Gay marriage is a hot button issue facing American politics. It raises passionate arguments on both sides of the aisle. Those in favor of legalizing gay marriage see the realization of gay rights as the next step in the American civil rights movement. While those against it see it as a desecration of the institution of marriage for religious or personal reasons. Over the past few decades steps have been taken to expand the bounds of marriage to include homosexuals.
The Argument for Gay Marriage
Supporters of gay marriage have built their arguments around the concept of equality in America. As this country was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, they believe it is hypocritical to deny the rights of homosexuals. Just as it was hypocritical to deny freedom to African Americans or to prohibit women's suffrage. As well, beyond equal rights, supporters argue that same sex couples should be awarded the same financial and medical benefits of heterosexual couples. For instance, only through marriage do same sex couples have access to a partner's insurance benefits, Social Security, Medicare, or property inheritance. As well, without a legally recognized marriage, gay partners can not be acknowledged as next of kin in the case of a medical emergency or incapacitation. Furthermore, to supporters of same sex marriage, denying the right to a full and equal marriage is a serious form of minority discrimination.
The Argument Against Gay Marriage
The argument against same sex marriage is one founded in religion and personal values. As the majority of religions deem homosexuality as a sin, many conservatives do not want to formally recognize a relationship or lifestyle they see as sinful and wrong. As well, Many protesters of the issue fear a slippery slope into polygamy, bestiality, and pedophilia if marriage laws are expanded to include homosexuals. Moreover, the major argument used by same sex marriage protesters is the weakening the institution of marriage and family values in this country. Many believe that the American family has formed the bedrock of society and a weakening of the American family has led to declining morals and values. It is the protesters argument, that allowing homosexuals to form families will only lead to continued decline of moral value in America.
Legislation and Laws
In 1998, President Bill Clinton denied same sex couples the right to federal benefits with the signing of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Since, conservatives in Congress have tried to bolster DOMA by making it a constitutional amendment, however they have never received the necessary two-thirds majority to do so. Nonetheless, several states have passed laws legalizing marriage or civil unions for same sex couples. In April 2000, Vermont became the first state to legalize same sex unions between homosexuals. In 2004, a Massachusetts high court deemed civil union unconstitutional in terms of a comparison to the full rights that would be awarded by same sex marriage.
Where is Gay Marriage Legal
Same sex marriage is currently legal in only six states within the United States: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. However, marriages are not slated to begin until 2010 in New Hampshire and Maine's legalization is up for referendum in November 2009. As well, same sex marriages took place in California between June and November 2008 before the passage of Proposition 8 which validated only those marriages between a man and a woman. However, the marriages that took place in California are still considered legal. As well, marriages from other states are fully recognized in New York, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. States which have passed laws legalizing civil unions include: New Jersey, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Washington DC, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Maryland. There are also several states throughout the South and Midwest that have passed constitutional bans on same sex marriage.
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