What are the reasons for and against gay marriage

1.0 Introduction

Gay marriage is one of the most controversial issues in the modern world. For the past thousand years, marriage has been recognized as the social union between a man and a woman. In most cultures across the globe, homosexuality was viewed with disdain, and marriages between same-sex couples were forbidden.

However, homosexual relationships are slowly gaining acceptance, as homosexuals have become vocal in fighting their right to marry in the early 90s. With an increased in tolerance for homosexuality in the society, the controversy over the legalization of gay marriage has been disputed among people in many nations. While the majority of the population believes that the legalization of gay marriage will have negative impact on the society, gay activists claim that it is against basic civil rights to prohibit them from marrying.

This report will first review the history of battle to legalizing gay marriage, and the current status in today’s world. It will then examine the reasons for and against the legalization of gay marriage. The conclusion will summarize the main arguments

2.0 Overview of gay marriage

2.1 History

Same-sex marriage is nothing new, with historical evidence showing that marriage has not always been the institution between heterosexuals. Gay marriages have existed in some form around 600 years ago. (Tulchin, 2007) Since early 1960’s, gay activists have been striving for the right to marry. However, the issue of gay marriage only arose from the 1990’s, as three same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against the state of Hawaii for the prohibition of gay marriage in US. The case has come to a conclusion that banning gay marriage is not constitutional, as there is no real practical reason and compelling arguments for it. (Bower, 2010)

This event had triggered the world’s attention over the next decade and consequently led to the creation and approval of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1998. This law is exercised in the US and it has further defined the term marriage, solely as the legal union between a man and a woman. (Bower, 2010) In addition, this law asserts that no states in the US are required to recognize same-sex marriage that is performed in other places. (Masci, 2007)

Although gay marriage is not allowed in many countries, some places provide an alternative - civil union, as a compromise. In order to reduce controversy, the term civil union was used in replace of marriage, and it is an institution that offers same-sex couples all the rights, benefits and privileges that are equivalent to marriage. (Kirk, 2010)

In 1989, Denmark was the first country to establish civil union laws. Since then, many other countries, including Australia and some states in the US, have adopted the civil union law in attempt to resolve the problem of gay marriage. (Ellis-Christensen, 2010)

Despite the establishment of civil union, advocates of gay marriage have never stopped battling for the right to marry. They indict that civil union do not include all the legal benefits, or the cultural significance of marriage. (Infoplease, 2007) For instance, all benefits and rights granted to a civil partnership are restricted within the state, as DOMA has denied the recognition from the federal government. Also, supporters of gay marriage argue that civil union cannot replace marriage, and it is just an alternative way of segregating gay couples from the society. (Kirk, 2010) This debate on the legalization of marriage will continue in the next few decades.

2.2 Current status

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize gay marriage in 2001, followed by Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa. Some other countries include Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina has also legalized same sex marriage recently. (Johnson, 2009) In 2004, the state of Massachusetts had made an unprecedented move to allow same-sex marriage, being the first state in US to legalize gay marriage. The court ruled that it is illegal not to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Furthermore, the laws regarding gay marriage and the benefits brought by such marriage are different in every country. For example, in Netherlands, a gay wedding can only be performed if one of the spouses has Dutch nationality. On the other hand, people can perform same-sex marriage without a residency requirement in Canada. (BBC News, 2005)

In Australia, same-sex marriage is not permitted under Australian federal law. However, same sex couples are recognized as de facto partners, as government offers them a range of rights and benefits equivalent to couples in de facto relationship. (Perry, 2006) Furthermore, gay couples can have the access to civil partnership registries in the states of Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania and Victoria, while South Australia only recognizes same-sex couples as “domestic partners". (Higgi, 2006)

The map below shows the current status of homosexuality in the world. Some countries in Africa and Asia consider homosexual as a crime and offender may receive death penalty. On the other hand, same-sex marriage is legally recognized in countries such as Canada, Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands. Although same-sex marriage is not allowed in Australia, same-sex couples are able to apply for civil unions in some states such as Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and ACT.

3 Reasons for Gay Marriage

3.1 Human rights and freedom

3.1.1 Violation of human rights

According to the United Nation of Human rights, human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of gender, nationality, ethnic origin and religious view etc. Everyone has the same right and freedom to do what they want, as long as it does not cause harm to the society, and decision made by others should be respected. (Messerli, 2009) Gay marriage is the matter of civil and equal rights, and the decision to get married should belong to the couple in love, and this should not be regulated by the government. (Anton, 2008) Even though many people are not comfortable with homosexual relationship, the equality and dignity of gay couples should be respected. (Cline, 2010) Moreover, gay marriage is a personal commitment that the society should not be dictating. Withholding the right to sign a legal contract between two loving people is a severe violation of human rights.

3.1.2 Marriage is between two individual

A marriage is a relationship between two people that love each other. Many couples are desired to get married not only for the recognition of relationship from the society, but also the ultimate expression of love towards each other. (Messerli, 2009) It is a relationship between two people, and that they are committed to each other to spend the rest of the life with them.

Moreover, accepting gay marriage as a civil right does not impinge on the rights of those who religiously and morally opposed it, and it does not do any damage to the people outside this marriage. (Terkel, 2010) On top of that, couples living together often have the need to receive marriage benefits and protection from the government in order to live. Examples are tax relief and insurance breaks. (Messerli, 2010) In addition, a married couple can often support each other in difficult times both financially and emotionally. The benefit of marriage to the couple is significant, and they should have equal right to be married.

3.1.3 Misunderstanding of homosexuality

For a long time, people have been considered homosexuality as a form of “deviant sexual behavior". (Messerli, 2009) However, evidence has shown that homosexual relationships have already been existed for more than 600 years. (Bryner, 2007) Secondly, many people have misunderstood that sexual orientation is a choice, and that a homosexual can be reformed to be a heterosexual anytime they want. However, thousands of researches have been done over half a century to prove that homosexuality has a biological causation. (Waller, 2003) Scientists have claimed that the sexual orientation of a person is unalterable, and it is congenital. That means if a person is born to be gay, they cannot do anything about it, and it is often hard to change their sexual orientation. Therefore it is not their choice to be homosexual, and it is not fair to treat them differently from others.

3.2 Legal benefits

The right to marry is not just about the actual legal ceremony, but also an equal right of access to the extensive list of legal protection awarded to the married couples. These benefits and privileges are applied to legally married couples, and only a few of these are available for couples in a civil partnership. This list of over a thousand federal and state benefits was released by the General Accounting Office in 1997, and they range from tax relief to medical decision making. Most of them are conclude as follows:

3.2.1 Tax relief

Married couples are able to file joint-tax returns and create a “family relationship" which allows couples to divide business income among family members. On top of that, they can receive social security, Medicare and disability benefits for their spouses.

3.2.2 Immigration

Legal citizen is able to sponsor their alien spouses for immigration into that country, but only if they are in legal status. As civil unions are not nationally recognized, gay couples will not be able to confer this immigration and residency benefits.

3.2.3 Legal benefits and protection

As a married couple, they have the visiting rights in places where visitors are restricted to immediate family, for example jail and hospital etc. Besides, they have the right to make critical medical decisions for their spouse if their partner becomes incapacitated. In the case of partner’s death, the spouse receives any earned Social Security or veteran benefits.

Other:

Receiving crime victims’ recovery benefits if the partner is the victim of a crime

Inheriting a share of your spouse’s estate

Insurance breaks and family discount

Receiving equitable division of property when divorced

All these benefits listed above are not available for Civil union.

3.3 Health benefits of marriage

In general, successful marriage encourages people to have strong family values and improves the quality of living.

The health benefits of marriage have been observed around the world and studies have shown that marriage improves people’s health, both physically and psychologically. (Gallagher, 2000)

3.3.1 Physical

First of all, married couples are happier, healthier than singles. Unmarried people are more likely to get sick, and are required to stay in hospital longer than married people with similar problems. (RAND, 1998) This could be due to the financial support as well as the mental support from the family and spouse, and marriage has made people stronger and braver when battling against serious illness. (Hu and Goldman, 1990)

Secondly, unmarried women and men are more likely to have a lower life expectancy, with half times and five times more likely to die in any given year than married couples respectively. In addition, being unmarried shortens a man’s life by ten years. (Rose and Mirowsky, 1990)

3.3.2 Psychological

Unmarried people are less mature and more careless with their deeds and discipline, for example, they are more likely to take drugs, get into a fight, drink drive and take unnecessary risks. With marriage, people often consider their partner’s feeling before taking risky actions because they are committed to looking after their spouse. (Wickrama, 1997)

In addition, as married couples are happier, more optimistic and more energetic than singles, they are more productive and less likely to face health problems such as depression.

3.4 Social benefits

3.4.1 Increase in child adoption

If gay marriage is to be legalized, the number of child adoption would increase, since gay couples cannot procreate naturally. Although some might take this as an argument against gay marriage due to the claim that there will be detrimental effect on the children’s psychological health, there is no conclusive research to suggest that child will be less healthy growing up in a gay household. (Messerli, 2009) Many children in the world are living in a stable gay household, and it is shown that they are as healthy. (Carpenter, 2007) The only thing that matters in a children’s growth is the love and care from the parents, not the gender.

3.4.2 Increase in social stability

Homosexual usually have a higher risk of sexual lifestyle than straights, for example having frequent, unprotected sex with many partners.(Messerli, 2009) With marriage, couples are committed to building a life together and requires deep commitment to civic and family responsibilities.(Rosik, 2005) Couples enter into a committed familial relationship will form close bond of kinship and interdependence with each other, and this will stabilize family as well as promoting a healthier lifestyle. (Cline, 2010) Additionally, allowing homosexual couples to marry will integrate them into the community. The benefits and support from the government can indeed foster a stronger sense of belonging to the community in which gay couples are more motivated to contribute to the society. this is a cornerstone to a stable society.

4.0 Reasons against gay marriage

4.1 Social impact

4.1.1 Impact on the next generation

Although the number of child adoption may increase as a result of the legalisation of gay marriage, that is not necessarily a good thing to the society overall. There is only little research being done on whether children raised under gay parents will be disadvantaged compared to others, but it is recognized that a straight household is the optimum environment to raise children. (Dr. Krause, 2010) Urban institutors and social scientist agree that children that are in other household arrangements, for example gay or lesbian household, will have a higher risk of lifestyle, for example truancy, poor performance at school, dropping out of school, taking on drugs and alcohol etc. (Dr. Krause, 2010). Further, the absence of father or mother in a gay household often causes social and financial problems. (Dr. Krause, 2010) In addition, children raised by homosexual parents are continually exposed to homosexuality. As a result, they are at a higher risk of becoming homosexual themselves and their behavior will be more or less affected by the growing environment. (Robinson, 2008) On top of that, children will have a greater chance to be discriminated and bullied by other classmates, and this could have a negative effect on their development. (Robinson, 2008)

4.1.2 Social unrest

Statistics have shown that children raised in a homosexual household will costs the society billions of dollars in social welfare and law-enforcement expenses. (Perry, 2009) For instance, government is required to spend extra money on the benefits and protection programs for gay couples. Also, the allowance of gay marriage may lead to the increased number of non-serious marriage. For example, a couple of friends might choose to get married just to save on taxes and receive medical benefits from the government. (Ramiro, 2008)

Secondly, many studies and researches have concluded that homosexual behavior will results in a greater risk of health problems, such as AIDS, psychological disorders as well as a much lower life expectancy. (Messerli, 2009) This will add to the cost of the hospital industry.

4.2 Contradiction of the tradition of marriage

4.2.1 Weakening of definition

Marriage is defined by most religious as the social institution in which two persons of opposite sex, who are not very close relatives and who declare to love each other and vow to live together forever. With the rapidly increasing single-parent family and divorce rate over the decade, the true meaning of marriage has already been weakened. (Messerli, 2009) With accepting same-sex to marry, it would further erode the respect for marriage. In addition, gay activists are requesting that the name in the birth certificates should not under the heading of father and mother, and it should be parent A and parent B instead. They refer this as an equality of name and this change has already been introduced in Spain. (Duncan, 2006) Moreover, advocates of gay marriage claim that marriage does not cause harm to anyone. However, changing the definition of marriage would lead to a slippery slope to the society. For example, having multiple wives.

4.2.2 Violation of the sacred institution

Virtually, many religions consider homosexuality unacceptable and sinful. It is against religious freedom to have them recognize a relationship that they consider is morally wrong. (Messerli, 2009) Moreover, legalizing same-sex marriage would undermine the institution and the tradition of marriage. The social construct of marriage has been between male and a female, and this should be maintained in order to preserve cultural traditions. Traditionally, the general thought of marriage has been between a man and a woman, and we should respect and keep this thought. On top of that, allowing gay couples to marry will pose a threat to the heterosexual marriage. (Los Angeles Times, 2010) Many people are feared that the legalizing of gay marriage is the first step to change and destroy the structure of a traditional household.

4.2.3 Procreation

One of the main purposes of marriage is to create the best environment for raising children. While gay couples do not have the ability to procreate, only natural marriage can consistently provide a stable and nurturing environment for the growth of the next generation. On top of that, researches have strengthened this idea, showing that the optimum environment for the growth and maturation of children is under the education and protection from a father a mother. (Dr. Krause, 2010) People believe that it is the best for children that they are raised by their biological parents.

5.0 Conclusion

6.0 Reference and Bibliography

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Video:

Debate: Should same sex marriage be legal? 2010, video recording, CBS DOT DOT COM. Directed by Dr Jon LaPook, Dr Krause.

Carpenter, Mackenzie 2007, What happens to kids raised by gay parents?, viewed 8 May 2010, < http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07161/793042-51.stm>

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Duncan, Robert 2006, First gay ‘marriage’ legalized, now Spain bans terms ‘mother’ and ‘father’, viewed 5 May 2010,

< http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/mar/06031001.html>