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Are All Men Created Equal? : The Battle for Equal Marriage Rights

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­Andrew Tarbox

Are All Men Created Equal? : The Battle for Equal Marriage Rights

 

            Growing up, there is one thing all people seem to focus on: the future.  As children we dream about our lives, having illustrious careers and perfect homes.  Into adolescence, we think about our first kiss and falling in love.  With early adulthood comes the pressure of the real world, wondering if we will receive a stable job in the career we choose and whom we will eventually marry.  Regardless of race, cultural background, or sexual orientation, these thoughts have crossed the minds of all citizens in the United States, but some may not always have the same opportunities as others.

            My peers have surely possessed these thoughts many times.  With most of us being eighteen, we have begun the progression into young adulthood and begun to think much about the future.  Since arriving at college, I myself have been somewhat obsessed with the idea of my forthcoming years and what is to come from them.  I hope to finish school, receive a job, and that there will be a man in my life somewhere down the road whom I will one day marry and adopt children with.

            That idea had never worried me until I started to think about it recently.  It has never bothered me because, for seven years now, same-sex couples have had the ability to obtain marriage licenses in Massachusetts. The first state in the United States to do so, Massachusetts thus granted these couples legal recognition and the ability to receive equal benefits to those of heterosexual couples. But what if I moved and wanted to get married in another state or moved after my marriage? Would it still be considered legal? Would my husband and I still receive the benefits provided to us previously? There are only six states in the United States, along with the District of Columbia, that have passed laws allowing same-sex marriage.  Although there is much progress being made in the realm of equal marriage rights, there is still much that needs to be accomplished in the foreseeable future. With this being such a hot topic, the public is being bombarded by countless pieces of information.  My ultimate goal is to streamline this information and bring some clarity to what the people behind these issues are saying.

            As of right now, the battle for equal marriage rights centers around the Defense of Marriage Act.  Passed in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act defined a marriage explicitly in federal law as a union of one man and one woman.  More than one thousand rights and protections given to couples upon marriage by the federal government are thus denied to same-sex couples, including Social Security benefits, health insurance, hospital visitation, and pensions.  Thankfully, the state government controls many aspects of day-to-day life in the terms of marriage law, not allowing the Defense of Marriage Act to prevent individual states from defining marriage in their own terms (“The Current Status of the Same-sex Marriage Battle”).  This means that even though certain states are allowed to give homosexual couples the legal right to marry, they are still denied the countless federal benefits given to heterosexual couples by the United States government.

            Those that are currently fighting in favor of equal marriage rights make a case for it in terms of both human and Constitutional rights.  In Manuel Lopez’s essay The Case Against Gay Marriage, he quotes a gay conservative Andrew Sullivan.  Sullivan doesn’t look to outlaw private disapproval or discrimination, but simply wants homosexuals to receive equal treatment under the state, including the right to a civilly recognized marriage.  He views marriage as a “social and public recognition of private commitment”,  and as a contract which constitutes “an emotional, financial, and psychological bond between two people.” Sullivan’s opinion is that, in this aspect, “heterosexuals and homosexuals are identical,” so there is no reason to prevent people of the same sex from marrying (Lopez 1).  This is the view that most contemporary homosexuals share.  They feel that being homosexual is as much a part of them as their hair or eye color and thusly their sexuality shouldn’t separate them from heterosexual couples in terms of rights.  If the federal government were to deny all hazel-eyed persons the right to vote even though that’s merely part of who they are as a being, would they not retaliate?  They would.  Being denied a federal right under the premise of something out of one’s own control is purely unconstitutional.  The view of marriage as a right is shared by all of those whom are backing the fight, including organizations like the Human Rights Campaign. 

            Those on the other end of the spectrum view marriage in a more religious light.  They believe that the definition of marriage as a union between a man and woman should stay intact based on the biblical idea of homosexuality being a sin.  Thus, certain values were created in terms of ‘marriage’ and the belief that if anything brought change to it, it would weaken both the definition and respect for the institution of marriage and further weaken any traditional family values (Messerli).  In this light, it there seems to be a strict hypocrisy between heterosexual and homosexual couples.  Heterosexual celebrities who have marriages that last a few days or months only to follow in divorce are doing nothing wrong, but if a homosexual couple who have loved and stayed by one another for years get married, they are responsible for ruining the sanctity and values of marriage.   At thirty-one years of age, Kim Kardashian has been married twice now: once at twenty for four years and again at thirty for a mere seventy-two days.  There are accusations that she didn’t even want to get married and merely did so to boost her own business.  On a personal note, my mother has a close gay friend that lives in Louisiana with his partner and they have been happily together and in love for fifteen years.  However, these two men have not been given the opportunity to get married because of both the federal and state ban of same-sex marriage there in the state.

Margaret A. Somerville wrote that marriage is “the societal institution that represents, symbolizes and protects the inherently reproductive human relationship” (3).  Manuel Lopez wrote that “marriage is part of the natural order, an order bigger than ourselves and our desires,” in the sense that marriage is a result of the desire to be a parent (4).  In this sense, it seems that some people merely see marriage as an embodiment of the evolutionary process of reproduction.  Marriage has become so much more than this idea.  Marriage is the idea of committing one’s heart, mind, and soul to another person in eternal unity.  This idea that marriage is merely evolutionary is negated in Cynthia Wagner’s “Homosexuality and Family Formation, where she writes that parenting may be as strong an urge in homosexual individuals as it is among heterosexuals, despite it being seemingly counterintuitive from an evolutionary point of view. In a recent study of Samoan gay men, evolutionary psychologists found a strong willingness for the caretaking and teaching of nieces and nephews, offering the uncles a boost for their family lineage and a way to “earn their evolutionary keep” (Wagner 6-7).  Many of those opposed to equal marriage rights see the homosexual lifestyle as something that shouldn’t be endorsed, categorized by unstable relationships and excess promiscuity, thus incapable of a stable marriage and the ability to create a stable familial environment.  Nevertheless, according to a 2007 study of adoption trends by the UCLA School of Law and the Urban Institute, more than half of gay men said they desired to be a parent, compared with forty-one percent of lesbians surveyed.  More than a third of lesbians had given birth, while seventeen percent of men had the ability to father or adopt a child (Wagner 7).  This leads me to believe that homosexual marriage has all the potential to be as stable and loving as a heterosexual marriage is.  While homosexual couples may not have the ability to actually create children, the need for adoption is stronger than ever, and their ability to create a family environment conducive to the raising of children is just as strong as that of a heterosexual couple.

            The American Psychological Association has openly expressed their support in the fight for equal marriage rights.  Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson of the APA write that “traditional ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ discussions of same-sex marriage are headed for the history books where they belong, along with debates about the merits and demerits of ‘inter-racial” marriage’” (Kitzinger 174).  The fight for interracial marriage follows a scarily similar path to that of the battle for equal marriage rights.  Many believe that as long as the fight stays strong, people will soon realize that marriage between people of the same sex is no different from marriage between people of two races.  A person’s skin color and sexuality are part of themselves and thus it is inhumane to deny them a human right on the basis of something they cannot control.  In reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Kitzinger and Wilkinson wrote out that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind.”  They feel that as long as marriage is a foundational social institution in the United States, based on our on Constitution, equal access to said institution should be a fundamental principle of equality (Kitzinger 176).

            All in all, those that are looking for equal marriage rights in the United States are merely asking for marriage to be seen in a term of democracy, of human rights, and that certain unalienable rights like those written in the Constitution should be given to all people regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.  They see the denial of equal marriage rights as discrimination and denying of countless rights.  The actual ability to have marriages, in their eyes, reduces the potential of promiscuity and high-risk sexual lifestyles for a greater focus on familial lifestyles.  Equal marriage in the land of the free where all men are created equal doesn’t seem like a difficult concept, yet it is still a daily struggle.  With twelve percent (six states) of the nation in favor of gay marriage currently, those fighting for equal marriage rights have still got a long struggle ahead.  Hopefully there will be a day in the near future where we, and our children, possess the ability to love and marry whomever we so choose, because ultimately the idea of marriage today leads me to believe that’s what it should be about: love.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

“The Current Status of the Same-sex Marriage Battle.” The United Families   International Blog. United Families International, 9 July 2009. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

Kitzinger, Celia, and Sue Wilkinson. “Social Advocacy for Equal Marriage: The

Politics of ‘Rights’ and the Psychology of ‘Mental Health’.” Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy 4.1 (2004): 173-194. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

 

Lopez, Manuel A. “The Case Against Gay Marriage.” Good Society Journal 14.1/2

(2005): 1-6. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

 

Messerli, Joseph. “BalancedPolitics.org – Same Sex Marriages (Pros & Cons, Arguments For and Against, Advantages & Disadvantages).” Balanced Politics. 30 July 2011. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.

 

Schaff, Kory. “Equal Protection and Same-Sex Marriage.” Journal of Social Philosophy

35.1 (2004): 133-147. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

 

Shah, Dayna K. “Defense of Marriage Act: Update to Prior Report.” U.S. General Accounting Office. United States General Accounting Office, 23 Jan. 2004. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

 

Somerville, Margaret A. “The Case Against ‘Same-Sex Marriage’” Marriage Institute. Institute for the Study of Marriage, Law, and Culture, 29 Apr. 2003. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

 

Wagner, Cynthia G. “Homosexuality and Family Formation.” Futurist 44.3 (2010): 6-

7. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

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4 responses »

  1. Anita Palanukorn

    This was one of my favorite essays! I absolutely agreed with everything you had to say. It makes absolutely no sense that same-sex couples are not given the same marriage rights [in most states] as heterosexual couples. I loved your example about how homosexuality is just as much an intrinsic part of oneself as eye or hair color. I thought that was the perfect example to state your point. If it’s not reasonable to deny people rights based on, for example, eye color, than why should homosexuality be treated any differently?

    Also, the mentioning of celebrity “marriages” was a great example to use against the idea that homosexuality weakens traditional family values. If there’s one thing that shows the world the weakening of the definition of a traditional family/values, it’s these disgustingly-short celebrity marriages. Yes, even non-celebrities can have ridiculously short-lived marriages, but the celebrities LIVE in the spotlight. Paparazzi document their every step, so every little thing they do (including the stupid things) are broadcast for the world to see. With such scrutiny on their lives, of course celebrity speed marriages and [ugly, mudslinging] divorces have a higher potential of weakening traditional family values.

    Lastly, my favorite sentence in the whole essay was definitely your last one 🙂 Because that’s what marriage is all about. Love, commitment, respect for one’s partner/spouse/husband/wife. Marriage (and the rights given to married couples) shouldn’t just be reserved for man and woman, because people of the same sex are just as capable of deeply loving each other as people of opposite sexes.

    Reply
  2. I really enjoyed reading this! I recently wrote a paper on marriage for my American Politics class, where we focused on whether gay marriage should be a federal or state issue. I argued that it is a constitutional right and should absolutely be a federal issue. I believe that one federal law should be passed that would make marriage available to all regardless of sexual orientation. This hopefully would end the issue of it only being available in certain states. I also equated this issue to being the same as inter-racial marriages. The fact that other people don’t realize how hypocritical this issue is in that sense really bothers me, as I can tell it does for you as well. I like how you compared the government’s discrimination of homosexuals to that of denying people with a certain color eyes certain rights. That example really helped your argument.

    You also used your sources effectively and persuasively in this essay. I especially liked the ones you chose from Andrew Smith. Additionally, I liked how you provided a counter-argument to the “marriage is meant for reproduction” issue by discussing adoption and also the inherent desire to be parents that heterosexual couples AND homosexual couples have. You did a very nice job with this paper; it really grabbed my attention, kept me interested, and did a good job covering the social and political aspects of this issue.

    Reply
  3. The above comment is from me, I forgot to include my name. Again, nice job.

    Reply
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