Homosexual relationships have been known for centuries, and even in the ancient world, such relationships have been commonly accepted. Still, the question whether it is natural or not, and whether the society should accept such relationships as normal, is a question with no certain answer.
Another burning issue, which is especially heatedly discussed due to the recent changes in the legislation of different countries, is whether same-sex marriage should be legalized.
The question of the essence of marriage is so heatedly protected by various groups due to its initial sacred meaning and the common understanding of a family as a union of two people of the opposite sex. Thus, the legitimacy and the general value of a homosexual family are controversial to the very essence of nature and religious preaches.
Moreover, there is a growing concern whether homosexuality is a result of nature or nurture and thus does it threaten the human society as a limit to the normal family formation and child-bearing.
Because human nature is still generally unknown and is a secret even to the scientists, the questions emerging from such obscure areas are treated with hostility.
The question is how long will it take for the humanity to solve the questions of private and public concern, and will there ever be any consent among the people around the world on such delicate matters.
Same-sex marriage history
The history of same marriage battles of the XXth century is a succession of the heated debates pro and con the issue, with both minor and serious victories from either side.
According to Glenn Timeline, the first case of same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses and other rights was on May 18, 1970, when Jack Baker, a student at University of Minnesota, unsuccessfully applies for a marriage license with his lover Jim McConnell. They do, however, manage to file joint tax returns in 1972 and 1973.”
The same source states that on October 10th, 1987 the first large public same-sex wedding took place. Approximately two thousand same-sex couples are `married’ in a mass wedding on the steps of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, DC on October 10. The ceremony is part of the 1987 March on Washington activities dramatizing the tax benefits for married people that lesbian and gay couples are denied.”
The impact of other countries on the recognition of the same-sex marriage was also quite impressive, with several countries accepting such relationships as normal. For example, Holland was the first country to expand its definition of marriage to include both opposite-sex and same-sex couples in April 2001. Belgium followed it in January 2003. Next was Ontario, a province in Canada in June 2003. By November 2004, same-sex marriage had become available in most Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec & Saskatchewan) and one territory (Yukon).
According to the statistics, over 82% of Canadian same-sex couples were able to marry in their province afterward. When federal law C-38 was signed into law on the 20th of July 2005, same-sex marriage theoretically became available across all of Canada. However, Prince Edward Island ignored the civil rights of same-sex couples and refused to issue marriage licenses to them for almost a month. Spain passed a law allowing same-sex couples to marry on the 29th of June 2005.
Factors influencing public opinion
Most people realize same-sex marriage is a reality, but it is quite difficult to recognize whether it is natural.
Amy Hess, in her statement “Three Reasons To Pass A Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage,” claims that: “There are plenty of people who believe that gay and lesbian sexual relationships are just as legitimate, natural and healthy as heterosexual relationships. This belief, however, has been widely promoted by homosexual activists and does not have the scientific backing that supporters argue.”
There is neither support pro nor con the fact that gays are born, and the sexual orientation is not a result of some psychological or pathological influence. The background of this distinction is too obscure, and that is what scares most people of heterosexual orientation. People are scared their children may fall victims of such psychological influence and, as a result, the whole society would suffer the non-traditional relationships that, in fact, are unable to produce descendants.
Procreation is, actually, one of the most significant reasons while most people consider same-sex relationships to be unnatural.
The question, too, is mixed and influenced by two ideas: first, that the homosexual relationships are non-standard and unnatural, and secondly, whether the recognition of such relationships as a marital union would not contradict the standard notion of marriage.
It is commonly known that the key argument in support of same-sex marriage is that laws banning same-sex marriage are highly analogous to laws prohibiting interracial marriage; a ban on same-sex marriage can, therefore, be seen as a form of discrimination infringing upon the civil rights of same-sex couples. In response, opponents of same-sex marriage argue that men and women are fundamentally different from one another, whereas interracial couples still fit within the “one man and one woman” definition of marriage.
Politics is probably not the most persuasive and valuable example, but all the point should still be presented. The president of the US, although he is not very popular, called for a ban of the same sex marriages in 2004. He said the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and laws banning same-sex marriage in 38 states “express an overwhelming consensus in our country for protecting the institution of marriage.”
The Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton, prevents federal recognition of same-sex marriage and allows states to ignore same-sex licenses from outside their borders. The debate over marriage has continued. There was another issue of the heated discussion that took place recently: the Marriage Protection Amendment of June 2006. Previously, on July 14, 2004, the Senate voted on a procedural motion to debate the Marriage Protection Amendment (S.J. Res 40) which would have led to an eventual vote on the amendment. The effort failed, however, because 60 votes were needed to bring the bill to a vote. Forty-eight Senators voted in favor and 50 opposed.
On Thursday, September 30, 2004, the House of Representatives voted on the Marriage Protection Amendment, H.J. Res. 106. A two-thirds majority is required to pass an amendment. The MPA received a simple majority with a vote of 227 to 186.
It did not pass in 2006 either. The society is not ready to take any serious step for or against this controversial issue. And although uncertainty is not the best option, we hardly have any by now.
Most common claims and refutations
Scott Bidstrup in his essay “Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives” summarizes the most common claims against marriage, such as:
- Marriage is an institution between one man and one woman.
- Same-sex couples aren’t the optimum environment in which to raise children.
- Gay relationships are immoral.
- Marriages are for procreation and ensuring the continuation of the species.
- Same-sex marriage would threaten the institution of marriage.
- Marriage is traditionally a heterosexual institution.
- Same-sex marriage is an untried social experiment.
- Same-sex marriage would start us down a “slippery slope” towards legalized incest, bestial marriage, polygamy and all kinds of other horrible consequences.
- Granting gays the right to marry is a “special” right.
- Sodomy should be illegal and was until very recently.
- Gay marriage would mean forcing businesses to provide benefits to same-sex couples on the same basis as opposite-sex couples.
- Gay marriage would force churches to marry gay couples when they have a moral objection to doing so.
He also claims there are real reasons people oppose gay marriage, namely:
- Just not comfortable with the idea.
- It offends everything religion stands for.
- Marriage is a sacred institution.
- Gay sex is unnatural.
- Making love to another man betrays everything that is masculine.
- The thought of gay sex is repulsive.
- They might recruit.
Of course, all these claims are disproved and derided in the essay of this free-lance writer and political activist who has been active in human rights issues and the gay rights movement, specializing in youth and marriage rights issues, since coming out as a gay man in 1994. Recent evidence supports most and legislation, especially on the example on the Denmark, which has accepted gay marriage long ago (although this statement is refuted in Stanley Kurtz’s articles “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia” and “Dutch Debate: Marriage is in decline in the Netherlands”). But even if Mr. Bidstrup was right and there would be no evidence opposing his statements, all this disproof of common statements sounds wonderfully convincing for those who seek to hear it. For the homophobes, religious people and conservatives, though, there are still numerous points to argue over.
I believe that all humans have the right to freedom of choice, and if homosexuals seek justice, why shouldn’t homophobes? Do people have to be forced to accept the amendment (if it is accepted), even if they do not wish to? Let us now not discuss the reasons why people support or oppose the idea of same-sex marriage or same-sex relationships in general. By the way, in his essay, Scott Bidstrup states that “more than half of all people in the United States oppose gay marriage, even though three-fourths are otherwise supportive of gay rights. It means that many of the same people who are even passionately in favor of gay rights oppose gays on this one issue”. Why does it happen? Because the society is too conservative on the issue of marriage, Bidstrup would hint. But is it too bad actually? It is natural for humans to try to protect what they have known to be true (marriage is a union of a man and a woman). And opposing something that causes a cognitive dissonance is quite comprehensive, if not normal.
The fact that homosexual relationships are accepted in society might be explained by the fact that as long as such relationships do not interfere with somebody’s freedoms, they are understandable and acceptable. The change of the idea of marriage and the status of the same-same relationships would, in fact, influence the whole society, and even those to disapprove of it would be forced to accept it. And this is the violation of freedom rights for those who traditionally see marriage and do not want this notion to change the meaning for any sake possible. If those who pursue same-sex relationships do have the rights to freedom, why should the rest be deprived of it?
I am sure one of the most active proponents of the traditional marriage is the religion. The teachings of the three most prominent religions in America – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – all declare gay and lesbian sexual behavior to be immoral.
Christians state that same-sex marriage goes against biblical teaching, for example, Genesis 19:5 (Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed). Other passages are Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, and in the New Testament of the Bible, First Corinthians 6:8-10 and Romans 1:24-27 which, by a literal interpretation, prescribes the death penalty for homosexual contact.
Pope John Paul II, referring to same-sex marriage, said: “It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and man.” By the way, it is Pope John Paul II has been well known for his liberal views on many aspects of life. Still, he disproved the idea of same-sex marriage, for marriage in its traditional sense is one of the most sacred values of the church.
Of course, one could claim many other religions are not as strict and do not ban the idea, but what shall we do with the three most common? Should we ignore the majority? Why should we deprive them of their rights to have an opinion?
I would rather refrain from supporting either part because there would always be persuasive and valuable arguments from both sides. But I believe that everyone has a right to a freedom of choice and neither side should be deprived of it.
“Of Marriage and Divorce,” Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 26, Section 6.135, Nov 20, 2006, at http://www.ccel.org/
“Same-sex marriage.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 20 Nov 2006, 21:32 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 20 Nov 2006 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Same-sex_marriage&oldid=89090002>.
“Bush calls for ban on same-sex marriages” February 25, 2004. WASHINGTON (CNN). Nov. 20, 2006. http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/02/24/elec04.prez.bush.marriage/
Dobson, James. Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle. July 2004. Multnomah Publishers, Inc.
Glenn’s Timeline of Gay and Lesbian Family Issues GLINN Corporation 2005. Nov 20, 2006. http://www.glinn.com/news/tline3.htm
Hess, Amy. Three Reasons To Pass A Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage. November 20, 2006. http://usconservatives.about.com/od/thefamily/a/marriageamend_
Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA). October 25, 2004. Homeschool legal defense association. November 20, 2006. http://www.hslda.org/Legislation/National/2003/MPA/default.asp
Philip Pullella, “Gay marriage, abortion new forms of evil: Pope,” The Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-23, Page A14.
Robinson, B.A. SAME-SEX MARRIAGES (SSM) & CIVIL UNIONS. 2006-JUN-02. Religious Tolerance.org. 20 Nov 2006 http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_marr.ht
Scott Bidstrup Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the from: Motives Gay Marriage by Tamara L. Roleff (Editor). September 1998 in the anthology, “At Issue: Gay Marriage.”
Stanley Kurtz “Dutch Debate: Despite a challenge, the evidence stands: Marriage is in decline in the Netherlands.”. National Review Online. July 21, 2004, 9:36 a.m.
Stanley Kurtz’s article The End of Marriage in Scandinavia: The “conservative case” for same-sex marriage collapses. The Weekly Standard, 02 Feb 2004. Volume 009, Issue 20.
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