Throughout American history, social rights have changed drastically. During its birth, the United States accepted slavery to be just and reasonable. As the nation grew, some people’s philosophy changed, and thus the Civil War began. The country was deeply divided, but regardless, the North and South stood up and fought for what they believed in. After much struggle, slaves were allowed freedom and eventually given the same rights as other Americans. In the 1920’s, women suffrage grew as a social movement.
Women who were protesting for their rights were beaten, arrested, and kept in prison for wanting to vote and have the same opportunity as men. They were extremely passionate, however, to be given the same rights. We now face another social right movement. Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, stated, “Throughout our history, each and every generation has expanded upon the freedoms won by their parents and grandparents. Each and every generation has removed some of the barriers to full participation in the American dream.
And the next great barrier standing before our generation is the prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples (Huffpost).” The gay community relentlessly and courageously fight for equal rights. Gay couples don’t have the same opportunities of getting married or even being recognized by the state in a civil union. The United States has always prided itself on its freedom from prejudice and inequality, and same sex couples have suffered from injustice too long, and their right to marry must be recognized.
Gay marriage rights has undergone a long, struggling history. In the United States during the 1970’s, Jack Baker and James McConnell applied for a marriage license in the state of Minnesota. The state didn’t allow them to continue with the marriage, though. In response, Baker and McConnell filed a suit for state court, which ended up being pushed up to the Supreme Court. Baker and McConnell won their case, and they were allowed to marry each other. A few decades later, however, President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This gave other states the choice to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. On December 3, 1996, Baehr v. Miike was the first trial to challenge the freedom of marriage for same-sex couples since DOMA. The trial was ruled unconstitutional, and the state had no legitimate reason for depriving the right to marriage for homosexuals (History of Marriage).
The set-backs kept coming. In the early 2000’s, Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, Missouri, Louisiana, Ohio, Michigan, Montana, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma voted to prohibit same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships. In 2004, President George W. Bush stated that he supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. This year, 2014, the judges in Texas and Ohio have ordered their state to reconsider each states ban on same sex marriage because the ruling has no reason why they should not be able to marry. While there has been struggles, other states moved towards recognizing gay marriage. Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut recognized civil unions and domestic partnerships during the early 2000’s. The same year that Bush stated his opinions, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage in the United States. Today, approximately seventeen states and twenty-one countries and providences throughout the world have either legalized same-sex marriage or recognized it (BostonGlobe).
Those who support gay marriage argue that gay couples should be able to get married and celebrate their love like every other traditional couple does. They state that same sex marriage does not weaken the meaning of marriage like others believe. Love is love. Anyone, regardless of who they love, should be able to not only celebrate their love, but also live a life the way traditional couples do with all the benefits. These benefits include tax reductions on estates, adoption, employee, social security, and survivor benefits (Gay Marriage). Gay couples cannot reproduce offspring, so they typically turn to adoption when they want a family. This could take care of the several children in the foster care system and give needy children a warm and loving home.
Not only would legalizing gay marriage benefit the couple, but also the state in which the couple lives. The increased revenue that comes in from marriage licenses and higher income taxes would be a big financial gain for states. Estimations found that New York City would bring in $142 million to the economy of New York City through the legal and financial recognition of gay marriage (Love Counts, Thompson). The lack of financial recognition of gay marriage is causing complications for these individuals. While some people may think of Social Security as just a retirement program, but it can make a huge difference in other ways. One of the struggles that gay and lesbian couples are facing is receiving benefits after their significant other has died. Social Security doesn’t give benefits or money to the survivor of a gay or lesbian couple because most states don’t recognize them as being married. Or even worse, if a gay or lesbian couple adopts a child and they both pass away, the child usually does not get any help from Social Security because his or her parent’s marriage was not recognized by the state or the federal government (Survivor Benefits). Being denied financial help right after a significant other has passed must be extremely difficult for anyone. The side supporting same-sex marriage concludes that legalizing gay marriage will not damage marriage and life for the worst, but for the better.
According to the opposing side, marriage should reside between a man and a woman. Anything else weakens the meaning of marriage. They argue that by legalizing gay marriage, it will pave the way for legalizing polygamy, incest, bestiality, and lead to a weaker marriage and a weaker family. Marriage is already threatened with high divorce rates, and allowing gay marriage would give some people the ability to have bestiality come into play and marry other objects. This was seen in Sweden in 1987. Sweden began offering gay couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples, and it weakened the meaning of marriage as both divorce rates and marriage rates increased. Studies in Sweden, Denmark and Norway showed that each countries birth rates increased by five percent, and the number of single parents rose twenty-five percent when gay marriage was legalized (Trandafir 317-340). The opposing side also argues with Bible verses such as Leviticus that says, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own hands (New International Version, Leviticus 20:13).” The opposition also makes the argument that it is not right that they have to pay taxes for something that goes against their beliefs. In 2009, the Congressional Budget Office estimated what the cost would be if government expanded the marriage definition to include homosexual couples in the Constitution. The total cost would be about 300 million more dollars between 2010 and 2019 (Gay Marriage).
Another argument is the children that gay couples raise will not be raised in an optimum environment due to the lack of nurture the other gender spouse brings to their child’s life (Gay Marriage). However, Charlotte Patterson and Jennifer Wainright completed a scholarly study about the effects on children who have homosexual parents during 2007. The study found that the children of gay couples do just as well in school and in other activities as children with heterosexual parents (Adolescence). Most children that are raised with homosexual parents are mentally, physical and emotionally stable (American Psychological Association). In its final argument, the opposition says that marriage is a privilege, not a right. People declare that marriage was created to allow society to support traditional couples in reproduction. Meaning, if we allow gay couples to get married, they cannot have children, so they would not be able to populate (Gay Marriage).
Generally speaking, there have been several U.S. Supreme Court cases dealing with same sex marriage. The most recent case was United States v. Windsor. Edith Windsor brought evidence to fight for the right to benefits for same sex couples across the nation. In 2007, Windsor and her spouse, who lived in New York, fled to Canada in order to get married. In 2009, her spouse Thea Spyer passed away leaving everything she owned to Windsor. Under the law in the United States, widows do not have to pay tax on anything given or inherited from their dead spouse. When Windsor tried to exempt herself from paying taxes, they would not allow it because she was not married to a man. The Section 3 of DOMA specifically stated that marriage is between a man and a woman. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) denied her claim. They then expected her to pay a gigantic amount of money in inheritance taxes. In the Supreme Court, the justices ruled in a 5-4 vote in Windsor’s favor. According to the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, DOMA Section 3’s definition of marriage between a man and a woman was unconstitutional. This case practically re-arranged the meaning of marriage within the DOMA act. With Windsor winning her case, this changed the meaning of marriage in DOMA forever (Wikipedia, United States v. Windsor).
There are several smaller cases of their own kind happening as well. In Ohio during 2013, Judge Timothy Black revoked part of the state’s recognition of same sex marriage in other states. He commented, “Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away, because the right to remain married is properly recognized as a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause [of the Constitution].” In Michigan, District Judge Bernard Friedman will hear arguments in a lesbian couples challenge to the state’s ban on adoption by gay couples. Their lawsuit also protests the state’s ban on same sex marriage. Hopefully, theses recent and smaller cases do not need to go up into the higher courts, and each case can get accomplished within their own state. It’s quicker and easier for everyone (The Week, 4 Pivotal).
For anyone who is going through a frustrating time such as defending their marriage or love, they need a support group or community that they can always rely on. This is where the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community comes into the scene. The LGBT community is comprised of people who are either gay, bi-sexual, transgender, questioning, or supporters who want to see marriage equality in the near future. The LGBT community also claims to have another meaning to their name, “Love, Grace, Beauty, and Truth.” The idea is that everyone can fit in a certain box or category titled love, grace, beauty or truth, but most gays tend to not pertain to a certain “box” because they are different from the average straight person (Mott). Love stands for lesbian and it is an emotion that fills the human heart with joy and lust for something or someone. It is not just pertained towards a man and a woman; love can happen between two women. Grace uses the analogy, “you starve while I feast and please be controlled, polite and pleasant about it (Mott).” Gay people are asked to demonstrate controlled behavior in public while others can feast in each other’s love. Beauty stands for bisexuality. Being bi-sexual means that you are attracted to both males and females. Being bi-sexual is beautiful because they do not care what the gender is, they fall in love with the person regardless of their gender. Last but not least, truth stands for transgender. Transgender people stop pretending what gender society wants them to be. They become whatever gender they want to be. Most people like to think of this as a sex change, but many people in the transgender community say, “I did not transition. I transitioned the way I present myself to you, and I transitioned your understanding of who I am, but I am the same woman I have always been. What I did, was begin telling you the truth about me. And in the process, I bloomed like a flower finally allowed to live in the light (Mott).”
LGBT members do not just deal with matters of sexual orientation, they also help with suicide hot lines and prevention websites for such trauma. The LGBT community petitions by either creating or signing an actual petition, writing to their state representative, boycotting certain establishments, or picketing out front of the desired establishment or court case (LGBT, Wikipedia). To continue this boycotting and standing up for what they believe in, I believe that a single organization or a community shouldn’t be funded by an outside source. If a person or organization truly believes in what they are fighting for, they will either spend the money from their own pockets or get a group of people together in order to fundraise the costs needed.
In the light of this topic’s controversy, it is easy to see that it is complicated due to biblical, logical, and emotional morale. It is also easy to get lost within one’s own argument without realizing it. Throughout writing this paper, I have grown to understand and respect the opposing side’s choices better, while expanding my knowledge on this topic I truly care about. If we as a nation could join together and legalize same sex marriage for equality, it would settle one of the many controversial issues of our time. We could then move forward and focus on something else that is even more controversial like fixing our primary and secondary education system. In fact, recent polls state that about 70 percent of voters under the age of 30 support the legalization of same-sex marriage. It is only a matter of time until everyone will be able to get married. Imagine if everyone just switched. Meaning that if straight people turned gay and gay people turned straight. The newly gay people would feel the struggle and resistance of not being able to marry or get benefits, while the newly straight people would understand first-hand what the newly gay people are going through and help fight for them. This division that same-sex marriage is creating between states clouds the fundamental issue we face – taking away natural-born rights that each American deserves.
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