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Marriage: An Equal Right or A Religious Institution?
Should same-sex marriages be recognized throughout the United States?
by Amber Maccione
One of the biggest issues in our country today is gay marriage. You have one side that argues for it based on the utilitarianism thought and then you have those that argue against it based on the relativism thought. So which side is right and which side is wrong? In my viewpoint, neither is wrong or right.
Utilitarianism thought says “the act we should choose is that which produces the best results for the greatest number affected by that choice” (Mosser 2010 p. 1.12). Those that fight for gay marriage to be recognized in all states say that it should be allowed because it is in the best interest of those that choose the homosexual lifestyle. Those affected by gay marriage are those that are homosexual. It doesn’t affect those that are not. Therefore, there should be no reason to not pass a law that recognizes it.
People that are homosexual feel and act just as that of a heterosexual. Homosexuals want to have the whole package that a relationship can offer just as someone who is heterosexual. Marriage is apart of that relationship package. So the utilitarianism thought would say to acknowledge a gay marriage as a real marriage – that with two people who love each other and are committed to being with each other for better and worse to death due them part. Making gay marriage a recognized thing in the court system would be that which produces the best result for the homosexual community and therefore, the utilitarianism thought would say that it is the right thing to do.
On the other hand you have those that say gay marriage should never be recognized in the court system. They come form the relativism thought. Relativism is an ethical viewpoint of what is right and wrong that is created based on someone’s culture and background (Mosser 2010 p. 1.22). People of this thought feel that gay marriage should not be allowed because the Bible or their religious book says that it is wrong. Their upbringing taught them that being gay is a choice not how you are born. Their upbringing taught them that being gay is unnatural; God didn’t create Adam and Steve, but Adam and Eve. Therefore, because their religious book says it is wrong and that liking the same sex is unnatural, it should not be allowed.
When deciding whether or not to allow gay marriage to be recognized as a legal union between two people, it shouldn’t be brought down to utilitarianism or what your religion says is right. Our country was founded upon religious freedom. And further than that, our forefathers made it clear that religion and state should be separated. And it also shouldn’t be brought down to what is best for the majority of the people. When making something legal, we should consider the harm it could cause to those involved and those who witness it. If no harm would come as a result, then there is no reason why it shouldn’t be legal.
Although I don’t see utilitarianism or relativism as valid points to making gay marriage a recognized union, I can’t say that their viewpoints are wrong. Again, in this country we have the right to believe and see things in our own way. I just don’t think that these two viewpoints should be used to decide whether to allow gay marriage or not. If you side with either viewpoint, you are going to make someone mad. I think to decide, it must be decided on legal terms and what is best for the whole country – not just a group who chooses to live a homosexual lifestyle.
With all that said, I would have to say I lean more towards the utilitarianism viewpoint. I have quite a few people in my family that are homosexual and transgender. I was raised in a Christian home and grew up with the mindset that homosexuality is a sin. But as I met people who were homosexual and found out that the other side of my family had numerous people who were, I began to dig a little deeper into what I believed. I still believe homosexuality is sin, but I do not think that shoving religious views down someone's thoat is right.
If asked when I was a teenager, I would have said that gay marriage should not be allowed. But that would have been based on relativism. When I became an adult, there was a co-worker of mine who made me rethink my train of thought. I began to believe that people could be born gay – just like someone is born with a handicap. I then believed that if a person was born homosexual, s/he must not practice that lifestyle in order to be seen as blameless before God.
I still believe that, but I have changed my viewpoint on whether gay marriage should be allowed or not. I have come to believe that my religious viewpoints (relativism) should not dictate how someone else should live. Everyone should have a choice on how they want to live and what they want to believe is right. That is what our country was founded on – tolerance. Therefore, today, even though I believe homosexuality is a sin, I cannot prevent others from their desires. What is in your heart will come out.
There are many reasons why gay marriage should be legal. If you put all the reasons into one word, it would be equality. If we look over history, we see that all groups of people have at one point fought for equality. Slaves, Jews, blacks, women, interracial relationships, and homosexuality all have fought for civil rights – to be seen as equals to all those in the human race. Equality is the real reason that gay marriage should be recognized in the United States.
George Chauncey states in his book Why Marriage that the civil right to choose one’s marital partner is a right that those whom are homosexual are denied. How can the United States say marriage is only allowed for those that are marrying the opposite sex, when the civil right given is to be allowed to choose your own partner? Marriage to a same-sex couple is a civil right that they would like to have so that they can show the world that they are committed to each other for the rest of their lives (Chauncey 2004 p. 60-65).
Another reason for recognizing gay marriage that is also shown in Chauncey’s book is the fact that marriage is used as the primary venue for determining who has the right to benefits such as health, military G.I. bill, and taxes (Chauncey 2004 p. 71). The biggest out of these is health. My friend Ryan (who grew up in the same church as me, has a brother whom is gay, and he himself is bisexual) shared that homosexuals aren’t allowed in hospital visiting rooms with their partner because they aren’t considered family even though that couple may have been together for over ten years. Chauncey shares in his book about 3 different homosexual couples who experienced this. The first couple was Sharon Kowalski and Karen Thompson. Sharon was in a car accident that had left her almost paralyzed. She was admitted to the hospital, but Karen was not allowed to see Sharon for over two hours until she convinced the hospital that she was there acting as emissary of Sharon’s parents. When Sharon’s parents got there, they wouldn’t accept the fact that Karen was Sharon’s partner. Sharon’s dad won in court in 1985 custody over Sharon, but didn’t provide her with the care she needed. It wasn’t until 1991 that Karen was reunited with Sharon and won the right to take care of her partner (Chauncey 2004 p. 111-116).
Another story is that of Michele Granda and Kate Hogan. While on vacation together, there was an accident that led to Kate bleeding to death. The hospital that held Kate would not let Michele sit in the emergency room with her as she died. Michele was not recognized as next of kin or even as Kate’s partner at the funeral even though they had been together 12 years and shared common things that any heterosexual relationship would have shared (Chauncey 2004 p. 111-116).
The last couple that Chauncey shared was that of Bill Flanigan and Robert Daniel. They were from San Francisco and on vacation in Washington, D.C. Robert became ill and was rushed to the hospital. Although they had all the right documents that said they were in a domestic partnership, the hospital wouldn’t let Bill to see Robert because he was not family. It was only until Robert’s family got there that Bill was finally allowed in and saw that things were done that were against their wishes (Chauncey 2004 p. 111-116).
There are other legal reasons that gay marriage should be legalized. Chauncey confirms that the institution of marriage is how the United States distributes rights and privileges. Those whom are homosexual can’t enjoy these benefits because they aren’t allowed to marry even if they are committed to a person ‘til death due us part. Another right is that of legal guardianship of children. Who has the right to make decisions when it comes to the children brought into the homosexual family? The courts give it to the biological parent – whether it is the woman in the lesbian relationship who did the birthing or the man in the homosexual relationship who donated the sperm. If marriage was legalized, then both parents (whether biological or not) would have rights. These rights are important when divorce comes to play or making decisions for health and school for the child (Chauncey 2004 p. 90-11).
Today, many states are recognizing domestic partnerships or civil unions. Brittney Baker in her article entitled “Same-Sex Marriage and Religion: An Inappropriate Relationship” states that these are not equivalent to marriage. Domestic partnerships may help with providing the same rights as a marriage, but the fight goes back to equality. Domestic partnership is not at the same level as marriage. It is an unequal citizenship because it is like the government is saying that being heterosexual is superior to being homosexual. Thomas Jefferson said that all men are created equal. With that said, all men should be given the same rights. If the right of choosing your own partner to spend the rest of your life with is a right given to those that are heterosexual, then that same right should be given to those that are homosexual based on our forefather’s declaration that all men are created equal under God (Baker 2010).
Yet the religious sector of the United States would argue against that by saying homosexuality is a sin. They say it is a choice, not something that you are born with. God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. Therefore, homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry because it is not how God created man and it wouldn’t the “all men are created equal” saying wouldn’t apply to the choice to be homosexual.
In the book Same-Sex Marriage, two couples from the United States give an interview of how they feel about being gay and legalizing gay marriage. The first couple is Brent and Steve Scheuerman-Stallone. In 2003, they travel to Canada where gay marriage is recognized to marry. Unfortunately, in Kansas where they are from it was not recognized. They both believe that gay marriage is a part of their rights as Americans. Their marriage is just like anyone else’s because they are committed even though they have different opinions and family issues – just like a heterosexual marriage. Brent and Steve pointed out the gay marriage is more of a legal issue than a social issue. By allowing marriage, it gives those whom are homosexual legal protection that at that time in 2003 could only be done through a lawyer. When asked if they had something that they thought helped symbolize the fight for gay marriage, Brent said the movie “Common Ground”. In the movie, the town fathers gave their blessing for a homosexual couple to marry. At the marriage ceremony, the pastor says, “Is this equality?” Brent states that “too many times we contemplate on the differences and we don’t realize the common ground.” The common ground is that both parties – homosexual and heterosexual – want commitment to the person that they love and want to care for until death takes one or both of them (Lahey 2004 p. 313-322).
The second couple in the book Same-Sex Marriage (Hillary and Julie Goodridge) stated a law suit in Massachusetts because their marriage was not acknowledged. In 2003, a person could lose their job, rental home, and children if known that they were gay. Hillary and Julie had a daughter. They fought for gay marriage to be recognized because they wanted legal protection. Their sperm donor was involved in their daughter’s life and known as her father, but he had given up his biological rights to raise her because it was Hillary and Julie’s daughter. They also see their relationship/”marriage” like that of any heterosexual marriage. They have their problems and have even gone through couple’s
therapy (Lahey 2004 p. 353-364).
But did same-sex marriage start with equality being the focus? Not according to the article “The Changing Debate on Same-Sex Marriage”. There are five stages that have transpired over the years. The debate first started with religion. Sodomy was seen as a crime and those that were homosexual kept their secret in the closet for fear of losing their job or being arrested. From there came the thought that homosexual relationships would be damaging to children if they were allowed to marry and parent children. It was seen that children needed both a mom and a dad. Religion came up again with the fact that marriage was for procreating and homosexuals couldn’t do that. Then states started declaring marriage as that between a man and woman only. So granting homosexuals the right to marry would violate state constitution. From there people started saying that homosexual marriage would destabilize the marriage because it violates the traditional family values of mom and dad with dad as head of household and mom as manager. Finally, in today’s world, it has come down to rights and equality - that all men are created equal no matter their beliefs or upbringing. Political debates should be brought to what is right and wrong for equality not based on religion. There is a reason why church and state were made separate – for religious freedom. So religion should not be the reason someone who is gay is denied the right to marry and enjoy the legal protection that it brings (Crehan 2007).
Based on the article “Bending Knee”, 30 states have defines marriage as that between a man and a woman. That means that over half the United States is denying homosexuals that right to marriage. This is not fair, nor equality. Legalizing gay marriage according to this article would not be a victory for just homosexuals, but for everyone because it is a victory for basic fairness. Laws are about making sure that everyone is treated fairly and given protection to enjoy the rights of being an American citizen. Therefore, legalizing gay marriage is all about equality – what is fair for all (Bending the Knee 2012).
Although I may have began my fight with ay marriage as being against it because of my religious upbringing, today I am all for it. Who am I to tell someone how they’re to live their life? I am not God. Only God can judge someone. So if my religion says gay marriage is wrong, it doesn’t mean I should dictate that the United States not recognize it because church and state should be separate and all men are equal. Therefore, I support gay marriage on the basis of equality – not relativism or utilitarianism.
Anonymous. (2012). Bending the Knee. First Things. Retrieved from ProQuest.com.
Baker, Brittney. (2010). “Same-Sex Marriage and Religion: An Inappropriate
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Chauncey, George. (2004). Why Marriage?: The history shaping today’s debate over gay
equality. Perseus Books Group.
Crehan, Margaret G. and Katherine Rickenbaker. (2007). “The Changing debate on
Same-Sex Marriage in the United States.” Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing,
University of Michigan Library. Retrieved from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-dx?cc=mfsfront;c=mfs;c=mfsfront;idno=ark5583.0020.001;rgn=main;view=text;xc=1;g=mfsg
Lahey, Kathleen A. and Kevin Alderson. (2004). Same-Sex Marriage: The Personal and
the Political. Insomniac Press.
Mosser, K. (2010). Introduction to Ethics and Social Responsibility. San Diego,
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