Gay marriage has been a contoversial issue for some time, and seems to have reared it's head a few times in the recent months. Is there anything wrong with 2 people of the same sex wanting to get married? For that matter, how do we define marriage? Is it a government institution, a religious one, or a social one?
(My original description of this question has been moved down to the discussion section below, since I felt it may have been slightly biased, if you're interested)
Sexual orientation is usually determined by adolescence, if not earlier (Bell et al, 1981), and there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed (Haldeman, 1994; APA, 2000). Nonetheless, our culture often stigmatizes homosexual behavior, identity and relationships (Herek, 1993). These anti-homosexual attitudes are associated with psychological distress for homosexual persons and may have a negative impact on mental health, including a greater incidence of depression and suicide, lower self-acceptance and a greater likelihood of hiding sexual orientation (Gonsiorek, 1982; Ross, 1985; Ross, 1990; Greene, 1997; Remafedi, 1998). Although the research is limited, transgendered persons are reported to experience similar problems. In their extreme form, these negative attitudes lead to antigay violence. Averaged over two dozen studies, 80 percent of gay men and lesbians had experienced verbal or physical harassment on the basis of their orientation, 45 percent had been threatened with violence, and 17 percent had experienced a physical attack (Berrill, 1992).
In my own opinion the harm done to homosexuals through discrimination, mental and physical abuse, and threats of violence and violence is far greater than any harm, if any, from them. Considering that homosexuality has always been by some percentage part of the nature of the human species as well as many other animal species that its been here and is here to stay. The fact that there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed, also makes it seem wise to accept it rather than be so vehemently opposed to it. In fact, changing it if we could would appear very questionable from a morality standpoint.
In my view the opposition to homosexuality stems purely from fear and ignorance, two distinctly unmanly characteristics. Controversy over gay marriage itself seems to me a very silly argument over semantics and the ability of a fearful majority to attempt to force conformity from a minority. The only thing that declaring that "Marriage can only be between a man and a woman" has done is add additional wording to tax forms making my yearly return instructions a paragraph longer. If there were ever a set of documents that needed to be more simplified instead of complicated and added to I can't think of one.
It is a battle between conservative minded groups attempting to maintain a more uniform and conformist population (and thus prevent chaos in their minds) at the expense of individuals and the liberal minded groups fighting for those individuals who are often lost, ignored or unfairly discriminated against by the big blind immovable machine of the group. Homosexuals are currently bound up in the ying/yang battle between group vs. individual rights. Hopefully for homosexuals, one day they will be considered part of the group.
Having this discussion a few times before, the only rebuttal against gay marriage that could hold any sort of ground, is that it is a continued decay of morals in this country (i.e. moving away from the atomic family) (Again, not my view point). Now of course the problem with that argument is that it is preferring a single small subset of morals as correct.
My biggest question that anyone should ask before answering this question is "What is marriage for?" It is no longer a strict religious ceremony or else there should be a second push to recognize only marriages done in a church vs. Justice of the Peace Marriages. From the US government view point, it is a tax/legal issue, declaring dependents, joint tax returns, and the legal obligation on the union of two individuals.
My biggest guidance is my belief in every individuals RIGHT to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But again, the US has the freedom of religion, but various religions cannot practice polygamy.
I am more curious if this conversation can be conducted without resorting to a single religion, since to force your religious beliefs upon another should not be an acceptable position.
It really comes down to majority rule. The majority of the people don't want it so its not going to happen. There is also a difference between laws changing to accommodate immutable characteristics such as race and gender; and changing the laws to accommodate what is seen as a minority preference.
This is such a hot button issue here in California. Popular vote has said that we don't want gay marriage here TWICE. It is interesting that in such a liberal state we have had that happen. I was amazed that after the vote passed Prop 8 there was a lot of protesting. Now, the State Supreme Court is voting on it. It almost seems like the Courts are circumventing democracy which is wrong on every level.
Now onto my thoughts. This whole argument is based on semantics. The homosexual community wants to be "married". I thought they could already be in civil unions which provide the same benefits as marriage? I am probably wrong on this fact and please correct me. So we're up in arms about a difference between the language of a marriage and a civil union.
To me, marriage is a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. It is a religious ceremony and as such has its limitations imposed by the religion. The state has turned it into a document that you need for tax breaks and other benefits. Truthfully, one could get married without getting a marriage license and be considered married in God's eyes. All that being said, I think that homosexual couples should get most (if not all) of the same rights as heterosexual couples.
Some thoughts that I have as well:
Why do homosexual couples want/need to be married? If they love each other so much, what's the need for the state recognizing it? Is it just the benefits?
Is it a need to be recognized as the same as a heterosexual couple? In that same line, are a homosexual and a heterosexual couple actually able to be considered the same? Isn't there something inherently different about the two relationships?
I think that the argument that gay marriage is harmful for marriage is crap. Frivolous Divorce is more harmful to marriage than gay marriage! Divorce is something that The Bible mentions it hates throughout. If you voted no on a proposition to allow gay marriage, would you vote yes on a proposition to ban divorce?
Tax breaks. This argument is a little different and one that made me scratch my head. Do we give tax breaks to married couples because they have the opportunity to raise offspring (historically)? If so, then gay couples can't do that.
Please comment on my things, because I would love to see a discussion about this stuff without the name calling that is usually attributed to it. I think that "Because they love each other" is not the greatest argument and that is the only one you will get going to a liberal school in California and if you voted to ban gay marriage, you are "closed minded".
Thanks John, it's good to see another reasoned response. Your reply makes me think that I would love to hear from some people who voted against the proposition, so that we can understand the reasoning.
With topics like this, it seems like many people, including the popular media want the issue to be polarised between 2 extremes: Marriage between gay people should be the same as for heterosexuals versus homosexual marriage being banned outright. There are a lot of shades of gray in between that I'm sure contain many of the reasons that people voted for and against it.
You bring up one of the more interesting points in this debate; mainly the issue of raising children. If we assume that one of the 'responsibilities' of a married couple is to raise children, then should we remove benefits from heterosexual couples who haven't procreated? What of gay couples who adopt a child or have children via a surrogate?
Again, I can't really find too many reasonable cons to this question, so would love to hear more from those opposed so that we can have a balanced view to this question. I'm actually a bit regretful of phrasing the question in such a biased manner....Do you all think that I should rephrase it? Or leave it as is?
As a Christian, I hear the con argument a lot. I tried to give both sides of the argument that I hear, because I'm torn. My views on what marriage is are important, but I don't think we should necessarily be discriminating on people either. It causes a sticky situation.
I think if you could have done the question over again, you could have put a more unbiased question and then make the first reply your feelings on the topic.
I have another comment. California upheld Prop 8. It makes me think: Is marriage a RIGHT? What defines a RIGHT? Also, do we need to have the government to say that our marriage is real for it to be real?
My thoughts are that if two people loved each other enough, had a ceremony and said they were married without, a document stating so, wouldn't they consider themselves married in their mind? I guess I'm just posing more questions than answering. But I really want to hear other thoughts.
Given that you consider marriage a religious institution, what of religions that celebrate and consecrate gay marriages (regardless of whether or not the local laws recognize these marriages)?
For example, I'm Unitarian and our church was marrying gay couples long before it became legal.* These are marriages that occurred within the bounds of a religion.
That said, I don't think legalizing gay marriage will force any religious institution to marry gay people. We're talk about secular/legal marriage, not religious marriage. If we treat the two as separate institutions (as I believe you do, given your statement: "Truthfully, one could get married without getting a marriage license and be considered married in God's eyes"), then what's the harm in allowing gay people to get married and to use the word "marriage" instead of "civil union?"
"I was debating whether or not to include this in the Big Questions series, as it is an issue that seems to be fairly controversial. I decided not to on the grounds that, IMHO, this should not be a big issue. Personally I don't understand why it's a controversy at all. I always thought of marriage as being a union of 2 people who love each other and want to express their love in an officially recognised way.
Ultimately, the main reason I am not opposed is that it doesn't affect me in any way. I don't care which heterosexual couples decide to get married, so why would it matter which homosexual couples do the same? It's got absolutely nothing to do with me, so unless there's some harm being done to someone, which I'm not aware of, I say more power to them. I'd rather see laws created to prevent cruelty and violence than to prevent loving relationships."
The debate against gay marriages stems from the idea of marriage as a religious union, making gay marriage a blasphemy against religious institutions. The fact is marriage has become a government recognized contract, and until society can seperate the ideals of religious and contractual marriage the issue will not be resolved.
Personally, the idea of a contractual marriage seems redundant, I would like to see marriage completely removed from government (tax laws, court divorces, etc.) and left to the religous institutions. But, as most philosphers, I am more a utopian dreamer than a realistic problem solver.
OK guys, this issue has been clouded for hundreds of years before gay marriage was an issue. The real debate is not about homosexuality , it is about marriage. The question is; is marriage a religious or a legal institution? Unfortunately the political and legal institutions adopted religious terminology hundreds of years ago. The term "Marriage" was originally religious in nature and subject to religious laws. Some people within the religious groups feel that it is unfair for the government to steal terminology from religions and then alter the definition of the word in such a way that it changes the original meaning of the word. As an alternative to altering the definition of the word the state has created the Civil Unions to accommodate for homosexuals who wish to enjoy the legal benefits of being a couple. However, Many are unsatisfied with this alternative because it still appears as discrimination because the different sexual orientations are subject to different terminology. I personally think that Civil Unions is the best option we have proposed, as I believe that it would be wrong and historically incorrect if we alter the definition of religious terminology thus altering the contemporary interpretation of religious texts. I propose another alternative that is the most correct solutions and would fix the mistakes we made hundreds of years ago: We divorce religious terminology from our political and legal vocabulary and make ALL unions Civil Unions including nonreligious unions between heterosexual couples, therefore Marriage would revert back to being ONLY unions performed as a part of a religious ceremony. The government would have no need to distinguish a marriage from a union on any legal documents considering that all marriages would also be legal unions. Unfortunately this idea is only about 5 minutes old and I fear neither side has the presence of mind to consider its validity. So, IN my opinion the best PRACTICAL alternative that has been proposed is allowing homosexuals to be united in Civil Unions and enjoy all the benefits that heterosexuals enjoy.