Every battle has a victor or loser. However, regarding same-sex marriage, that battle is still being fought in the halls of Congress. The battle has been a long one, a battle that still has no firm conclusion. The fight is for basic rights, and same-sex marriage, or civil unions. Recently, on June 7th, 2006, the Senate defeated the amendment to ban same-sex marriage for the second time. The vote was very close, 49-48. It was defeated by a single vote! All Democratic Senators but two voted against it. All Republican Senators voted for the approval of the amendment. The vote is expected to go to the House in July. The House is expected to defeat the bill as well.
The first vote on the amendment was on July 14, 2004. The Senate defeated the measure to amend the United States Constitution to prohibit gay marriage. The vote was twelve short of the number needed for closure, and nineteen away from the two thirds majority needed to advance a constitutional amendment (Perine 1724).
In the following pages, you will be introduced to views on gay marriage. The topics include religion, politics, American and European same-sex marriage law, child adoption, and/or parenting rights, and the argument for same-sex marriage laws to protect all of our citizens that have a different sexual orientation. The right to love the person of our choice, and to marry whom we want, should be a universal right.
Throughout history, marriage has been exclusively reserved for men and women. Since time immemorial, men and women have become united by a ceremony of some kind. All races, cultures, and religions believe in the unification of a man and woman, either in the eyes of God, or legally, by license. Most religions in the world are hostile to the idea of a union between two members of the same-sex. Recently, a Catholic bishop in Worchester, Massachusetts declared, “It must be pointed out that Catholics, especially public officials, who willingly and with approval facilitate the legal sanctioning of same-sex unions are involving themselves in cooperation with evil” (“Bishop Warns City on Cooperation with Evil” 14). Religion will be a loud and vocal voice against same-sex marriage, influencing any upcoming hearings in Congress.
Ironically, support recently came from the most unlikely source imaginable. Republican Vice President Dick Cheney recently was asked his position on the issue of same sex marriage. While campaigning in Iowa, Cheney was asked by a reporter his position on the issue. Cheney replied, “My general view is freedom means freedom for everyone, people ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.” Cheney went on to say, “Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it’s an issue our family is very familiar with” (Roberts A15). This comment was most unexpected, considering Cheney’s comments are at odds with President Bush’s political agenda concerning same-sex marriage. The point being, Cheney is sympathetic to the cause, and has broken ranks with President Bush on this issue.
Several states have now legalized marriage, or civil unions between same-sex partners. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November 2003, that same-sex couples must be allowed to wed under that states constitution (Perine 1724). The state of Vermont legalized civil unions between same-sex partners on April 26, 2003, and California signed into law September 19, 2003, a domestic partnership agreement similar to Vermont. The California agreement goes into effect January 1, 2005. The states of Hawaii, Maine, and New Jersey have spousal-like rights, but not civil unions between same sex partners (Robinson 1-6). However, in Hawaii, that agreement has recently been contested. The Hawaiian Senate voted 15 to 10 against the House’s bill to ban licensing of marital unions of the same sex (Safire 190). To date, only Massachusetts permits full legal marriage between same-sex partners. More states are sure to follow the Massachusetts example, in the near future.
Gay marriage or civil unions have been commonplace in Europe for many years now. In 1989, Denmark, was the first country in the world to legalize registered partnerships, which gave gay couples rights equivalent to heterosexual marriages in all aspects except, the right to adopt, or to receive artificial insemination. In April 2001, Holland legalized full gay marriage. In 2003, Belgium passed a similar law, but the law forbids same sex partners the right to adoption. Germany and Norway have registered partnership laws that give some recognition to same sex partners. France, in 1999, passed a registered partnership law, but the law does not give couples rights to taxation and pensions (Graff et al. 46). In the book, Marriage and Same-Sex Unions: A Debate, Carlos A. Ball wrote, “There are certain basic needs that are constitutive of our humanity. There are certain needs, in other words, that must be satisfied if we are to lead lives that are recognizably human. Basic needs include the need for nourishment, shelter, and periodic rest. The need for companionship and affiliation with other humans is also a basic need, so is the need for sexual satisfaction” (Ball 137).
People need to love, and to be loved. Without love, life can be mechanical and lonely. Philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote, “Sexual need and desire are features of more or less every human life. It is a most important basis for the recognition of others different from ourselves as human beings” (Ball 137). The basic need for love is a very human quality that is inborn in all of us. We all look for that one true love, to come into our lives, and to change us forever. For many, they find this love of their life, and marry. However, this right is reserved only for heterosexual couples, excepting the state of Massachusetts. Marriage is not only about intimacy, but also about legal benefits. According to author Ralph Wedgwood, “Married couples have mutual rights and obligations, such as the right to mutual financial support and (in the case of divorce) to alimony and an equitable division of property, and they also receive certain state-provided benefits such as tax breaks, preferential immigration treatment, tenancy rights, health insurance benefits, and so on” (Wedgwood 1). That right to benefits is what the fight for gay marriage is all about. Well, that and the right to love and marry who we choose. In speculation, that right to benefits may be what is stopping gay marriage from becoming a reality. Imagine for a moment, health insurance companies, the IRS, and the courts, suddenly inundated with claims for benefits, tax breaks and divorce. These companies and government agencies, simply do not want to pay out the money to cover such partnerships. It would most likely upset the tax code, put enormous strain on health companies, and the courts. It all boils down to money, and the consequences of legalization of same sex marriage, for these entities.
For most people, they meet someone, date, and fall in love, and then marry. The next step, for most couples, is to then have children. This is a given right for most anyone, married or not. That right is not extended to same-sex couples, however. The courts have been traditionally hostile to adoptive or parenting rights to homosexuals. Most likely, judges do not think a homosexual would be a fit parent. Judges may fear that the child may suffer esteem problems or worse, turn out to be gay. However, studies by sociologists Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz found that children raised by gays have as much self-esteem as those raised by straights. Furthermore, research shows that kids of gays are not more likely to be gay themselves (Johnson and Piore 52-53). This attitude by the courts and the public are beginning to change. According to About.com, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C., allow for openly gay couples to adopt jointly. Florida is the only state that completely bans gay adoption. Second parent adoptions are legal in 21 states (Olson W14). According to the recent 2000 Census, more than 150,000 same-sex couples have at least one child under eighteen in the home (Johnson and Piore 52). Attitudes are changing, and perhaps one day, all fifty states will allow same-sex parenting, legally and without restrictions.
The recent win of President George Bush, for a second term in office, may have put the death knell in the movement’s very heart. The decision to allow or disallow same-sex marriages most likely will now be brought to the forefront. As of November 3, 2004, all eleven states with anti same-sex marriage referendums on the ballots, voted to disallow same-sex marriage. The states of, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah will now add an amendment to their state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage (Roberts and Gibbons 1). Ultimately, the decision will be made final by the Supreme Court.
The floodgates have been opened and there is no turning the tide back now. Lawsuits and lobbying will continue to press the issue on. Someday, in the very near future, all gay citizens of the United States will have the legal right to marry whomever they choose. Until that time, the fight will continue in the courts, in the religious world, and in the minds of Americans.
Ball, Carlos A. “Marriage, Same-Gender Relationships, and Human Needs and Capabilities.”
Marriage and Same-Sex Unions: A Debate. Ed. Lynn D. Wardle.,et al. Westport: Praeger, 2003: 137. Retrieved from Netlibrary 12 Oct. 2004.
“Bishop Warns City on Cooperation with Evil.” The Christian Century. 15 June 2004: 14. Retrieved from Proquest. 22 Oct. 2004.
Graff, James. et al. “Summer of Love Move Over, San Francisco. France is About to Celebrate its First Gay Wedding. Is Europe Ready for Equal Rites?” Time International. 07 June 2004: 46. Retrieved from eLibrary. 29 Oct. 2004.
Johnson, Dirk and Piore, Adam. “At Home in Two Worlds.” Newsweek. 18 Oct. 2004: 52-53. Retrieved from eLibrary. 29 Oct. 2004.
Olson, Kat. “Kids Needs Good Homes, Period.” The Spokesman Review. 16 July 2004: W14. Retrieved from eLibrary. 29 Oct. 2004.
Perine, Keith. “Gay Marriage Issue Resonates Primarily in Halls of Congress.” CQ Weekly. 17 July 2004: 1724. Retrieved from CQ Electronic Library. 29 Oct. 2004.
Roberts, Rosemary. “Cheney is Right about Gay Marriage.” Greensboro News. 03 Sept. 2004: A15. Retrieved from Proquest 22 October 2004.
Roberts, Thomas and Gibbons, Sean. “Same-Sex Marriage Bans Winning on State Ballots.” CNN.com. 03 Nov. 2004: 1. Retrieved 04 Nov. 2004.
Robinson, B. A. “Same-Sex Marriages and Civil Unions.” Religious Tolerance.Org. 30 Aug. 2004:1-6. Retrieved 28 Oct. 2004.
Safire, William. “Same-Sex Marriage Nears.” Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con. Ed. Andrew Sullivan. Westminster, MD: Knopt, 2004. 190. Retrieved from ebrary. 29 Oct. 2004.
Wedgwood, Ralph. “What Are We Fighting For?” The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review. Fall (1997). Rpt. as “Society Should Allow Same-Sex Marriage.” Ed. Mary E. Williams. Opposing Viewpoint Series. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1999: 1. Retrieved from Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center 11 Oct. 2004.