Lesbian and Gay Couples Should be Allowed to Marry

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"The freedom to marry is a basic human right that belongs to each individual--not the state. The government should not be in the position of arranging our marriages,"(Matt Coles).

Gay marriages are presently illegal in the United States. This prohibition is a blatant form of discrimination, carried forth through our legal system. No government should be able to prohibit anyone from legally declaring his or her love. Discrimination against a particular group of people because of race, color or religion is prohibited by our nation's constitution. However, homosexuals are denied basic human rights, not because of race, religion, or color, but because of sexual orientation. Our nation declares "equality, liberty, and justice for all," while prohibiting civil liberties to this specific group of people. Gay Americans are even denied the right to legally declare love, through civil marriage. Because of this prohibition, gays are not only denied their civil rights, but are denied many economic and legal benefits that married couples receive. Matt Coles, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, elaborates,

"Since we insist that couples marry to protect their most important relationship--or risk losing their homes, inheritances, even contact with their partners during medical emergencies--it is simply wrong to deny lesbians and gay couples the basic right to marry."

Civil marriage is the right, in our society, to legally recognize the most intimate, committed relationships. It is also the institution our society uses to establish ranges of rights and responsibilities for life partners (American Civil Liberties Union Answers, June 1998). The government must realize that this form of discrimination cannot be tolerated--our nation is regressing back to a time when civil rights were a battle for women and minorities. Today, gays are the minority in our nation, and it is time for us to stop discrimination and injustice against this particular group of people.
In order to justify the discrimination against homosexuals, many argue that homosexuality is contradictory to the teachings of the Bible, and other religious scriptures. Therefore, many people feel that homosexual couples should not be granted the same rights as heterosexual couples. When speaking specifically the right of civil marriage, the religious argument states that marriage is a strictly heterosexual establishment: "...the Roman Catholic Church defines a Catholic marriage as a sacramental union entered into permanently between one baptized man and one baptized woman." Our government's religious foundation reinforces this belief, through the laws that we have today against same-sex marriage. Although the United State's ideal government is one that upholds the "separation of church and state," religion is present in America's pledge of allegiance "...one nation, under God," and in its currency "In God we trust." Our government has been based on the church from the very beginning. It is for that reason that some members of American society believe that the government's outlaw of gay marriage is justified. By using religion to justify homophobia, people argue that homosexual couples should not even be granted basic human rights, such as the right to marry.

However, neither religion nor homophobia are justifications for discrimination. The issue of legal marriage is a civil rights issue, not a moral or religious issue. In American culture, the most common expectations accompanying marriage are monogamy, emotional commitment, cohabitation, and authorization. Homosexual couples have the same ability as heterosexuals when it comes to meeting these expectations. The only obstacle in the way of same-sex couples is legal recognition. Therefore, marriage should not be solely a heterosexual right. Dawn Cochn, a Sydney psychotherapist, argued this point at a Lesbian and Gay Legal Rights Service forum, in February 1994. She stated that historically, marriage is not a heterosexual institution. Cochn presented many examples from various cultures of the history of lesbian and gay marriages. She felt that to allow marriage to be claimed as heterosexual is to allow lesbians and gays to be written out of anthropology and history (The Bride Wore Pink Discussion Paper, p.29). Likewise, in America, where marriage is generally defined by society as a union between woman and man, many different cultures coexist with varying interpretations of marriage. For example, many Islamic and Mormon societies practice polygamy, a marriage in which one man has more than one wife, some Tibetan societies practice polyandry, a marriage in which one woman has more than one husband, and some Chinese societies accept a man having one wife and many lovers. To define marriage as a union strictly between one woman and one man is to take away from the diversity and cultural richness of our nation. Not to mention, to deny different cultures and groups their basic rights and free will. So, the legal definition of marriage should be alternately defined as: "Persons who are emotionally, physically, or psychologically interdependent who wish to benefit each other and are prepared to accept certain obligations" (The Bride Wore Pink, p.16).

Another argument against legalization of gay marriage is the issue of domestic partnerships. Many people believe that since homosexuals are granted this legal arrangement, they do not need the recognition of civil marriage. Through domestic partnership laws, same-sex partners are allowed public and legal recognition of unions which meet specified criteria, and are granted specific rights and benefits: sick-leave, hospital visitation rights, bereavement leave and health benefits to city employees and their domestic partners (The Bride Wore Pink, p.25). Currently, San Francisco, New York, Maryland, Minneapolis, and Oregon have adopted domestic partnership laws. Due to these laws, gay couples are able to obtain automatic status upon filing an affidavit, receive financial benefits during the relationship, and obtain financial responsibilities at the end of the relationship, receive social recognition, reduce discrimination, receive access to family court.

However, domestic partnership laws do not provide all the same benefits as civil marriage. As Matt Coles states, "Lesser rights do not add up to equal rights." As a result of the government prohibiting homosexuals from legally proclaiming their love, gays are unable to participate in the basic rights that heterosexual married couples are. Domestic partners and gay couples are not allowed to: inherit from a partner if he or she doesn't have a valid will, obtain joint home and auto insurance, enter joint rental agreements, make medical decisions on a partner's behalf in the event of illness, chose a final resting place for a deceased partner, have joint child custody, visitation, and foster care, have a partner covered under Social Security and Medicare, file joint tax returns, obtain wrongful death benefits for surviving partner and children, apply for immigration and residency for partners from foreign countries, and obtain domestic violence protective orders. (Gay Marriage: Should Lesbian and Gay Couples be Allowed to Marry?).

Our nation is regressing in the fight for civil liberties. On June 2, 1997, a same-sex marriage ban was approved in Florida, in a bill that stated that Florida would not recognize other states' policies on gay marriages (Same-Sex Marriage Ban Approved in Florida). Even though individual state governments--like Oregon, whose appeals court stated that "government is constitutionally required to recognize same-sex domestic partnerships," in December 1998--have recognized domestic partnerships and gay marriages, in order for homosexuals to be able to move freely throughout the United States and exercise the legal benefits that civil marriage warrants, each state would need to respect each other's laws (ACLU's website). Furthermore, as of January 1998, 25 states signed bills banning same-sex marriages into law. In addition, although Hawaii and Alaska had both taken steps towards granting homosexuals the right of legal marriage, on January 19, 1999, Hawaiian and Alaskan voters defeated the same-sex marriage ballots (Statewide Anti-Gay Marriage Laws).

Not only have laws granting civil rights to gay couples been repealed, but the federal government continues to discriminate against any further legislation. In fact, the federal government's "Defense of Marriage Act" has been created in order to ban federal recognition of gay and lesbian couples. President Clinton reinforces the government's hypocrisy, in his statement on DOMA. He begins by expressing his views on gay rights: "Throughout my life I have strenuously opposed discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against gays and lesbians." He then goes on to state his views on legal recognition of gay rights: "I have long opposed governmental recognition of same gender marriages and this legislation [the Defense of Marriage Act] is consistent with that position." Our president states within the same address that he opposes discrimination, while at the same time denying a specific group basic civil liberties. Discrimination occurs when a person is disadvantaged because of their homosexuality in circumstances where a heterosexual standing in their position would have been treated favorably. (The Bride Wore Pink, p.35). Our federal government and our president are both blatantly discriminating against gay couples.

Despite the discouraging laws and lack of support for the civil rights of gay couples, 24 states did block the bill banning same-sex marriage, on January 1998 (Statewide Anti-Gay marriage Laws). Currently, Vermont is awaiting voting on same-sex marriage laws, while California will have its say in March of 2000 ("Marriage Go-Round," The Advocate). Moreover, a similar battle for gay rights is forming in the Philippines. The Progressive Organization of Gays group (Progay) has begun a letter writing campaign in order to protest four bills that bar recognition of same-sex marriages, proposed in July and August 1998. The bills ban recognition of domestic partnerships and same-sex marriages, whether they are contracted in the Philippines or abroad (World Watch, February 1999).

"Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice, resolved, the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who chose to marry and share fully and equally in their rights, responsibilities, and commitment of civil marriage." (ACLU's "Marriage Resolution"). Everyone should have the right to civil marriage, and it is unjust to prohibit this right from gays. Homosexual couples are denied basic human rights simply because of sexual orientation, and, because of this prohibition, they are denied civil liberties and many economic and legal benefits. We, as a nation, have regressed back to the time of the civil rights movements, when minority groups were singled out discriminated against. Now, the minority group struggling in American society is gays. If the United States government continues to prohibit homosexuals from making their love legal commitments, then we, as a people, will be taking steps backwards in the development of our nation.

"No government has the right to tell its citizens when or whom to love. The only queer people are those who don't love anybody," (Rita Mae Brown).

Sources Cited

Gallagher, John. "Marriage-Go-Round: Same Sex Marriage Ballots Defeated." The Advocate, The National Gay & Lesbian Magazine. Online. Netscape. 19 Jan. 2014. http://www.advocate.com

"Gay Marriage: Should Lesbian and Gay Couples Be Allowed to Marry?" American Civil Liberties Union. Online. June 2014. http://www.aclu.org/library/aagaymarriage.html

"Hawaii Sends Constitutional Amendment to Voters To Ban Lesbian and Gay Marriages." American Civil Liberties Union. Online. 29 Apr. 2014.

Henslin, James M. Sociology, A Down To Earth Approach. Needleham Heights, MA: Viacom. 2007.

The Bride Wore Pink: Legal Recognition of Our Relationships. Gay Lesbian Rights Lobby. Online. Feb. 2014.

"President's Statement on DOMA." Carnegie Mellon University Home Page. Online. 20 Sept. 2014.

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