Gay Marriage: What is it – Why is Gay Marriage Controversial – What is the Defense of Marriage Act – Where is Gay Marriage Legal – What is the Difference between Gay Marriage and a Civil Union – What are Gay Rights – Family and Adoption – Gay Marriage Facts, Statistics, and Demographics – Gay Marriage Arguments – The Road to Acceptance
This article begins and ends with the definition of marriage and its evolution. Since the dawn of time, marriage has been recognized as the union between “one man and one woman”. In the name of equality, the definition of marriage is evolving as seen in the latest publication of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:
Per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary , the definition of marriage is:
: The relationship that exists between a husband and a wife
: A similar relationship between people of the same sex
: A ceremony in which two people are married to each other
Commonly, the marriage between two same-sex people is known as gay marriage. Even as more couples are gaining freedom to be legally bound to their partners, not everyone in society is on board. Gay marriage continues to be a controversial subject.
Why is Gay Marriage Controversial?
Same sex marriage is supported by many but not all. Interestingly, the controversy of homosexuality seems to be the main issue for non-supporters of gay marriage, more so than the issue of gay marriage itself. Statistics show that Americans are less tolerant than five other Western countries as seen in a 2011 Poll.
What is the Defense of Marriage Act?
The Defense of Marriage Act allows each state to decide whether to recognize same sex marriage legalized in another state. This federal law was enacted in September of 1996.
Where is Gay Marriage Legal?
The list of states where gay marriage is legal continues to grow. Currently, 17 U.S. States recognize gay marriage: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, Maryland, and Washington.
States that have banned same-sex marriage include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Note: In the following states, the laws banning same-sex marriage were ruled unconstitutional; states are awaiting appeals after a stay on this ruling: Michigan, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, and Utah.
Couples who choose not to marry may prefer a civil union.
What is a Civil Union?
A civil union is a legalized contract between two same-sex people, and is a relationship outside of marriage, without certain legal benefits (discussed later). The term ‘domestic partnership’ is used interchangeably with ‘civil union’.
Civil unions are legal in Colorado.
What is the difference between a Gay Marriage and a Civil Union?
Civil union vs marriage – The biggest difference between gay marriage and a civil union is recognition. Each state has its own laws regarding marriage, so when a couple moves to another state they are still recognized as a married couple. Most states do not have a legal category for civil unions (or domestic partnerships) so no couples are recognized in states that have not legalized civil unions. Gay rights differ between the two types of unions – gay marriage or civil union.
Gay marriage rights involve legal protection, whereas the civil union has limitations. With gay marriage, the spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits and tax breaks, but in a civil union, there are no federal benefits. Civil rights do include spousal support, the right to make medical decisions, the right to receive protection under a partner’s insurance, and rights for hospital visitation.
Further differences include taxes. The federal government does not recognize civil unions; therefore, gay couples cannot file joint tax returns or be eligible for the same tax breaks allowed married couples.
Gay rights are federal and/or state laws that acknowledge the value of a same sex couple. These laws demonstrate the ever changing face of equality.
In the U.S. equality is assured; the Constitution guarantees it. Based on this, the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender) community strives to be recognized and treated fairly, without discrimination in society.
LGBT rights are Gay rights that offer legal benefits and advantages to many aspects of life within a gay relationship and new laws are in constant development. Hate crimes occur against the gay community and more laws need to be in place to protect people.
In light of an attack in April 2014, advocacy groups are pushing for states to include protection for the LGBT community. The laws would make attackers more accountable for assault and injury to a person and their property.
According to CNN, a 28 year old woman was attacked just days after her publicized same-sex wedding in Michigan. As she headed home after work, she was violently assaulted by three men who beat her until she was unconscious. They recognized her from the news coverage and made no secret about their opposition to gay marriage.
The woman does not wish to be identified and was one of many who came forward to legalize her same sex relationship after Michigan’s federal court overturned the amendment that limited marriage to “one man and one woman”.
This injured woman got herself to a hospital and police began searching for her attackers. In Michigan, hate crime charges won’t be brought against attackers for sexual orientation. The LGBT community is in an uproar over Michigan and 18 other states that do not provide protection for hate crimes over sexual orientation.
As a spokesperson for the statewide LGBT anti-violence movement, Yvonee Siferd was quoted as saying, “It’s not a special right to walk down the street holding the hand of people you love and not be attacked.”
Same sex marriage facts show that even though laws are being passed to support the spousal relationship in gay marriage, there is much work to be done in the way of children and family.
Family and Adoption
There are thousands of children who need good homes but the adoption process for same sex couples may be daunting. In Arizona, one such couple had the best of intentions and looked great on paper until it was realized that these men were a married gay couple. Arizona does not recognize same sex marriage and after great disappointment, these men went on to adopt in another state who does recognize gay marriage, and began Families Like Ours to help other same sex couples go through the arduous process of adopting a child.
Hateful and negative attitudes towards same sex couples don’t end with the United States. For example, In February 2014, Russia passed a statute that will stop all single people from adopting their Russian children, if they are found to live in any country that has legalized gay marriage. This decree will not affect U.S. citizens, because they are already banned – as of 2012.
Celebrity Adoptions and Children
Adoptions are assumed to go more smoothly for gay celebrities, but celebrities are bound by the same laws as everyone else. These celebrities have been successful in building their families which should give hope to others: Rosie O’Donnell, Elton John, and Ricky Martin are three examples:
Comedian and former talk show host Rosie O’Donnell, with her wife, welcomed a fifth child in January of 2013.
Singer and Musician Elton John, and his partner, have adopted two sons, born to the same woman.
Puerto Rican pop musician Ricky Martin has twin boys, born to a surrogate mother and, of who, he is a biological father; he has publicly expressed interest in adopting another child, possibly a little girl. Puerto Rico denied adoption as Ricky Martin is openly gay and they have a ban on same sex couples adopting children.
Ricky Martin responded to this news via Twitter with ““How sad. This is like turning your back on children; so many orphans wanting to have the warmth of a home.”
Clearly, gay rights are not supported by everyone. As states and then countries become more accepting of equality for all couples, gay rights may become the standard rather than the exception.
Gay Marriage Facts, Statistics, and Demographics
Gay marriage facts, statistics, and demographics are constantly changing. Per the 2011 Census , 594,000 same sex couples lived in the United States in 2010.
Nationally, about one percent of the total was same sex households.
42,000 couples were households residing in states that performed same sex marriages.
Over half of same sex households resided in California.
According to administrative records, less than 50,000 same sex marriages were performed in the U.S. from 2004 through 2010.
25.7 percent of all same sex couple households reported that they were, in fact, spouses as compared to states with civil unions (domestic partnerships).
115,000 same sex households said they had children. Children might be biological, adopted, or children acquired after a marriage (stepchildren).
The United States Census reports a 90 percent accuracy on its reported findings as each household is asked to identify themselves and their household numbers so that the government can measure its population.
There are definitely pros and cons for the decision to legalize gay marriage. From opposing views on the wedding, health benefits, religion, raising children, and more, following are a few arguments posed by society:
Pros: Couples would be able to celebrate their committed relationship with a ceremony just like heterosexual couples; with their wedding.
Cons: The Bible says that a marriage is between a man and a woman, children should come from the union, and there is no “alternative”.
Pros: Couples would benefit from the same benefits given to heterosexual married couples regarding taxes, hospital visitation, and insurance coverage.
Cons: Added to an already high divorce rate in this country, allowing gays to marry and have the same rights as heterosexual married couples would only serve to further weaken the institution of marriage.
Freedom to Choose
Pros: The traditional concept of marriage meaning “one man and one woman” would be changed permanently to accept everyone.
Cons: With the “okay” to marry whomever we want, strange things are would likely occur with incestuous relationships, bestiality, and non-traditional marriages.
Pros: Because laws are changing and people are growing more aware of discrimination and inequality, the majority of Americans are now supportive of gay marriage.
Cons: The groups that oppose legalized gay marriage should not be expected to donate their tax dollars. Opponents should be allowed to remain separate where their tax dollars are concerned.
Pros: Gay marriage is protected by the Constitution of the United States for its promise of liberty and equality.
Cons: The traditional home will be redefined without a father and a mother to raise the children. Same sex parents will deprive the children of one important parental figure; they will lack the importance provided by a mother, or a father (psychological studies have proven the importance of these roles during childhood for successful adult relationships). Children may suffer without a same sex role model or may experiment with homosexual behavior when ordinarily they would not.
Pros: By not recognizing gay marriage as equal and legalizing the union, families are forced to live with a stigma of being second class citizens.
Cons: Gays have their own culture and by denying equality of marriage, society can limit exposure to the non-supporters and without growing popularity, the gay community might fade out.
Pros: Gay marriage would allow for loving families to adopt children who could otherwise end up in the foster care system.
Cons: Children are being born out of wedlock in Scandinavia in record numbers; this has continued since giving benefits to same sex couples in 1987. America could follow suit and if it does, the value of marriage would surely die.
Pros: Local governments and states may benefit from financial gains such as higher income taxes and marriage licenses, to name two.
Cons: Gay marriage is oppressive to the family structure and should be stopped.
Pros: It has been proven that the benefits of marriage extend to personal health.
Cons: Traditional marriage was seen as a legal celebration of a heterosexual couple which encouraged them to procreate and build a family in the community. Gay marriage would change all the rules.
Pros: Legalizing gay marriage won’t adversely affect the value of a heterosexual marriage.
Cons: Gay marriage cannot produce children; therefore the purpose of marriage will shift from building child rearing families to finding gratification for one’s own self.
Pros: Gay marriage should not be restricted to due religious beliefs.
Cons: The bible with its teachings states that a marriage exists “solely between a man and a woman”.
Pros: In states where gay marriage is legalized, divorce rates do down. Where it is banned, divorce rates go up.
Cons: With the expansion of gay marriage, churches may be forced to marry same sex couples and school age children will believe that marriage has equal value for same sex couples and heterosexual couples.
The Road to Acceptance
The United States has proven that it is a forward thinking nation with its legalization of marriage in 17 states. Following is the chronological order of milestones that have brought America to this point in history:
1993: Hawaii – The Supreme Court finds that refusing marriage to same sex couples is a direct violation of the Constitution.
1996: The Defense of Marriage Act is signed by President Bill Clinton. The purpose of this act was to restrict marriage to one man and one woman which denied federal benefits to gay couples.
1998: Hawaii – their constitution is amended giving sole power to their Legislature in matters of gay marriage. Alaska – their constitution is amended so that marriage is limited to only heterosexual couples.
1999 – California – The first state to make a law providing same sex couples protection in domestic partnerships. Vermont – Ruling by the Supreme Court that gay couples and heterosexual couples should be treated equally.
2000 – Vermont – Civil union law provides gay couples with protection similar to marriage. Nebraska – non-supports win ballot initiative which sets forth denial in the state for recognizing gay couples. Over the next ten years similar actions are taken by other states.
2003 – Massachusetts – First state to legalize gay marriage. Their Supreme Court decides that denying gay couples is in direct violation of the state constitution.
2004 – Massachusetts – Weddings are performed for same sex couples. Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi – Amendments to the constitution are brought prohibiting same sex marriages in these states.
2008 – California – Legalization of same sex marriage is ordered by court. Voters immediately overturn the decision, limiting marriage to “one man and one woman”. Connecticut – Legalization of same sex marriage; civil unions are decidedly unequal to the protections of marriage.
2009 – Vermont, Iowa, and New Hampshire – Legalization of same sex marriage.
2010 – District of Columbia – Same sex couples can get marriage licenses. Note – first jurisdiction in the United States below the Mason-Dixon line to legalize gay marriage.
2011 – New York – Legalization of same sex marriage.
2012 – Maine, Maryland, Washington – President Obama endorses gay marriage and voters approve.
2013 – Hawaii – Bill passes for legalization of same sex marriage. Delaware, New Jersey, New Mexico, Minnesota, Rhode Island – The number of U.S. states with legalized gay marriage rises to 15.
2013 – Defense of Marriage Act – The Supreme Court overturns a portion of the act which gives federal benefits to same sex married couples the same level as heterosexual couples. California – In a different decision, the high court rules same sex marriages may resume.
2013 – Illinois – Legalization of gay marriage.
2013 – May 2014 – Oklahoma, Idaho, Virginia, Utah, Michigan, Texas, Arkansas – same sex bans on marriage are found unconstitutional. It is ruled that same sex marriages be recognized from other states in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio. In all cases, current appeals are pending.
Equality is behind the rulings for legalizing gay marriage. Same sex couples would like to enjoy the same public acknowledgement and legal benefits provided heterosexual couples. While many groups support the LGBT community, there remains an opposing group that may never bend.
As the majority of the population grows in acceptance and equality is assumed, discrimination is expected to become a lesser issue. The level of hate crimes and negative behavior are already seeing lower rates (in bigger cities) as churches and schools become more tolerant and display rules of acceptance and equality.