Same sex marriage has been a topic of much debate in recent years. Many believe that same sex marriage should not be allowed, while others assert that homosexuals should have the right to be legally married. The purpose of this discussion is to investigate the historical context, political impact, sociological impact and the psychological and philosophical perspectives of this issue.
Gay Marriage in a historical context
According to Coolidge et al. (2003) marriage provides a legal gateway to many protections and benefits in American society. In fact many of these protections and benefits do not exist outside of becoming legally married (Mcwhirter 2004). These include access to health care and medical decision making for your partner and your children; parenting and immigration rights; inheritance, taxation, Social Security, and other government benefits (Mcwhirter 2004). It is because of these protections and benefits that same sex marriage has become such an explosive issue (Mcwhirter 2004).
Although same sex marriage is not legal in the United States there are some countries that have made it legal. From a historical perspective, Coolidge et al. (2003) reports that in 1991 Demark was actually the first to develop legal gay marriage (Coolidge et al. 2003). The law in Denmark is not" marriage itself but a parallel marital status for same sex couples (Coolidge et al. 2003)." In addition the "Netherlands became the first to dispense with separate and unequal formulas and allow same-sex couples to lawfully wed. Other European nations, and possibly the European Union as a whole, will certainly follow suit in the years to come. Meanwhile, Canada -- which already has recognized same-sex couples' legal entitlement to "all but marriage" -- is also in the midst of a campaign aimed at securing the freedom to marry (Coolidge et al. 2003)."
Coolidge and Duncan (2001) explain that the attempt to legalize gay marriage in the Netherlands grew dramatically throughout the last decade. The attempt to do this was inclusive of a non-discrimination act with a human rights commission, the acceptance of private cohabitation contracts, and then the passage of a full-pledged Registered Partnerships law in 1998 (Coolidge and Duncan 2001). The Registered Partnerships law granted both homosexual and heterosexual couples the capacity to register with the government and have all of the rights available to married couples with the exception the right to adopt children (Coolidge and Duncan 2001). In addition, the Lower Chamber of the Dutch Parliament suggested the full "opening up" of marriage to homosexuals (Coolidge and Duncan 2001). The Legislation to implement gay marriage was introduced in 1998 (Coolidge and Duncan 2001). The authors assert that
"On September 12, 2000, after several days of extended debate, the Second (or Lower) Chamber of the Dutch Parliament approved the "opening-up" bill, as well as a bill to allow for adoption by same-sex couples. The vote was a lopsided 133-109.(45) The First (or Upper) Chamber approved the bills on December 19, 2000 by a 49-26 vote.(46)Under the new law, only one of the two "spouses" is required to be a permanent resident or citizen of the Netherlands.(47) Therefore an American citizen could go to the Netherlands and marry a Dutch citizen anytime on or after April 1, 2001, and then return to seek recognition (Coolidge and Duncan 2001)."
In America, Hawaii and Vermont were the first to pass civil union laws (Coolidge et al. 2003). In addition, Vermont developed a parallel non-marriage marital status for gay couples (Coolidge et al. 2003;West 2004).
The aforementioned legislation that has been developed in Vermont has sparked nationwide debates concerning the legal definition of marriage. As a result some states are currently considering, and others have implemented, legislation attempting to prevent acknowledgment of gay marriages performed in other states (Report on Marriage Rights for Same-Sex Couples 2004). The most notable legislation is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), enacted by congress in 1996 (Report on Marriage Rights for Same-Sex Couples 2004). This Act allows states that implement such legislation the ability to deny recognition to same-sex marriages that may be legally sanctioned in other states (Report on Marriage Rights for Same-Sex Couples 2004). In addition, in terms of the legality of gay marriage 'The constitutionality of measures denying recognition of same-sex marriage is in doubt, especially in light of the United States Supreme Court's apparent shift in its consideration of gay and lesbian rights. Fifteen years ago, the Court found that a state sodomy statute enforced only against homosexuals violated no constitutionally protected rights. (1) In contrast, in 1996, the Court found that by subjecting one group to a disadvantage that no other group had to suffer, a state constitutional amendment that barred anti-discrimination measures protecting lesbians and gay men violated the United States Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. In so doing, the Court took the remarkable step of invoking the landmark dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson in the opening paragraph of its decision: "[T]he Constitution 'neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens.' Unheeded then, those words now are understood to state a commitment to the law's neutrality where the rights of persons are at stake." (2) The Court made clear that it would not countenance a legal distinction that raised the "inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected." (Report on Marriage Rights for Same-Sex Couples 2004)"
The Legality of this issue has greatly divided the country. However the divisions that exist are somewhat complicated because many from both political parties do not want to legalize gay marriage (Swan & Mazur2002). For instance, some Republicans are opposed to any type of legal recognition of the union of gay couples while some democrats advocate civil unions for gay people so that homosexuals can have all the benefits that heterosexual couples possess. On of the most decisive issues has been the Federal Marriage Ammendment. According to Duncan
"six Congressmen introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment in the House of Representatives. (8) While most Americans agree that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, (9) it will take repeated supermajorities to add the Federal Marriage Amendment to the United States Constitution: two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states. (10) The fact that thirty-eight states have recently enacted Defense of Marriage Acts ("DOMAs") (11) puts the prospect of ratification by thirty-eight states within the realm of feasibility. Unfortunately, a two-thirds vote from the U.S. Senate will probably be more difficult to come by (Duncan 2004).
Indeed the issue of gay marriage is a serious social issue. In the social context, many in society are opposed to gay marriage and vehemently oppose legislation that would make it legal (Lewis 2001). In addition, there has been a great deal of violence against gay people. Many who oppose gay marriage and the homosexual lifestyle in general are also weary of programs in public schools that attempt to teach tolerance (Eliasson 2003).
In the social context gay people have developed their own communities and culture. According to Pope (2004)
Over the course of the last 40 years civil society has become more accepting of gay people ... They live in settled relationships that involve many practical interdependencies. About one-fourth of the 600,000 same-sex couples currently living together in the United States are raising children. (3) Gay people live in the same houses, often and increasingly raise children jointly, need health care insurance, and visit one another in hospitals. They rely on one another's paychecks, Social Security benefits, disability insurance, sick and bereavement leave, death benefits, and unemployment insurance (Pope 2004).
Many activists assert that to meet the aforementioned needs, homosexual couple that live together should be given some form of legal recognition, such as special registration, civil unions, or marriage (Pope 2004). In addition some homosexuals do not want marriage for themselves or believe that marriage should be extended to gay people in general (Pope 2004). Additionally, some homosexuals assert that the distinctive nature of "queer" culture must be sheltered "against the hegemonic design of the heterosexist majority to impose its own norm on sexual "others." Other people, however, both gay and straight, are convinced that, for a variety of reasons, marriage ought to be available to gay people (Pope 2004)."
On the one hand, those that advocate gay marriage assert that homosexual couples need marriage as a way to solve the legal problems that threaten to undermine their relationships (Coolidge and Duncan 2001). Moreover, those that advocate same sex marriage assert that until it is legal the full humanity of homosexuals is being denied (Coolidge and Duncan 2001). Although these ideas may seem practical many Americans are strongly opposed to gay marriage (Coolidge and Duncan 2001). This opposition exist because the core concept of marriage will be changed if gay marriage is made legal (Coolidge and Duncan 2001). The author further explains that the definition of marriage will change legally and culturally because the concept of marriage has also been a relationship between a man and…