Marriage is the oldest institution that was given to man was sanctified and awarded to man by his Creator. Its original purpose was for procreation and companionship. Through ages, this original divine ordination has faced many earthquakes that have caused fault lines in its foundations. The sanctity of marriage has been pit into test by a myriad of debates surrounding the gender of the partners in this holy coalition. Is man really in the dark on the constitution of a marriage to warrant such heated debates? This question draws its answer from the antique ordination of this divine union. The Creator made it clear that for purposes of procreation and companionship, a person of one sex will leave his or her family to join their partner of the opposite sex. This is the original plan, at least, if the Holy Scriptures is anything to go by. This reason seems to have lost its binding power leaving man to explore new ideas, experimenting them and if they work, going ahead to legally justify.
This has been the case with same sex marriages. These institutions have been a major topic in pulpits, political arenas and in corridors of justice. Activism groups as well as support groups who are for and against these unions have sprouted up in the recent decades. Countries and states have found themselves in the verge of disintegration in the wake of disparities concerning the legal entitlement of same sex marriages. Whenever such heated exchanges on the legalization of gay marriages occur, they have always led to exploring the two sides of the coin by highlighting the pros and cons of them. Such is the aim of this paper.
There are a number of pros linked to legalization of same sex marriages. Before embarking on highlighting a number of them, it is important to give the matter a global touch by looking at some of the countries that in one way or the other allow SSMs as they have come to be called. According to Lambda Legal, out of 194 countries, only ten of them have legalized SSMs. The phase setter was Netherlands in 2000 followed by Belgium three years later and then Canada and Spain in 2005. 2006 saw the entry of South Africa into this league as the only African country to champion for this union. In 2009, Norway and Sweden also joined in. The latest entry is that of Argentina, Iceland and Portugal in 2010 (p. 1). Other countries only allow it in some parts or outside the legal context. The United States of America has remained divided on this issue with some states allowing the marriages while others are completely against it. By April 2011, gay marriages were legal in six states. The first state to allow for such marriages was Massachusetts in April 24, 2009 followed by Vermont on 1 September the same year. Others include New Hampshire in January 2010 and District of Columbia in March of the same year (Christian Broadcasting Network). What makes these countries and states to allow SSMs while others to outlaw them?
Proponents of same sex marriages give several reasons to support their stand. According to Human Rights Campaign Foundation, it is nobody’s business if people of the same gender want to get married. They should be allowed to celebrate their commitment publicly and above all, be entitled to the same benefits like those in opposite sex marriages (p. 3-6). Those opposed to SSMs have maintained retention of the traditional set up of marriage life. However, proponents to these unions have held that if that is the case, then the society should not uphold new phenomena like heterosexual monogamy, communal childrearing and commonality of prostitution as they, too, are new set ups ( New York Times, Aug. 2010). Another reason why some people support gay marriages is that they provide a platform for adoption of children. According to Pediatrics the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in the US alone, 100,000 children are waiting to be adopted (2006 p.6-8). Apart from this adoption deficit, a survey published in the above journal indicates that children adopted by same sex couples were better socially and academically as compared to those from heterogonous family set ups (Pediatrics July 2010 Issue p. 2).
Economically, proponents to legalization of SSMs argue that it will bring financial benefits to the state and local governments. This will be due to the revenue to be collected from marriage licenses, marriage penalty and a decrease in costs for the benefit programs (Thompson, p.2). Thompson, the New York City Comptroller holds that this marriage equality would earn New York City a whooping $142 million on net basis. In addition, legalizing SSMs will give the couples access to their basic rights such as inheritance, hospital visitation, family health coverage or protection in case of a termination of the marriage (Freedom to Marry.Org, 2010). Lieber and Bernard estimate close to an additional $500,000 in the expenses of same sex couples in their lifetime in comparison to a straight couple (New York Times, Oct. 2, 2009).
Apart from the above speculative gains, another pro to legalization of SSMs is that failure to do so is tantamount to stigmatization of gay and lesbian families, subordinating them as well as implying that discrimination against them is acceptable (American Bar Association p.10). The Association adds that in other cases, such marriages are awarded a civil union status instead of a gay marriage. This, the proponents, hold that is equal to making them second class citizens a condition the constitution does not accept. Other pros to SSMs is that they do not harm heterosexual marriages as conceived by many neither will they interfere with family values (Langbein & Yost pp. 292-296) and lastly a common belief is that marriage is meant for procreation yet the society accommodates infertile couples. SSMs should be no exception.
The above arguments seem to give a green light to the legalization of SSMs. Therefore, what makes the opponents to these set ups stand their grounds. A number of arguments are responsible for this. One, they argue that the institution of marriage is traditionally meant to be for man and woman (Peterson p.1). Such proponents argue that marriage is for procreation and children rearing as contained in the ancient ordination of this institution. Those against same sex marriages further argue that the modern marriage scene is characterized by so many divorces and children born out of wedlock and therefore legalizing SSMs will not solve the matter as the proponents to it hold (Marquardt & Wilcox p.3). Gay marriages will also lead to more children being brought up in same-sex families which may not be a conducive environment for their growth as a child needs both parents; father and mother to grow holistically (Stacey & Biblarz p.4). In addition, SSMs is a practice not compatible with the beliefs of many traditional societies and religions and thus their legalization may force such institutions to marry these couples or teach the acceptance of these relationships among the children.
The debate on whether SSMs are legal revolves around fundamental constitutions of the society; the family, children as well as its beliefs and practices. Whether the society compromises to what it holds to be true and noble is a matter of time. However, one thing will remain sublime of all: that the truth does not vary. It stands for the test of time. That granted, the on going debate is a case of a society that is attempting to escape from the reality, to euphemize its explicit blunders and justify them by their indoctrination in to its systems (Sullivan p. 1).
Apparently, each side in this never-ending debate is not ready to concede. Arguments will go on being advanced. The truth is that with time, more countries states will accept this legalization because of pressure from organizations and groups affiliated to such grievances. In deed, even alternative interpretations to the constitutions and the Holy Scriptures will be given. It is only those who champion for the unwavering truth that will stand to be counted among the misled numbers.
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