In order to understand both sides of the same sex marriage debate, it is important to look at those who advocate for the union of two people no matter what their genders, as well as those who believe that marriage should be only between a man and a woman. The reasons cited on both sides are various. Many of those reasons are based in religious doctrine, but that is not the only area of life people discuss when they address their objection to or support for same sex unions. Additionally, it is not just the concept of whether marriage should be a basic human right no matter one's sexual orientation. The issue is also about how these "extra" marriages will affect issues such as military pay and benefits, pension and social security plans, and the healthcare system. Same sex marriage in the United States and throughout the world is a multi-faceted issue that touches nearly every area of life, and has to be treated as such in order for lawmakers and others to choose the side that is right for their country. A4
The Christian Argument A5
In Christian circles, marriage is seen to be between one man and one woman. This is based on the biblical account of Adam and Eve in Genesis. The Bible states that God made Adam from the dust of the earth, and breathed life into him (Genesis, 1:27, KJV). Then, he took one of Adam's ribs and made Eve, so man would have a helper (Genesis, 1:27, KJV). A6 The Bible also states that, when a man marries, he shall leave his family and be united with his wife, and the two shall become one (Ephesians, 5:31). Nowhere does it say "he or she" when discussing a man's (or a woman's) marriage to another person. In other words, it only addresses opposite sex unions, and does not focus on same sex unions at all. Other passages such as Genesis 19:5, Leviticus 18:22, and Romans I:26-27 are often cited in an effort to condemn homosexuality completely. Many Christians believe these are clear evidence that God does not accept same sex marriage or unions of any kind. However, not all people of the Christian faith believe that same sex marriage is unacceptable.
The argument made against this type of belief A7 is two-fold. First, those who are not opposed to same sex marriage state that the biblical principles that are being used to argue against these types of unions are flawed, and that they are not accurate for today. First, the information used by Christians to argue against gay marriage is from the Old Testament of the Bible, which was Jewish law. When Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for mankind's sins, He said that believers need only believe in and follow him (John, 14:6). Christians who are not opposed to same sex marriage argue that they are Disciples of Christ and are not subject to the laws of the Old Testament. These laws also say not to shave or cut a person's hair, and that pork is unclean to eat. If one of these laws must be followed (no same sex unions), than the other laws have to be followed, as well. One should not pick and choose which parts of the Bible he or she will follow. Second, the passage arguing against homosexual activity has been argued by some biblical scholars as having to do with homosexual prostitution, and not with actual marriages or unions between committed partners (Robinson, 1996). A8 It is clear that both sides are very passionate about the issue at hand, and about their interpretation of what the Bible says on the matter.
It isn't just Christians who are concerned about the affects of same sex marriage. Politicians, no matter what religious beliefs they hold, must be careful when they "choose a side," so to speak. If they are proponents of these types of unions, they will lose some voter support. The same is true if they are opponents of it. For those who are in politics or want to get into politics, there is no easy choice (Liptak, 2013). They can decide to follow their own beliefs and let voters decide, or they can try to take a middle-ground approach that does not alienate either side. When they do this, they are often accused of being wishy-washy (or worse), but the stance is still common among those in or seeking political office (Gabriel, 2013). The more vague they are while still keeping voters happy, the better off they'll be when it comes to getting a larger number of voters to support them. It has been argued that this is unfair to voters, because it does not really allow them a clear picture of what a particular politician believes. Still, it is common practice in the political arena. Generally, Republicans are more conservative and more likely to be against same sex marriage, while Democrats are more liberal and more likely to be in favor of same sex marriage – although this is not always the case (Gabriel, 2013).
The Healthcare System
One does not automatically think of healthcare when the same sex marriage debate is brought up, but the truth of the matter is that this is a big concern. Right now, most healthcare benefits in the United States (and some other countries) only go to the opposite-gender, legal spouse (Bernard, 2011). That means a same sex couple cannot put one another on their health insurance, or designate their partner to be their healthcare advocate, because they are not married. This affects people who want to visit a partner in the hospital, as well as people who want to get updates on condition if someone is injured or ill. It can be very frustrating, and some hospitals are much more accommodating than others where this issue is concerned. Patient privacy laws (HIPAA), generally prohibit someone other than a spouse from getting direct information on a person's medical condition, although there are exceptions (Bernard, 2011).
The other big concern for healthcare is the cost of it. Right now, it's very expensive in the United States to get decent healthcare, although "Obamacare" will help with some of that in 2014. Other countries that have socialized medicine have mitigated a lot of the cost, but it can take a long time to get treatment. No system is perfect. The price of healthcare is a big issue for many people, though, and will continue to be. When more people are added to it, the costs will only increase. That is what is expected when more and more people start adding their same sex partners to their healthcare policies. If same sex marriage is allowed, these additions could put a severe burden on a healthcare system that already seems to have problems coping with the volume it has to address (Bernard, 2011). Some countries will cope with the influx better than others, but it would not be surprising to see all countries struggle.
Same Sex Marriage in the United States A9
Advocates for same sex marriage in the United States do not all come from the homosexual community. While they are probably the most vocal group, there are many heterosexual people who have no issue with same sex marriage. These people generally have relatives, often children, who are with same sex partners. They want to see their children or other family members happy, healthy, and whole, so they support those individuals' right to have a valid, legal marriage. Some of them even go so far as to put their own beliefs aside in order to be supportive to people whose happiness they value. It can be hard for a heterosexual family member to accept one who is not, but many people move past this concern and adapt because they want to see their loved ones in healthy relationships that are valued by society in the same way heterosexual marriages are valued. There are also advocates in the political arena, as well as throughout various religious teachings.
Currently, there are thirteen states, five Native American tribes, and the District of Columbia where same sex marriage is legal (National, 2013). The other states do not accept it, nor do the other Native American tribes. None of the Southern states have legalized same sex marriage. It is believed that this is due to the larger number of conservative Christians (especially Southern Baptist) who reside in those states. The Midwest is another area of the country where same sex unions are not popular. If a same sex marriage is performed in a state where it is legal, and then the couple moves to a state where it is not, that new state can decide whether it will accept the marriage as valid or not. It has the right to refuse it, if it so chooses – and many states do exactly that. Polls show that the majority of people in the United States support same sex marriage, and President Obama has also openly stated that he supports it (Obama, 2012). Eventually, it will likely be accepted in most, if not all, states.
Some states are doing more to advocate for same sex couples than others. There are several states where same sex marriage is banned, but where civil unions that provide similar benefits are allowed (National, 2013). Proponents of this type of system believe that this is a good compromise, while opponents say it does not go far enough. It is a "separate but (nearly) equal" issue, and one that really does not provide the same protection for the parties to it. The 21st Century has seen the support for same sex marriage grow rapidly, even though the idea of allowing for it started to gain steam as early as the 1970s (Gumbel, 2012). At that time, being homosexual was not something that was talked about much, especially in smaller towns and more rural areas of the country. Now, it is in the news frequently and nearly everyone in the country has been exposed to the issue on some level. Despite so much support for it, though, there are many people who still feel it is taking the country in the wrong direction. Only time will tell how many states will legalize it, and what other issues it may produce.
Same Sex Marriage in Other Countries C1
The United States is not the only country where same sex marriage has become a hot-button topic and the subject of a lot of debate. Currently, there are fourteen countries that recognize same sex marriage as being legal (Gumbel, 2012). That does not count the US and Mexico, where it is only legal in some jurisdictions. There are nearly one dozen other countries where bills allowing for same sex marriage have been proposed, have passed at least one legislative house, or are pending (Gumbel, 2012). For those who accept and advocate for same sex marriage, this is a huge victory. For those who do not, it is a slippery slope, and seems to be taking on a snowball effect where more and more countries are joining in. Most of the countries that have legalized it have done so through legislative change to their laws governing marriage. In many areas, the religious aspect of same sex marriage is important. However, it is also recognized as being an issue regarding civil and human rights, as well as a political and social concern (Gumbel, 2012). It appears as though support for same sex marriage is continuing to grow in the majority of countries where structure and legality dictate how marriage is handled.
The fact of the matter is that same sex marriage is a serious issue that will continue to be debated for some time. It is not something that is accepted by everyone, and that will probably always be the case. However, in states where there is a majority of supporters, the legalization of same sex marriage has either taken place or is on the way to taking place. More states in the US, and more countries across the world, are expected to legalize same sex marriage in the future. Whether this is "good" or "bad" is something that has to be decided on an individual basis, as it is a very personal issue for many people. However, it is also a societal issue in that it will affect political parties, the healthcare system, and the religious teachings in many areas of the world. It will take quite a bit of time before the full effect of legalization is felt, and that effect may not be apparent until more states in the US and/or more countries have chosen to make same sex marriage legal in their jurisdictions.
Gumbel, C3 Andrew. The Great Undoing? The Advocate. 20 June 2009. Web. 6 August 2013.
Bernard, C4 T.S. (2011). How gay marriage will change couples' financial lives. The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2013 from http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/24/how-gay-marriage-will-change-couples-financial-lives/
BBC News - Gay marriage 'improves health.' (2011). BBC. Retrieved August 6, 2013 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16203621
Gabriel, T. (2013). Doubts and downloads in Ohio after Portman’s shift on gay marriage. The New York Times. Retrieved August 8,2013 from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/us/politics/senator-portman-ohio-fallout-shift-same-sex-marriage.html?pagewanted=all
National C5 Conference of State Legislatures: Quick facts on key provisions. (2013). NCSL. Available at: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/human-services/same-sex-marriage-overview.aspx#1.
"Obama C6 Affirms Support for Same-Sex Marriage". ABC News. Last Modified May 9, 2012. Accessed August 7, 2013. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/obama-sex-marriage-legal-16312904
Liptak, A. (2013). Supreme Court bolsters gay marriage with two major rulings. The New York Times. Retrieved August 6, 2013 from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/27/us/politics/supreme-court-gay-marriage.html?_r=0
Robinson, B.A. (1996). The Bible and homosexuality. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Retrieved from: http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibi.htm