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The Question of Who one Can Marry, Not Just Who Can Marry

Essay by   •  November 12, 2010  •  Essay  •  2,339 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,343 Views

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"In short, by not complying with their assigned gender roles, gays and lesbians threaten the system of male dominance (Calhoun 157)"

A debate is raging in America about who people have a right to marry. In response to lesbians and gays asking for the right to marry, many legislators are writing laws to ban same-sex marriage in their respective states. Even President Bush supports a Constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage (prez.bush.marriage/). Opponents of such legislation do not want discrimination passed into law and are protesting at every opportunity. One must understand the reasons that people want to ban same-sex marriage before he or she can effectively argue about the subject. Many advocates of same-sex marriage bans say that allowing gays and lesbians to marry would degrade the institution of marriage because marriage is only supposed to exist between a man and woman. In addition, allowing same-sex marriage would cause problems for society (Issues and Controversies on File). One theory why opponents may fight against same-sex marriages is that heterosexual marriages have long reinforced traditional gender roles within marriage and that allowing same-sex marriages would cause males to lose their authority to subordinate females as heterosexual couples begin to model same-sex marriage gender equality (Calhoun 157).

The traditional argument against same-sex marriage states that marriage is defined as the emotional and spiritual union of a man and a woman. According to that definition, a pair of men or women cannot marry. Opponents of same-sex marriage bans, however, argue that marriage is a basic personal and social right and a social contract that is devoid of gender consideration. Cheshire Calhoun states, "the dominant goal of marriage is and should be unitive, the spiritual and personal union of the committed couple" (151). The sexual orientation or gender of the partners does not lessen the importance placed upon entering such a union and need not be used to restrict who can enter into such a union.

Heterosexuals have enjoyed the right to marry throughout recorded history, though there have been restrictions placed over who could marry that have been overcome. Anti-miscegenation laws and laws that prevented marriage outside of one's own caste or social circle have been abolished in many areas of the world. Same-sex marriage bans are a form of discrimination regarding whom one can marry. Since marriage is conceived as playing a "uniquely foundational role in sustaining society" (Calhoun 148), saying that homosexuals are unfit to marry places them as dependent upon those who can maintain society's foundation. This discrimination further marginalizes gays and lesbians. Acting justly and equally to one's own neighbor is seen by opponents of same-sex marriage bans as allowing equal rights to all with no distinction made involving the sexual identity of the parties involved (Calhoun 148). If homosexuals are allowed to join the military because it is a citizen's right, then isn't the right to marry even more fundamental, based on conservative arguments for the foundational importance of marriage? Homosexuals have to pay taxes as any other citizens do, yet they are denied rights that other tax-paying citizens receive. Based on the importance society attributes to the institution of marriage, homosexual citizens should be allowed this basic right (Sullivan 54).

The concept of the natural family is a roadblock in the path to homosexual rights. Conservatives believe that society is based on the "natural" union of a man and a woman who, together, produce and raise offspring (Levin 116). They say that men and women complement each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but spouses complement each other in those ways regardless of their gender. These opponents of same-sex marriage say that the mere allowance of gay and lesbian marriage would disrupt the delicate foundation that is marriage. The result, they say, is that children will not be raised so as to become productive, happy adults, and that society will suffer. This argument is faulty in that gays and lesbians have already proven that they can raise children who turn out better than some whose parents were heterosexual and not allowing gays and lesbians to get married will not reduce any promiscuity that exists in that culture and thus not help society stamp out sexually transmitted diseases.

Positive repercussions of same-sex marriage add momentum to gay and lesbian activists' arguments. Opponents of same-sex marriage want couples to enter into committed monogamous relationships and to be deterred from leaving their long-term relationship. Same-sex marriage bans deny gays and lesbians an incentive to enter into long-term, monogamous relationships. This may increase sexual promiscuity within the gay and lesbian communities, which can spread sexually transmitted diseases. If homosexuals were allowed to marry, there would be incentives to stay in their relationships such as the costliness of divorce, the benefits that employers often offer to family members, and other benefits (Calhoun 152). Supporters of same-sex marriage bans claim that the goal of homosexual activists is to undermine marriage. While saying this they ignore the true goal of ending homophobia and the discrimination that harms gays and lesbians. Another positive element of same-sex marriage is that there is no subordination of the female by the male because both members are the same sex and thus traditional gender roles that put the male into a leadership role and the woman into a submissive role are non-existent.

Since gender differences are irrelevant in same-sex marriages, there are no gender roles that can seem discriminatory and thus the relationships are more egalitarian. Allowing same-sex marriages to be legal may have an effect on heterosexual marriages in showing a new way to have a relationship that allows its partners to choose their roles based off desire instead of their gender, which they were assigned without their consent. This would have the positive affect of promoting a more "gender-just society" (Calhoun 156).

This seemingly positive affect appears to be a reason to promote same-sex couples, but it instead seems to be a rallying issue for opponents of same-sex marriage. Males have something to lose with this loss of gender roles. Men lose their power over submissive women and "in adopting inferior female positions, particularly in sex, gay men debase themselves and fail to do their bit in sustaining male dominance" (157 Calhoun). Men are further frustrated by lesbians denying men access to their fruits. Studies that show homophobia being higher in people with the most conservative

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