- Determining whether or not lesbians and gays should be allowed to marry
- Determining whether gay marriage hurts the institution of heterosexual marriage
- Determining whether gay marriage hurts or harms children
With the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning sodomy laws, Canada’s, San Francisco's and Multnomah County Oregon's moves to allow same sex marriages and the Massachusetts decision, many Americans are wondering, what's the big deal about gay and lesbian marriage?
Marriage laws in the United States are determined State by State. Although several counties, like Multnomah County Oregon and San Francisco have allowed gays and lesbians to marry, those states overturned the decisions and gays and lesbians cannot marry in those places.
Thus far only one state, Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage. The courts have ruled that it is illegal NOT to allow two people of the same sex to marry. Most states have passed laws that explicitly exclude same-sex couples from marrying and there is a proposed Constitutional Amendment to try and make the definition of marriage between a man and a woman.
A handful of states offer Civil Unions to same-sex couples. Civil unions offer many of the rights and responsibilities as marriage, but are not recognized outside of those states.
California passed a domestic partnership law, similar to Vermont's civil union. Again, these partnerships are only recognized in California.
Case For Gay Marriage
Gay rights groups, such as Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) argue that states cannot justify excluding gay and lesbian couples from the institution of marriage and the protection it provides. They argue that only marriage provides a legal safety net protecting couples emotional bonds and economic security.
Many opponents of same-sex marriage say that marriage is for the purpose of raising children and that two parents of the same sex are not adequately equipped to raise children. First of all, there is no basis in fact for this opinion. Children do well in homes where they are nutured and loved, regardless of the parents' genders.
Secondly, many heterosexual couples choose not to or are unable to have children. Yet, their marriages are considered valid.
Most states allow single gays and lesbians to adopt children, but only 11 allow two same-sex parents to adopt. By allowing gay couples marriage rights, custody will be shared by both parents and no further legal action will be necessary in the event of the legal parent’s death. The American Association of Pediatrics supports gay and lesbian couples adopting and having children.
Many activists say that the laws prohibiting gay marriage are the same as laws that prevented inter-racial couples from marrying. Those laws are now seen as absurd and discriminatory and were overturned in 1967.
Case Against Gay Marriage
Some opponents of gay marriage fear that by allowing same-sex couples to marry, it will lessen the validity of heterosexual marriage. They say marriage is union with the purpose of creating and raising children. They argue that children fare better in household headed by a man and a woman.
Opponents disagree with equating gay rights with the fight for racial equality. They say that homosexuality is not an inborn trait, but a chosen behavior that does not deserve special protection under the law.
Some religious leaders say allowing gay marriages will give a stamp of approval to a behavior that they believe is immoral.