Thursday, April 1, 2010

Politics of Same-Sex Marriage

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage. For years before, and still today, same-sex marriage has been one of the most controversial topics in American politics. The federal government has yet to legalize gay marriage nationwide. The burden is on the state governments. The legislation surrounding this issue has a huge impact on American families. Currently, there approximately 1.2 million people in gay or lesbian couples in the U.S. This number does not include gays and lesbians not involved in a relationship. These couples are a new type of family in America, and the decisions made about their right to marry greatly affects their legitimacy and rights.

Gay Marriage Facts and Statistics
-41% of Americans support same-sex marriage. 49% oppose it. 10% are unsure.
-Total gay and lesbian couples in the U.S.: 594,391
-Number of people in a gay or lesbian couple: 1.2 million
-State with the most gay/lesbian couples: California
-State with the least gay/lesbian couples: North Dakota

State Laws about Gay Marriage
Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts (2004), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), New Hampshire (2010). Washington D.C. will have legalized gay marriage in March of 2010. Maine, New York, Alaska, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Maryland allow some rights to gay and lesbian couples, and recognize out of state same-sex marriages, but their constitution bans same-sex marriage. New Mexico, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington D.C. currently provide certain rights for same-sex couples and recognize out of state marriages. Gay marriage is banned in these states but it isn't written into their constitution. All other states ban gay marriage and refuse to recognize out of state marriages or give rights to same-sex couples.
Oklahoma's state constitution states “Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman... A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state... Any person knowingly issuing a marriage license in violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Alabama's state constitution says that “Marriage is...a unique relationship between a man and a woman.” It explains that it defines marriage as such in order to “promote...the stability and welfare of society and its children.”
Arguments For
Arguments in favor of legalizing gay marriage are usually centered around the notion of equality for all citizens. By denying gays and lesbians the right to marry, the state is making them second class citizens. Rights in America can not be denied based on sexual orientation, just as they can't be denied based on gender or race. Civil unions fall under the category “Separate but not Equal”.
Another argument is that the U.S. was founded on the idea of separation of church and state, which supporters feel dispels any arguments citing the bible as a basis for law. Marriage is no longer solely a religious institution since people who aren't associated with religion can get married. Marriage has become a social and political structure, and religion is supposed to stay out of lawmaking.
Supporters also argue that same-sex marriage is good for society. Economically, a lot of money goes into weddings and divorces that could be made if same-sex marriage was allowed. By allowing gays and lesbians to marry, they are being integrated into the mainstream culture and become more active members of society. By banning same-sex marriage, states are alienating whole sections of their populations and denying them legal and social rights.
Arguments Against
“Marriage is between a man and a woman” has been the motto of the opposition to gay marriage. Opposers believe that marriage is a religious sacrament, and therefore shouldn't be extended to those who don't live by the dictates of the bible or other religious texts and preaching. The Family Research Council claims, “Homosexual marriage is an empty pretense that...cheapens and degrades the real society has ceased to regulate sexuality within marriage as traditionally defined, and survived.” Opposers are concerned that if gays are allowed to marry, it will open a floodgate of “sexual combinations” who will all demand equal marriage rights as well.
A common argument in opposition to same-sex marriage is the defense of children. They think that it is dangerous to teach children to accept gay couples as normal, and that this kind of acceptance will destroy family values and poison children's minds. The FRC claims that “homosexual couples have an average of eight sexual partners (outside of the relationship) per year. Children should not be placed in unstable households with revolving bedroom doors.” Something to note about opposers is that many believe that homosexuality is a choice, having no biological roots, and therefore is reversible. This belief can greatly affect people's attitudes toward same-sex marriage.
Repealing Gay Marriage Legislation
Maine repealed gay marriage in November 2009, six months after it was passed. In New Hampshire, opposers work to repeal the newly achieved legalization of gay marriage. Probably the most famous repeal was Proposition 8, which repealed California's gay marriage of November 5, 2008. The votes for prop.8 were 52.5% yes (repeal) and 47.5% no. This repeal was especially significant because of California's notably high gay/lesbian population.

Rights Denied
One proposed solution to the same-sex marriage issue is allowing same-sex civil unions. However, there are currently 1,138 federal rights given to marriages that are denied in civil unions. These include: the right to make decisions for a partner in a medical emergency, the right to petition for a partner to immigrate, family related social security benefits, the right to inherit property from a partner, and many more. Separate but equal is not equal.
 In states where homosexuals can't marry or get civil unions they are denied ALL marriage rights and benefits.
Census 2010
The 2010 census is the first that will count the number of same-sex marriages. Demographers expect many unmarried couples to report marriages since they would get one if it was legal.

What implications does repealing gay marriage have for the American Family?
Do you think that people's religious opinions should be respected in lawmaking?
Do you think it is dangerous to make laws about family structure? or is it necessary for culture?


  1. I really enjoyed this post. I appreciated that you included the different laws in each of the different states! It is interesting that we all live in one country and there are such diverse ideas about one subject.

    It was also interesting to see the prop 8 videos that were for and against the proposition.

    This post was really helpful in helping me further understand this issue!

    -Carolyn Kaufman

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  3. Homosexuality in the Media

    Society as a whole relies heavy on the media to teach them about groups of people with whom they have little contact. Stereotypes portrayed cement prejudices that people already have. The British Journal of Guidance and Counseling published an article by Lindsay Cooper that raises some great points about the portrayal of homosexuality in the media and its effects on sexual minorities. According to Cooper, “a significant majority (83%) of people believe that the media relies heavily on clich├ęd stereotypes of gay people.” She states, “Hollywood is the principle manufacturer of Anglo-American cultural norms that has provided us with these images…Popular images of gay men that are available, largely on film, are very negative: ‘the child molester, the self-hating, effeminate hairdresser, or the friendless, isolated, older gay man whom everyone pitied or tolerated until he ended it all.’” Those are not the only stereotypes that homosexuals have to deal with. The dominant discourse about homosexuals is that they are promiscuous, disease-ridden, over-the-top and super “fabulous”. With images like that running rampant through the media that we are constantly bombarded with, it is no wonder why some parents react so horribly to finding out their son or daughter is gay.
    Negative stereotypes in the media have a huge impact on the lives of homosexuals in a family environment. Some parents are accepting and understanding. Others however, react with anger or even violence. This can cause people to “stay in the closet” and deny their sexuality. Cooper wrote, “Factors that keep people in the closet include verbal intimidation and fear. All interviewees experienced some homophobia and were subjected to negative images and stereotypes of gay people.” One of the interviewees said, “…there was a time when I was 13/14 when people realized and I started being called gay. I realized I probably was. Of course, I denied it. That was quite a hard time.” (Cooper 425-440) Staying in the closet can push people into feelings extreme loneliness and states of depression.
    Stereotypes that aren’t necessarily negative also have a huge impact on family communication and the lives of homosexuals. Trevor Nutley once wrote, “There was a time when I could not speak to a family member without someone telling me. ‘Oh, Jack reminds me of you so much’ or ‘You and Jack are the same person.’” (Nutley 22) He was speaking of the flamboyant, outlandish, hilarious character from the TV show “Will and Grace”. Because of portrayals of homosexuals in the media, it is almost as if all gay men have to be performing all of the time and all lesbians have to be drama sponges. Sitcoms are meant to be for entertainment, but shows like “Will and Grace” and “The L Word” are being treated like educational television to get insight on what the lives of “real homosexuals” are like and it is simply a fallacy.
    Cooper, Lindsay. "On the other side: supporting sexual minority students." British Journal of Guidance & Counseling. 36.4 (2008): 425-440. Print.
    Nutley, Trevor. "Gay and cliche." Xtra! West 24 APR 2006: 22. Print.

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  5. Great post! Very comprehensive!

    I have been following the progress of the court action against proposition eight in California (the proposition that the state of california passed to make gay marriage unconstitutional). There have been some very interesting arguments from many of the expert witnesses that address each side's arguments about the many factors involved in considering gay marriage.

    you can read the article at this site:

    It think that the issue marriage being both a political and religious institution in a country whose government strives to separate church and state has created a challenge for the legal and political systems that really lends view to the state of our country at this present moment and some of the shifts and divisions that are present.

    Considering that marriage, as a legal institution grants certain benefits, it is unacceptable to me that there are 1.2 million people who cannot take advantage of those rights and privileges in the majority of our country.

    I'm not sure what the solution is to the discord surrounding gay marriage, however it is interesting to watch this (long) battle play out.