Other Stuff

If you like what you see, click the buttons and let the world know!


« Trailer: Indie Game the Movie | Main | Trailers: The Raid & The Grey & Tim and Eric »

#33. Portraits in Human Sexuality, #34. Let's Get Married, #35. The Gay Marriage Thing - Analysis

The Gay Marriage Thing bannerTo many, the notion of forbidding same-sex couples the right to marry is simply discriminatory and unconstitutional.  In a country that prides itself on the freedom granted to its citizens, to deny any American the right to join whomever they please in wedlock is an obvious step backwards after the progressions made during the feminist and civil rights movements. Citizens that oppose same-sex marriage cite the degradation of the “American family,” that by altering the definition of matrimony we only serve to welcomingly invite its disintegration. Some states have developed a compromise known as “civil unions.” These unions offer homosexual couples many of the rights and benefits granted to heterosexuals, without the dignity or equality afforded by a legally confirmed marriage. There are political scientists like Evan Gerstmann that look at the issue more fundamentally. He argues, “marriage is a constitutional right and that there are no legitimate grounds to restrict this right to opposite-sex couples.” (Miroff, 2009, p 121) In this paper I will explore the current state of marriage in our society and try and to discover the current condition of this institution so many are trying to protect, and then investigate several of the main arguments made against same-sex marriage as detailed in Gerstmann’s essay “Same-Sex Marriage as a Constitutional Right.”

In February 2004, President George W. Bush, under pressure from conservative constituents after the state of Massachusetts began granting same-sex marriages, urged the Senate to push a constitutional amendment securing the right to marry remain with heterosexual couples only. The president said, “Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society.” (“Bush Calls for Ban.” N.D.) Continually throughout his two terms President Bush would speak of the necessity to defend the sanctity of marriage. What is so holy, so obviously righteous about marriage that makes it such an essential aspect of society? Marriage, columnist Maggie Gallagher maintains, is an indispensible foundation for building and preserving stable families. Gallagher explains that human beings by their very nature are compelled to act upon their sexual urges that can and does produce life. “Marriage is our attempt to reconcile and harmonize the erotic, social, sexual, and financial needs of men and women with the needs of their partner and their children.” (as cited by Schulman in Miroff, 2009, p 133)Frontline

It is to be understood that these contracts are to benefit the community, and provide security for its children. Or to put it another way, stable marriages will produce stable families, which in time will support strong communities. But are the marriages good, or are just good marriages good? If the 2010 census data is to be believed, America as a whole is evolving towards less traditional familial norms. According to Tavernise (2011) for the first time in American history, as of 2010, married couples have dropped below half of all American households. Currently married couples represent just 48 percent of households, far below the 78 percent found in the 1950s. Traditional families, that is a household consisting of a mother, a father, and children, have seen a sharp decline as well, with only a 5th of households defined as such.

Far from the taboo of same-sex coupling or the liberation found in the feminist movement (although there is an obvious affect that can be traced in the decline of marriage rates since the 1950s), the main reason traditional marriage has been decaying is economic. In a beautiful manifestation of irony, President Bush himself is perhaps the most to blame for the crumbling of his beloved sanctimonious union. This national withdrawal from marriage I would argue puts American children in more harm than allowing same-sex couples’ equal rights. There is less security, less stability, and less structure for the children of these unmarried families. It seems obvious any positive examples that promote successful marriages, be it hetero or homosexual, would vastly benefit the institution of marriage than vigorously discriminating a willing segment of the population wanting to unite.  

After studying the census data W. Bradford Wilcox of the National Marriage Project told Hallet (2011), “It’s troubling because those kids are much more likely to be exposed to instability, complex family relations and poverty.” University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project published a report soon after the 2010 census data was released arguing that marriage is perhaps the most important factor of American economy, and that financial growth is reliant on permanent, strong families. For them, marriage as an institution, helps men to focus, be more responsible, and become more judicious with their reasoning because “…it (marriage) encourages men to think in terms not just of their own welfare but of the welfare of their families.” (Hallet, 2011) Interestingly enough, America’s 50 percent divorce rate has remained stable for the past decade or so. According to the website DivorceGuide.com (2011), financial difficulties are cited as the number one cause for divorce in America. With so much attention dedicated to not allowing homosexuals the right to marry, does it not seem more appropriate to put that energy towards healing the economy, and in turn mending the country’s marriage problem?

If no one is getting married, then what exactly are they doing? Many Americans have found alternative means to coexisting outside of traditional methods. Not exactly a new phenomenon, but more and more families (with and without children) cohabitate without entering the institution of marriage. Cohabitation offers couples a level of freedom and control over their relationships and personal lives not found in traditional wedlock. However, those at the National Marriage Project (2011) respond asserting that cohabitation does not encourage the same level of commitment or long-term intentions in respective partners that marriage does.

Gayle from "The Gay Marriage Thing"Another influence on the waning percentage of married citizens in the United States is the influx of immigrants. According to the New York Times the majority of immigrants coming to America tend to be single individuals in their 20s and 30s, many of whom live together in one household. These, alongside the fact that Americans are living longer and having fewer children all affect the marriage data.

In his essay “Same-Sex Marriage as a Constitutional Right” author Evan Gerstmann explicitly states that the Constitution guarantees every person the right to marry the person of his or her choice. Unfortunately for gay and lesbian couples that find themselves outside of the majority, this right is not limitless, and that all constitutional rights are balanced against social interests. These social interests, in regards to same-sex marriage, vary in responsibility and rationality. Next I would like to investigate a few of the major defenses against same-sex marriage and offer my rebuttals against them.

Referenced earlier, many same-sex marriage opponents assert their views are in the interest of America’s youth. Many believe marriage is for the sole purpose of procreation and child development within the sheltered protection of traditional family standards.  By granting homosexual couples the same rights as straight couples, than presumably their inclusion into the holy institution will somehow poison the well. Their outlandish perversions will have unnamed and unknown negative influences on our innocent children; presumably more of an influence than the country’s 50 percent divorce rate or the 23 percent of children that are born to single mothers. (Childstats.gov, 2011) Having children is an important and discernable reason for many couples to decide to tie the knot, but that is far from the theory that procreation should be the only, or even main reason, to marry. If this argument were to be taken literally, than only those heterosexual couples willing and capable of having children should have the right to wed.

While having children and raising a traditional American family are important to many couples planning to marry, it is currently not a requirement to do so. In fact, the Constitution defends the rights of heterosexual couples to marry if they cannot or decide not to have children. Additionally, and perhaps more to the point, the Constitution protects the rights of those citizens who, in all likelihood, should not be permitted to marry or have children. For every single mother struggling to care for her child is an absentee father, the so-called deadbeat dad. This is a country that allows child molesters, drug addicts, welfare recipients, and convicted felons to attain a marriage license and produce child after child, but actively campaigns against loving same-sex couples to share the same privilege.

Although it may seem ridiculous to some that I should have to make this next point clear, same-sex couples are capable of having and raising children to become positive members of society. Using data from the 2000 census, there were estimates that stated, “33 percent of lesbian couples and 22 percent of gay male couples lived with their own children who were under the age of 18.” (Kurdek, 2004, p 881) There are hundreds of examples of children who have been brought up by adoring same-sex parents and matured into thoughtful American citizens.

Bush Marriage ComicAnother position against same-sex marriage comes down to their actual inability to naturally create life. If having children is at the core of traditional marriage, than it is simply nonsensical to grant homosexuals the right to marry. While I am sure having and raising a child is a rich and fulfilling part of not only marriage but also life itself, there are other equally important reasons to get married. Companionship, financial advantages, sex, and health benefits are a few of the more definable rewards of marriage. If the constitution restricted the right to marry to only couples ready and able to have children, than many citizens other than homosexuals would be excluded. Sterile couples, women who have hit menopause and can no longer reproduce, or even loving couples who simply decide to use contraceptives would all be denied the privilege taken for granted by so many.

The Supreme Court has never held that the basic right to marry is dependent upon the prospect of childbirth. As far back as 1898 the laws has been clear that infertile women are eligible to marry. (Miroff, 2009, p 125) It would stand to reason then that if having children is such an important part of marriage, than should the inability to procreate be grounds for divorce?

Gerstmann mentions another rationale used against same-sex marriage is that marriage is by definition “dual-gendered.” “Numerous courts and commentators have relied upon traditional and dictionary definitions of marriage to show that same-sex couples cannot be married.” (Miroff, 2009, p 126) The author goes on to explain how there are several major problems with their rationalization. Courts have a history of ignoring the dictionary when defining Constitutional rights. Consider how dictionaries from the 1960s would have defined marriage in regard to race. No doubt those that opposed interracial matrimony could have found support with a published definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman of the same race. Even so, the California Supreme Court recognized the constitutional right for interracial partners to marry nearly a decade before the United States Supreme Court finally concurred with the historic Loving V. Virginia. (Karlan, 2010, p 162)

“Courts have consistently ignored the dictionary in defining constitutional rights. Constitutional law would be very different if the courts used dictionary definitions to shape the contours of our rights.” (Miroff, 2009, p 126) The Constitution’s First Amendment protecting the freedom of speech is a perfect example to support Gerstmann’s attitude. The author cites Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary as defining the word “speech” as: “the communication or expression of thoughts in spoken words.” He continues on, with the definitions becoming more and more nuanced, but his point is made clear; speech is something that always spoken aloud, auditory. However, our country’s First Amendment protects us from much more than just spoken words. America’s Constitutional defense of freedom of speech ensures anyone can wear the clothing and paraphernalia of their choice; protest, demonstrate, or strike, public and civil events; publish opinion in print or on the Internet, and so. Imagine the condition of American civil liberties if free speech was simply designated for aural communication.

In the past marriage was a profoundly sexist, one-sided arrangement where the woman was quite literally the property of her husband. Daughters given away as offerings to wealthy landowners or businessmen, wives were dominated and exploited. “Of course marriage was defined as dual-gendered; without a woman, who would occupy the legally subordinate role?” (Miroff, 2009, p 126) The same females today that defend the dictionary definition of marriage as dual-gendered may not be so quick to reference Webster when considering the book’s past misogynistic mistakes.

Same-Sex Marriage pollFinally I want to explore the opposition’s “slippery slope” argument. In this ludicrous example of base theory extrapolation, the more extreme same-sex oppressors insist that by granting homosexuals the right to marry, we as a nation are inviting even greater perverse threats to our country’s holy union, namely polygamy and incest. What Gerstmann calls “marital anarchy,” many fear the proverbial flood gates will come down, bringing with it a tidal wave of perverse abnormality. By granting the right to homosexuals, there will be no defense against those wishing to marry their own brother or take on their third or fourth wife. While it is admittedly hard for me to see the connection between homosexual marriage and either incest or polygamy, at least the latter is an actually accepted lifestyle in some parts of the country and the world. However polygamy has and will be defined by American courts in the future has, in my opinion, little to no relationship with the fight for equal rights for same-sex couples. Fundamentally the two are after disparate goals, one focusing on quality, and the other on quantity. Polygamists bring with them different problems and concerns on both a state and social level. “First and foremost, legalizing polygamy, unlike legalizing same-sex marriage, would profoundly alter the legal structure of every couple’s marriage.” (Miroff, 2009, p 128) By allowing polygamist relationships, every husband and wife would legally be afforded the right and ability to marry again and again, presumably without the consent of their spouse. Same-sex marriage on the other hand bears no consequence on traditional male/female relationships. As far as Gerstmann’s consideration that same-sex marriage could in some way affect how straight couples feel about marriage, I for one cannot see how that is or should be of any concern to homosexuals forced into cohabitation or civil unions. Were interracial couples concerned with how their wedding would alter the feelings their white oppressors had towards marriage before Loving V. Virginia? I would hope not.

There is no denying marriage as an institution is devolving at an alarming rate. Fewer men and women dare to walk down the aisle than ever before, and those that do face a statistical barrage promising failure. If we can agree that marriage strengthens society as a whole, be it economically or socially, than how does our nation in decline turn away same-sex marriages in good conscience? By granting them the privilege of matrimony America increases the rates of successful marriages in the country, continuing to push the importance of traditional family values; even if the definition of “traditional family” may be evolving. Evan Gerstmann’s essay “Same-Sex Marriage as a Constitutional Right” illuminated the arguments against same-sex marriage, offering insightful elucidations and counterarguments that capably fractured the opposition. While the issue’s proponents know equal rights for homosexual couples is no longer a question of if, but when, it does not lessen the frustration or pain felt by the human beings discriminated against and denied Constitutional civil liberties in America today. Like the fight against slavery, the feminist movement, and the battle for civil rights, same-sex marriage is just another in a long line of social movements that have helped to define America as a country since its inception. 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.