Gay Marriage: My Essay

I wrote this essay for my final paper in Introduction to Professional Writing and would like to share it here. It's impossible to address all of this issues in this blog or in this essay, of course.

The ongoing debate regarding gay marriage is very complex, difficult, and emotional. Homosexuals want the same rights as heterosexuals, but opposition comes from various different groups of people. Some religious individuals argue that marriage is a sacrament given from God that was detailed in the Bible and is a sacred tradition in American society. This argument, though it may seem very attractive to religious people, is a red herring fallacy that distracts the American people from the real discussion of marriage. Non-religious arguments include worries about the sexual preferences of children, potential emotional damage to children, gender roles of children, and worries about tradition. Marriage is a social contract between two individuals that establishes kinship, sharing of property, hospital visitation rights, and in most cases, the ability to adopt children. Religions may create or follow whatever customs they like, but marriage should be a civil rights issue, not an issue of morality. Homosexuals should have the right to marry and share the same benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy.

In “The Politics of Gay and Lesbian Rights: Expanding the Scope of the Conflict,” a published article in The Journal of Politics, Donald P. Haider-Markel and Kenneth J. Meier discuss the politics surrounding gay rights. The authors conclude that gay and lesbian politics resemble interest group politics (politics mainly concerning the needs of a specific group of people) when political elites are sympathetic and that opponents of gay rights turn the politics into morality politics, politics dealing with differing values, when the scope of gay and lesbian rights is expanded (Haider-Markel and Meier 333). Gay rights groups, the authors suggest, should seek to mirror the successes of other civil rights organizations such as the NAACP. Groups such as Lambda and the ACLU are active in gay rights litigation (336-337). If gay rights are interest group politics, the values of political elites become more important because they are more likely to support gays in the process of politics (337). In order for supporters of gay marriage to be effective, proponents must limit the scope of the conflict and insist that this is an issue of civil rights. Unfortunately, even when gay marriage is framed as a civil rights issue, many arguments arise. What are many common arguments and how can supporters of gay rights effectively combat them?

The most common arguments against gay marriage are based on religious grounds and typically contain phrases like, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Religious individuals may cite Biblical ideas and religious sanctions against homosexuality, but these arguments are irrelevant because of the concept of separation of church and state; America is not a religious nation that imposes religious ideas on all citizens via government. If religious groups do not want to offer a sacrament of marriage to homosexuals, that is their choice, but this should not deter individuals from marrying via legal means. Homosexual individuals should not, by any means, be subjected to a religious dogma if they do not subscribe to it. If supporters of gay rights dictate their arguments as civil rights issues, religious red herring arguments need not come into play.

Catholic individuals typically cite Biblical passages, but this is scriptural picking and choosing of Bible verses. Catholics will accept some regulations and rules, but dismiss others. It is impossible to follow everything in the Bible because the Bible gives rules for slavery (Leviticus 25:44-46) , killing your children (Leviticus 20:9), and forced marriage if a woman is raped (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Various obvious contradictions are also found throughout the Gospel stories and Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality. Regardless, the Bible does not determine what the laws of our nation are.

Religion aside, a common argument against gay marriage is “homosexuality is not natural.” Arguing whether that homosexuality is natural seems to be a waste of time and irrelevant to the main issue, but this argument is frequently used. The fact that some individuals were born as homosexuals easily dismisses this argument and proves that the argument is invalid when regarding many individuals. Other species besides humans also display homosexuality, thus proving that homosexuality can be natural. Homosexuality has also been prevalent throughout history in every culture. Some people may choose to be attracted to members of the same sex, but why does this matter anyway? Marriage is not concerned with what is supposedly natural or not. Even if the natural argument is dismissed, is gay marriage an extra right?

What about children, though? Homosexual couples can not produce children.
Marriage never has had a clause that compels a couple to give birth to a child. Many heterosexual couples choose to never reproduce or adopt. Some couples are infertile or otherwise unable to successfully give birth to children. Population levels are increasing and the population density of many areas is increasing. Individuals failing to reproduce will not be detrimental to society. Homosexual couples may also adopt a child, reproduce with an individual outside of marriage for the sole purpose of reproduction, or not have a child. Either choice has nothing to do with marriage and should not be relevant to the debate. If a homosexual couple chooses to have a child, what can be said about the well-being of the child?

Various researchers have conducted studies, experiments, and surveys to analyze children of homosexual parents. Research shows that no significant differences are shown in children who have lesbian mothers. Also, “measures of children's gender roles were generally unrelated to parental sexual orientation. Parents' attitudes and behaviors were more strongly associated with children's gender development than was parental sexual orientation” (Fulcher, Patterson, Sutfin 330). Researchers argue that gender roles are established through play, society, and influence from school. At a very early age, children show their knowledge of gender roles and sex-typed behavior (337-340). Regardless of the sexual preferences of parents, children will not be biased toward a specific gender role and will develop well just like children of heterosexual parents.

Psychologist Patricia J. Falk discusses discrimination that lesbian mothers face and dismisses various arguments regarding the development of children. She notes that, Courts often assumed that lesbian women are emotionally unstable or unable to assume a maternal role. They also often have assumed that their children are likely to be emotionally harmed, subject to molestation, impaired in gender role development, or themselves homosexual. None of these assumptions is supported by extant research and theory (Falk 941).

Dismissing the prejudices and false beliefs regarding lesbian mothers and their children is very important for gay marriage advocates because these prejudices are commonplace. Numerous studies involving lesbian mothers found lesbians to have no significant difference in mental health when compared to heterosexual mothers. Studies have even shown that “gay women are more self-confident, independent, composed, and self-sufficient than their heterosexual counterparts.” One researcher found that “lesbian women score higher on tender-mindedness and score lower on depression, submission, and anxiety than heterosexual women” (Falk 943).

Socialization of children, as noted by Falk, is not exclusive to parents, whether they be heterosexual or homosexual, but are influenced by “television, reading, school, and non-school recreation with peers and their families.” Surveys show that there is no difference in sexual orientation of children when comparing children homosexual and heterosexual parents (Falk 945). The common theme of normal development of children echoes throughout a great deal of research, “children develop normally, showing no particular behavioral, social, or emotional problems. Research on these children also reveals that they show typical development of gender identity, as well as sex-typed behaviors and preferences” (Sutfin, Erin, et al. 503).

Judith Stacey and Timothy J. Biblarz agree with other researchers and note, “Yet most research in psychology concludes that there are no differences in developmental outcomes between children raised by lesbigay parents and those raised by heterosexual parents.” The authors not that gay marriage is soon approaching an accepted status and homosexuals earned equal rights in France, Denmark, The Netherlands, and Ontario (Biblarz and Stacey 159). The evidence showing that homosexual parents and the children of homosexuals are very psychologically similar, if not better, than heterosexual parents and children of heterosexual parents is overwhelming. At this point, few arguments remain for opponents of gay marriage.

Slippery slope arguments such as, “If you allow gays to marry, what will happen next: marriage to animals, marriage to young children, or polygamy?” Arguments such as these are inherently fallacious and do not even address gay marriage, the current situation, or the rights of homosexuals. Marriage to animals or young children is impossible because animals and young children are unable to legally participate in contracts. Polygamy is also not possible because marriage is a contract between two individuals. If we were even to remotely entertain slippery slope arguments, this would be an entire new discussion.

After all the evidence is collected, the arguments against gay marriage are very weak and instead indicative of a personal belief despite evidence or a value judgment. Homosexuality will not effect heterosexual individuals directly; people who do not like homosexual activity can simply not partake in it and continue with life. Equal rights of homosexuals and heterosexuals should be an obvious goal that heterosexuals and homosexuals should desire to strive for. Homosexual marriages will make homosexuals happy, less stressed, and normalized. If gay marriage were to become a reality, homosexuality could be normalized and the stigma surrounding it will start to disappear.

Racism was once a very pervasive attitude and “law” in the United States. African-Americans were stigmatized, marginalized, and unequal to whites. When laws passed regarding equality, racism ebbed and African-Americans started to integrate more successfully into society. Hate crimes against African-Americans have greatly diminished. This situation, though the violence is not abound as much as was against African-Americans, is similar to the current status of homosexuals; people see homosexuality as wrong, disordered, and unacceptable. All Americans should strive for equality regardless of religious belief, sexual orientation, or race. The debate regarding homosexual marriages ought to continue and finally end when gay marriages are legal throughout the United States and homosexuals have the same rights as heterosexuals.

Works Cited

Haider-Markel, Donald P., and Kenneth J. Meier. "The Politics of Gay and Lesbian Rights: Expanding the Scope of the Conflict."Journal of Politics. 58.2 (1996): 332-349. Print.

Fulcher, Patterson, Sutfin. “Individual Differences in Gender Development: Associations with Parental Sexual Orientation, Attitudes, and Division of Labor.” Sex Roles 58.5/6 (2008): 330-341. Print.

Falk, Patricia J. “Lesbian Mothers: Psychosocial Assumptions in Family Law.” American Psychologist 44.6 (1989): 941-947. Print.

Sutfin, Erin, et al. “How Lesbian and Heterosexual Parents Convey Attitudes About Gender to their Children: The Role of Gendered Environments.” Sex Roles 58.7/8 (2008): 501-513. Print.

Timothy J. Biblarz and Stacey, Judith “(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?.” American Sociological Review 66.2 (2001): 159-183. Print.