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Should gay marriage be legalized in the United States?

If so, who should deal with the matter: federal or state?

Homosexuality is everywhere today. It has become an increasingly prominent issue as you can see in books, on television, in the media, and as we have most recently seen, in politics. Given this trend of greater acceptance of gay marriage, the issue of whether to legalize same-sex marriage naturally arises. Massachusetts has led the way by legalizing gay marriage. Responding to this example, some states have taken steps towards accepting gay marriage while others are considering laws and constitutional amendments banning gay marriage within state borders. And now another controversy has risen, who should deal with the matter: individual states or the federal government? Legal steps toward changing marriage laws to include same-sex couples began in 1993 with
legal challenges at the state level in Hawaii. This challenge failed and was soon followed by the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996 that defines marriage as a contract between one man and one woman and supports states rights to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage across state lines. In 2000, the Vermont state court upheld the rights of same-sex couples to equal benefits, resulting in legal protections for civil unions (Porche and Purvin 145). This breakthrough was

thought to start a revolution, with other states following in Vermonts footsteps, but this was not the case. Instead the debate only grew larger and larger, with many controversies arising. Those opposing same-sex marriage claim that by allowing this act, marriages everywhere will lose their honor and validity (Kurtz np). Marriages between a man and a woman would lose their special importance, these opponents argue, if the definition of marriage is expanded to include same-sex couples as well. The test of time has proven this fear pointless. For several years, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands have allowed gay marriage without any signs of

Roberts 2 damage to heterosexual couples. Social life in these countries continues unchanged and no dramatic increases have appeared in the divorce rate (Dilanian np). One cannot argue that the so-called traditional marriages in Europe between a man and a woman have been made less valuable. A second controversy of same sex marriage is that it violates religious beliefs and therefore is corrupting societys views of morality. Several religions strictly forbid any type of partnership with the same sex and many opponents object to same-sex marriage on purely religious grounds. Opponents often claim that extending marriage to same-sex couples will undercut the conventional purpose of marriage as interpreted by cultural, religious, and traditional understanding. Furthermore, opponents argue that same-sex marriage cannot fulfill common procreational roles, and/or sanctions a partnership that is centered around sexual acts that their respective religion prohibits. Religious beliefs are important factors when determining right from wrong and what is morally just. For this reason, many people use religious beliefs to choose a side in this ongoing battle. Individuals find themselves torn between their religious views and societys needs. Many argue that marriage is essentially a religious ceremony. Therefore, legalizing gay marriage constitutes a type of sacrilege and an unjustified intrusion of the state into what is necessarily a religious matter. Because of religion's traditional role in sanctifying marriages and presiding over wedding ceremonies this is understandable, but it's also incorrect.

The nature of marriage has varied greatly from one era to the next and from one society to the next. In fact, the nature of marriage has varied so much that it is difficult to come up with any one definition of marriage which adequately covers every aspect of its diversity, especially

Roberts 3 between cultures. This variety alone ensures the falsehood of the claim that marriage is necessarily religious. Others seeking to ban gay marriage claim that allowing such marriages will corrupt Americas family values by encouraging gay couples to raise families. Some proclaim that a child raised in a household with two parents of the same sex, will create problems psychologically and sociologically for that child. How the child will cope with this is a very important aspect of the debate. Once again, real life reveals that these concerns lack foundation: gay couples have been raising children for years, and studies show that children are not harmed in any way by being raised in a gay family (Martin np). If anything, the allowance of same-sex marriage would promote family stability by providing legal and economic benefits to gay parents. Legalizing gay marriage would strengthen families headed by same-sex parents while posing no threats to heterosexual families. Supporters of gay/lesbian marriage claim that protecting individual choice has been a keystone of American life. Americans have always been proud of their ability to speak freely, live and travel wherever they choose, and subscribe to the religious or philosophical beliefs that suit them best, all within the privacy of their homes. Why should the government have the power to limit the choices of Americans when it comes to marriage? Defending the rights of gay citizens to marry also advances the American dream of promoting equality and preventing discrimination. Gay marriage was declared legal by Massachusetts courts because the Massachusetts constitution forbids the creation of second-class citizens (Marech np). The idea of all Americans being treated equally in the eyes of the law is also a core value of the United States Constitution. The founders of this nation saw that protecting everyones rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was crucial, and that

Roberts 4 protecting the rights of unpopular citizens likely to face discrimination was even more crucial. Defending gay marriage rights is promoting equality and preventing discrimination and could possibly stabilize society. Due to many uprising controversies over the same sex marriage debate, gay and lesbian marriage has only been recognized in two of the fifty states. On May 17, 2004 Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same sex marriage and on October 25, 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry. These are the only two states that legalized same sex marriage; however, some U.S. states allow same sex partnerships and civil unions. These states include California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. These laws grant gay and lesbian couples many of the rights of marriage as well as a bill that protects them against discrimination but not the full rights given to male-female married couples (Johnson np). One case study that I found was of a couple who were in the process of receiving partnership rights in the state of Oregon, but at the last minute, the state made a reverse decision: The first day of Oregon's domestic partner registry was all set to be festive and meaningful. My domestic partner and I, along with hundreds of Oregon couples, were ready to file our notarized application the moment the county courthouse opened on January 2nd. At long last, our relationship would be legally recognized. No more "next of kin only" rules keeping us from our partner's hospital bedside. We'd finally enjoy the same child-rearing, custody and inheritance rights as other committed couples. Then, at the eleventh hour, in swaggers a cabal of highpowered out-of-state right-wing attorneys--funded by fundamentalist evangelical megabucks-and a federal judge hurls Oregon's domestic partnership law into limbo.we were so close (Sheklow, 28).

Roberts 5 Now that different states are making a broad range of laws for same sex marriage, the matter of who is to legalize these rights is becoming an important issue. Gay marriage as a recent issue in the federal system has arisen because some states supported in part by court decisions, have acted to permit marriages between gay and lesbian couples. In response to these developments, President George W. Bush and a group of congressional leaders have proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing marriage only between man and woman. Passage of such an amendment would effectively remove from the states the power to determine what constitutes a marriage (Diclerico, 52). Adam White, a member of the states rights advocacy group, The Federalist Society, argues that a constitutional amendment defining marriage is an appropriate exercise of national authority, if only because such an action seems inevitable, given the reality of what is happening in the states and in the courts. The baseline form of marriagebe it one manone woman, two people, or more than one personis most pragmatically regulated at the national level. He goes on to say that our national legal and financial systems have already integrated marriage into their basic structures. Insurance, taxes, and countless other legal and financial matters depend on marriage. He also makes a notable point that the state courts have made it increasingly clear that in matters of sexual liberation, the life of the law is not logic, but experiment; and if we let the states settle out these laws then things could get messy (Diclerico, 52-55). Contrastingly, John Yoo, another member of the Federalist Society, believes that we should leave it up to the individual states to decide. He says gay marriage is a policy area that is best left to the states because the people of each state are better able to decide for themselves what is appropriate public policy, rather than to have the national government determine it for

Roberts 6 them. (Diclerico, 55-57) These arguments demonstrate a clear existence of confliction which will create friction in future decisions involving gay marriage. As we have seen, there is a strong battle for and against legalizing same sex marriage. Just as intense, is the battle of who should have the right to declare these laws. Now it is time for our nation to choose their stance. Bush is a very conservative leader, however the three dominant candidates coming up are quite to opposite (USDS np). These candidates have powerful capabilities of changing the future of gay marriages. Questions arise such as Will they take it to a federal level or will it be the states decision? The future of gay marriage weighs heavily on these controversies and how persuasive they are. We cannot leave this argument unsettled and with the 2008 elections, there is no way it can be looked past.

Works Cited

Roberts 7 Diclerico, Robert E., & Hammock, Allan S. Points of View: Readings in American Government and Politics. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Dilanian, Ken. Gay Marriage Old News in the Netherlands. Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, May 28, 2004. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Thompson Gale Publishing. Kurtz, Stanley. Gay Marriage Threatens Families. Gay and Lesbian Families. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Marech, Rona. Justices Decline Battle Over Gay Marriage; Opponents Lose Bid to Challenge Massachusetts Law. San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Nov 2004. http://www.sfgate.com/cgibin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/11/30/MNGVNA3PDV> Martin, April. Being Raised in a Gay Family Does Not Harm Children. Gay Marriage. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. Porche, Michelle V. & Purvin, Diane M. Never in Our Lifetime: Legal Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Long-Term Relationships. Family Relations. 57 (2008): 144-159 <http://web.ebscohost.com.www.libproxy.wvu.edu/ehost/detail?vid=5& hid=112&sid=1d1dd2d6-9fc4-4e06-8b31-4cfe14ccfd15%40sessionmgr109> Sheklow, Sally. So Close Lesbian News. 33 (2008): 28 <http://web.ebscohost.com. www.libproxy.wvu.edu/ehost/detail?vid=4&hid=9&sid=09de412c-4739-4f35-9bb8 9dfc50c57ea7%40sessionmgr3> United States Department of State. Meet the 2008 Presidential Candidates. America.gov. 8 Apr. 2008 <http://uspolitics.america.gov/uspolitics/elections /candidates.html>