and opposite-sex couples at all.
George, Robert P. (Nov. 28, 2003): “One Man and One Woman.” Wall Street Journal. A8.
Thomas, Evan. (July 7, 2003): “The War Over Gay Marriage.” Newsweek. P.38.