771). His arguments center on the public responsibilities of marriage. He writes, "This is true because legal marriage is a public institution, created by law to promote public policy and to further social interests" (Wardle, 2001, p. 771). He goes on to state that traditional marriages foster "childrearing, economic stability, and channel sexual behavior" (Wardle, 2001, p. 771). Unfortunately, these arguments seem outmoded and irrational. If this is the purpose of traditional marriage, then clearly, hundreds of thousands of couples are not engaged in socially responsible marriages. They channel their sexual behavior outside the marriage, they are economically unsound, and they do not raise children. Thus, traditional marriage is not supporting society as Wardle sees it, and perhaps the entire institution should be overhauled. Wardle's arguments are illogical at best, and do not effectively argue against same-sex unions at all.
Religious groups are very vocal opponents of same-sex marriage for a number of reasons. Most object to homosexual unions of any kind because church teachings teach that homosexuality is wrong. The Catholic Church has gone so far as to deem homosexual acts "evil," "depraved," and "gravely unjust" (Pope, 2004). Thus, more religious groups strongly object to any recognition of same-sex unions, whether marriage or simply recognizing same-sex unions. Many other religious groups agree with the Catholic position and there are few churches that will even allow a same-sex civil union to occur inside their walls. Most religious groups also believe same-sex unions threaten the traditional family, and oppose them for this reason as well. Tolerance is supposed to be one of the basic tenets of most religions, and yet, they are extremely intolerant of alternative lifestyles. Many gay partners are extremely spiritual, and hope for the approval of their church as well as society for their unions. It seems that tolerance and understanding would be far more appealing tenets of faith, rather than intolerance and rigidity. Author Pope feels the Catholic opposition to same-sex marriage is flawed. He writes, "The major flaw involves a persistent tendency to communicate a mixed message about the worth of gay people and their place in the life of the civil community" (Pope, 2004). Again, basic rights seem to be ignored in the question of same-sex unions, as if gay partners do not deserve the same rights and benefits as straight partners.
Many opponents feel same-sex marriages threaten the fabric of American culture and values. They believe they threaten marriage as well. However, as many researchers and experts have shown, these unions do not threaten the fabric of society. If anything, they strengthen it by allowing more tolerance and understanding in society. In countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, who support same-sex unions, society has not been reduced to immoral anarchy. Instead, most people believe society has become more tolerant of alternate lifestyles, and same-sex partners are seen as viable and productive members of society, which they are. As Barney Frank, a gay congressional representative from Massachusetts asked Congress, "When I go home from today's work and I choose because of my nature to associate will another man, how is that a problem for you? How does that hurt you?'" (Quittner & Graham, 2004). Obviously, it does not hurt anyone, and those threatened by it should question their own tolerance.
Surprisingly, some of the most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage are homosexuals. One man wrote, "By buying into this oppressive, misogynist institution, those gays who wanted to do so were endangering, and putting at risk, the queer culture" (Alderson, 2004). Of course, not all of the gay community is against same-sex unions, and many feel those opposed are actually a small minority. However, there are some in the gay community who seem as intolerant of same-sex unions as those who oppose on moral and/or religious grounds, and for a surprising number of reasons. As long as some gay community members oppose marriage, it will be more difficult to gain support of same-sex unions in the straight community.
The federal and state legal positions on same-sex marriage vary. Many states have passed laws banning marriage between anyone but a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage has made the headlines recently over several legal incidents, but it has been before the courts many times before. In 1970, two men applied for a marriage license in Minnesota, and were refused, and the issue made it all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which upheld the refusal. Therefore, same-sex marriage is not a new issue, and it has been unsolved for far too long. The legalities of same-sex marriage are argued throughout the country. One lawyer notes, "Viewed functionally, legal marriage is essentially a binding commitment uniting two intimately related adults, a commitment which sustains the relationship between such adults by structuring their dealings with each other and with third parties" (Hohengarten, 1994). However, this is not the case with a majority of states and the federal government. In 1996, the federal Defense of Marriage Act defined marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, and several states have followed suit enacting similar acts.
Two states, Vermont and Hawaii, recognize same-sex unions, and Massachusetts recognized them for a time until the issue ended up in court. San Francisco also recognized them for a period of time. Vermont has also created a set of laws that are more favorable to partners in same-sex marriages, including benefits and other legal rights. It seems that eventually more states will begin to accept same-sex marriages. It is simply the right thing to do, but more than that, it is the responsible thing to do. Many states have followed the federal government's footsteps and passed laws confining marriage to a man and woman. However, many have not, and this gives at least some hope to partners in homosexual relationships. Acceptance in foreign countries has sent many same-sex partners overseas to maintain their relationship. It is sad that Americans cannot find acceptance in their own country, and must travel overseas to gain acceptance and find happiness.
In a world filled with warfare, terrorism, and intolerance, it seems people need to come together and support each other rather than tear each other down. Same-sex unions have been legalized in the Netherlands, Denmark, and in some areas of Canada (Alderson, 2004), and there are other same-sex arrangements in many other European countries, as well. It is time to legalize these unions in the United States, as well. Tolerance, acceptance, and equal rights for all, regardless of sexual persuasion help build strong communities and even stronger nations. In addition, there is another argument for gay marriage that is often overlooked, and that is the issue of equal rights. Same-sex partners who want to marry are effectively being discriminated against because of their sexuality, and for a country that prides itself on equality, this is an outrage. Discrimination was supposed to have ended with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and yet, it still occurs today in many areas of society - including same-sex marriage. The only way to end the discrimination is to legalize the unions.
In addition, it seems young people are more tolerant of same-sex unions. Author Pope continues, "A gap exists along racial, denominational, and especially generational lines, where, for example, 47% of people polled between the ages of 18-29 approved of same-sex marriage in contrast to only 19% by people over 65" (Pope, 2004). Thus, it seems logical that as young people grow older and being to become more active in politics and legal areas, that the issue over same-sex marriage may resolve itself.
Another author interviewed several same-sex couples for a book on same-sex marriage. He writes, "The participants conveyed the sense that marriage brings greater depth, understanding, and completion to a relationship and that it cements a relationship in financial and emotional ways. They knew that it symbolized monogamy for most of them. They knew that it provides recognition of them as a family" (Alderson, 2004). The people he interviewed were just like any other couple in a committed relationship - they wanted others to know of their commitment, and they wanted the legal rights that come with marriage. In this, they were like any other couple who wanted to marry, and they should be treated like any other couple. These partners have the same hopes, dreams, and ambitions as anyone else, and their treatment is unfair and irrational. Same-sex unions do not threaten the institution of marriage. If anything, they strengthen it by including everyone who hopes to share a commitment with another.
Sadly, some same-sex couples are even more committed than many modern married couples are. One couple, together since 1954, have spent their entire lives together and committed to each other, and yet they cannot rely on benefits other couples take for granted. Another author quotes them. He write, "If one of us dies, the survivor has no right to…