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A note on usage: The word sex can be a very red flag. In this commentary, I thus use the phrase same-gender marriage in place of same-sex marriage.
For almost two decades, the idea that a marriage could involve two men or two women has been very controversial in the United States. Candidates for political office have won or lost elections in various states merely because this issue was also on the ballot.
The U.S. Supreme Court entered the fray with two key decisions at the very end of the Court's 2012-2013 term.
Then, on 26 June 2015, the Supreme Court issued a decision by a 5-4 vote to declare same-gender marriage to be legal throughout the United States. Not only did the decision require each state to recognize same-gender marriages recorded in states where such marriages are legal, but it also required all states to permit same-gender weddings. This decision was met by resistance, primarily in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.
The arguments against same-gender marriage are many. On close examination, they are all found to be false.
Many of those who work to prohibit same-gender marriages also endorse the same political and social philosophy as those who condemn homosexuals for their failure to establish long-term, committed relationships. They do not comprehend the hypocrisy of first condemning the lack of commitment and then denying the legal means to establish and perpetuate a commitment.
Aside from religious and social aspects, the legalities of marriage do indeed create a "glue" that holds a couple together during difficulties in their relationship so that, when those difficulties are resolved, the couple can find comfort in having continued their relationship. After more than 50 years of marriage, I can indeed assert that relationships do suffer occasional difficulties; and I am very glad that the legal "glue" kept my wife and me together long enough to enjoy our present relationship.
The legal "glue" of marriage includes the problems at divorce from division of assets accumulated during marriage, changing credit card and bank accounts, updating credit reports, and especially custody of children. (Same-gender couples are indeed allowed to adopt children in many states.) Even in states (such as California) where divorce is quite simple, the time and effort to end a marriage can make some couples put that time and effort into restoring their marriage. Lacking this legal "glue", same-gender couples find that ending a relationship is too easy. The same is true of unmarried mixed-gender couples. Could we expect differently?
*** Begin Right Sidebar ***Tied to the issue of marriage and children is the issue of children raised by gays. In California alone, 70,000 children are being raised by gay couples.
Those fighting against same-gender marriage also oppose adoption by gay individuals and committed couples. They see this battle being lost if same-gender marriages become legal Thus, they use the side issue of adoption and child rearing as an argument against marriage. They assert that children are seriously harmed emotionally and socially by being raised by gays. This is refuted by studies conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which found that children raised by gays are no more likely to become gay or have emotional problems than children raised by mixed-gender couples.
These issues were thoroughly explored in a column in the Los Angeles Times.
4 April 04
*** Begin Right Sidebar ***
Many opponents of same-gender marriage assert that the primary purpose of marriage is to perpetuate the human species. This argument means that no couple should be married if they cannot have children. A man who is sterile because of a mumps infection as a teenager or a woman who had a hysterectomy to stop the spread of uterine cancer should thus be prohibited from marrying. Carrying this argument to its logical conclusion, vasectomies and tubal ligatures should be prohibited by law. Indeed, all forms of birth control should be banned. Finally, this argument would prevent women past menopause and men who are impotent from marrying.
To a large extent, this is a religious argument. As such, it reflects a belief that sexual intercourse is a burden endured only for the purpose of creating children. This is not a universal philosophy shared by all religions. In Jewish philosophy, the pleasure of orgasm is a gift from God that every married person has a right to enjoy and an obligation to ensure his or her spouse also enjoys; intercourse is not a burden but a principal purpose of marriage. Yes, children are always important; but in many religions, couples without any prospect of ever having children are still encouraged to marry.
If we say the two forms [of marriage] are equal, we are really saying to children that they don't need both a mother and a father.
Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family
Quoted in the Los Angeles Times 31 Aug 03
Since no one proposes a prohibition against marriage for sterile male-female couples, Stanton's attempt to tie marriage to parenting is fallacious. Worse, he and his organization seriously disrespect all the single parents and the good children they are successfully raising. Stanton insults the young widows who are left to do the best they can (often their best is indeed very good) to care for their sons and daughters. He insults those brave single men and women who love their adopted children, many of whom would have remained institutionalized without any parent at all if there were no single-parent adoptions. In any case, Stanton ignores the fact that gays already have the right in many states to adopt children. By bringing parenting into the argument over same-gender marriage, Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family, and others who would impose their beliefs on the rest of us are trying to create an irrelevant red herring to distract us from the real issue: Should the religious dogma of some control the rights of all?
Opponents of same-gender marriage are upset that gays and lesbians want the same rights, benefits, and privileges that mixed-gender married couples have. Of course! Gays and lesbians do want equal rights. But they want the obligations, penalties, and burdens of marriage, too.
Obligations, penalties, and burdens? Definitely!
If marriage were all rights, benefits, and privileges, why is divorce so common?
*** Begin Right Sidebar ***The word marriage has a great emotional weight, much of it religious. That might be why so many arguments against same-gender marriage are expressed in religious terms. We hear of the "sacrament of marriage" and "holy matrimony". In denouncing the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, President Bush referred to "a sacred institution between man and woman." The Vatican decried that decision, saying it sanctioned a "moral disorder against God's creative plan."
Perhaps, they are correct. Perhaps all laws relating to marriage should be repealed, leaving the subject entirely under the control of religious institutions, thus reflecting the First Amendment prohibition against government control of religious actions. The government would no longer control marriage because the government would no longer give legal recognition to it. Being married by a priest, minister, or rabbi would give no legal status to a couple.
However, the legalities of civil relationships between adult couples must be addressed. Inheritance, property rights, hospital visitations, joint tax returns, the right to financial support, Social Security and employee benefits — these are all legal issues and not religious. With the government no longer giving legal recognition to marriage, we would then need domestic partnership laws for both same-gender and mixed-gender couples.
Then, the status sought by gays would be obtained when they register as domestic partners with the government. Whether they can get married would be determined strictly according to the beliefs and practices of their own religion, with no one religion dictating its beliefs to any other. Equality would result from the fact that the rest of us — mixed-gender couples — would also have to register as domestic partners to have our relationships legally recognized.
Apparently, legal scholar Alan Dershowitz agrees.
*** End Right Sidebar ***
Try telling the loving parents of a gay or lesbian that their child does not contain a soul created by God.
Then how do you explain homosexual behavior by animals in the wild? It might not be common or average, but what happens in nature definitely defines what is or is not natural.
More important than refuting religious arguments against same-gender marriage, we must consider the fact that not all religions oppose such relationships. In the United States, the Unitarian-Universalist Church and the United Church have formal same-gender wedding ceremonies. Other Christian churches have seen their priests and ministers officiate at same-gender weddings, including Methodist, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian. In Reform Judaism, both the Central Conference of American Rabbis (the rabbinical association) and the Union for Reform Judaism (the association of lay leadership) have gone on record supporting civil marriages for same-gender couples; and the rabbis also authorize religious wedding ceremonies for same-gender couples. At their 2000 General Conference, Presbyterian congregations rejected a prohibition against church ceremonies for same-gender couples, effectively endorsing such ceremonies. And then in 2003, the U.S. Episcopal Church accepted such ceremonies, allowing local churches to follow the lead of the New Westminster diocese in Canada.
Where there is such a division of opinion, a law based on religious dogma must be rejected as violating the separation between religion and government. No law will force an opposing religion to conduct same-gender weddings; those religions should not force the enactment of laws that intrude on the beliefs of other faiths that feel homophobia is the sin, not homosexuality. Statutes that must apply to all citizens should not be drawn to enact the dogma of only some citizens.
Before you support this hypocrisy, consider the following statements:
Rights and equality must apply in general without exceptions for them, whoever they might be. Otherwise, how can we be sure that our own rights and equality will prevail?
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 1
Comity is the principle that a legal action done in one jurisdiction (where it was indeed valid) is recognized as valid in other jurisdictions. For example, George T. McGehee adopted the orphan children of Confederate General John Hood in Louisiana in 1886; but Alabama refused to recognize that adoption. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hood vs McGehee in 1915 that all states must recognize as legitimate the adoption of a child that is legal where the adoption took place. A current example is that resident of California obtaining a decree of dissolution of marriage (which replaced divorce several years ago in that state and which cannot normally be contested by the spouse) is recognized as divorced in other states, even in those states where a spouse contesting the action could delay it.
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I urge any gay couple planning a wedding in a state where gay marriages are recognized to get a state judge (not a federal judge) to perform the ceremony and submit the marriage license for recording. If you choose a municipal judge, make sure that he or she is an agent of the state and not merely an agent of the local county or city. The wedding thus becomes a judicial proceeding of that state, which the U.S. Constitution requires ALL other states to recognize.
I am disappointed that the 26 June 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court — which legalized same-gender marriage throughout the United States — failed to cite Article IV of the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court's decision clearly requires each state to recognize same-gender marraiges recorded in states where they were legally recorded.
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Comity is not just an obscure section of the United States Constitution affecting the relationship between states. We must also consider international comity. In Belgium and The Netherlands, same-gender marriages are legal. What would be the status in the United States of a same-gender couple legally married in the Netherlands? If one spouse, for example, were charged in the United States with a criminal act, could the other spouse be compelled to testify against the accused in violation of the long-standing spousal privilege? Would a same-gender couple married in Belgium but now living in the U.S. be allowed to file a joint income tax return?
How would the marriage of two men to each other endanger the love and commitment within your own heterosexual marriage?
If a priest, minister, or rabbi really feels that two people of the same gender do indeed belong together in a life-time commitment and deserve God's blessing for that commitment, should your government — elected by your vote — interfere?
The answer is that statutory prohibitions against same-gender marriages is just another form of "gay bashing". The next time a gay is beaten to death or a lesbian is fire-bombed from her home, those who lead the campaigns to prohibit same-gender marriages will deny responsibility. However, their verbal attacks against homosexuals create the attitudes that make physical attacks acceptable to too many individuals.
Convicted murderer Lyle Menendez, who is serving a life term without possibility of parole, was wed in prison to a woman he never knew before his incarceration and with whom he will never be allowed to consummate the marriage. So much for the argument that marriage is a unique union of two individuals for the purpose of procreation.
The absurdity is that a man who killed his parents in cold blood and will never set foot outside the state penitentiary has greater legal rights to protect the so-called sanctity of his relationship with the person he loves than law-abiding, taxpaying citizens who happen to be gay or lesbian.
Robert J. Switzer, West Hollywood
Los Angeles Times, 30 November 2003
Other nations that authorize same-gender marriage are The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa. Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Argentina, Portugal, Uruguay, France, New Zealand, England, Brazil, Finland, and Slovenia. In 2015, 62% of the voters in Ireland said "yes" to make that the first nation to legalize same-gender marriage by a vote of the people despite strong objections by the church in that very Catholic country. (In some cases, legal recognition might be delayed because changes in the laws do not take immediate effect.) Several of those nations have NO constitutional requirements for separation of government and religion. Indeed, some have each designated a specific Christian denomination as its "national church". How is it that those nations can accommodate marriage rights for gays while in the United States — with a constitutional prohibition against legislating specific religious dogma — such accommodation is blocked by laws promoted by the Religious Right?
Those opposed to same-gender marriage keep issuing pronouncements about "protecting marriage". My wife and I — married more than 50 years — feel no need to be protected. Our marriage is not threatened when two persons — mixed-gender or same-gender — seek legal recognition of the emotional commitment they already feel towards each other. However, there are indeed threats to the institution of marriage. Those threats include:
These are threats to marriage because they undermine the concepts of commitment, marital equality, and fairness. But committed love based on equality of partners treating each other fairly does not threaten my marriage.
It's against nature, it's against society, and it's against the Bible.
Richard Benanti, Springfield, IL
Quoted in Newsweek, 24 May 2004 edition
|It's against nature,||What happens in nature, of course, defines what is or is not against nature. In nature, we find dogs, penguins, and even our close simian relatives engaging in homosexual activities. Of course, those opposed to gay marriage are also likely to deny any relationship between humans and simians.|
|it's against society,||Actually, creating legally binding commitments between lovers — leading to the formation of new families — strengthens society.|
|and it's against the Bible.||This is the real issue. Some Christian churches want to enshrine their dogma in our Constitution and impose a theocracy upon all of us, including those of us whose religions accept gay couples.|
I must repeat: Neither my wife nor I — now married more than 50 years — feel any threat to our own marriage when a same-gender couple commits to a lifetime of living together. But I'm not gay, so why do I care whether same-gender couples can marry?
Significantly revised 31 July 2013
Updated 3 July 2015
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