Adam and Steve: A new Era in Marriage
The proposed legalization of same-sex marriage is one of the most significant issues in contemporary American family law. Presently, it is one of the most vigorously advocated reforms discussed in law reviews, one of the
most explosive political questions facing lawmakers, and one of the most provocative issues emerging before American courts. If same-sex marriage is legalized, it could be one of the most revolutionary policy decisions in the history of American family law. The potential consequences, positive or negative, for same-sex couples and the families of these couples are enormous. Given the importance of the issue, the value of widespread debate of the reasons for and against legalizing same-sex marriage should be obvious. Marriage is much more than merely a commitment to love one another. Aside from social and religious etiquette, marriage entails legally imposed financial responsibility and legally authorized financial benefits. Marriage provides legal protections for the spouse, including medical visitation, succession of a deceased spouse’s property, as well as pension and other rights. When two adults desire to unite in the eyes of the law, as well as promise in the eyes of their Lord, their friends and their family, to be accountable for the obligations of marriage, as well as to enjoy its benefits, should the law prohibit their request merely because they are of the same gender? The time has come for the United States as a whole to recognize same sex marriage and extend the right to marry anyone of your choosing to same sex couples that are seeking to marry within the United States.
The acknowledgment of a same sex ‘marriage’ by the US government defines this type of relationship and broadens the constitution to include all the people of the United States. The legal definition of the word ‘marriage’ has changed over time and will change again in the future. Until 1986, the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the word ‘marriage’ was a contract made in due form of law, by which a free man and a free woman reciprocally engage to live with each other during their joint lives and in the union which ought to exist between husband and wife. The terms free man and free woman in this definition mean, that they are free and not slaves, but also that they are clear of all bars to a lawful marriage. We can plainly see this definition was one that has been on the books since the days of slavery and does not begin to encompass any of the issues of the twenty first century. After 1986, the Merriam-Webster dictionary offered the definition as the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship, recognized by law or the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.
A traditional ‘marriage’ is thought to be one between man and woman. By ‘traditional’, I denote what the consensus sees as ‘normal’. The uniting of the two would take place in a church or other sacred location and an individual affiliated with the church would perform the wedding ceremony. There is an exchange of vows to be true, rings and a kiss at the end. The major difference between a traditional wedding and a non-traditional wedding is the presence of a marriage license. When all is done in a traditional wedding, the bride and groom are allowed to register as a married couple and take each other’s names. The ‘marriage’ is then registered with the state and is then found to be a legal ‘marriage’, much unlike a non-traditional ‘marriage’.
In a non-traditional ‘marriage’, many of the same rituals happen as in a traditional marriage. There is a uniting of two people in a sacred place, yet usually not a church, often times there is an individual affiliated with the church performing the ceremony. There is an exchange of vows to be true, rings and a kiss at the end. The difference is that there is not a man and woman, but the unification of a same sex couple. There is no marriage license and many states do not consider this ceremony legal.
The similarities within both types of couple are more profoundly similar rather than different. Both the traditional and nontraditional couple seeks devotion, adoration, commitment, companionship and ever-lasting love. These couples are seeking a life partner that they can grow old with and spend their lives. Herma Hill Kay, the former dean of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law states, “We’re hearing a lot about the ‘sacred institution of marriage’, but hasn’t marriage’s definition, both social and legal, undergone a significant metamorphosis in this country just in the last century or so?” (qtd. in Powell).Within our ever-changing world the tolerance of individuals with diversity is mandatory. There is no reason why neither the federal government nor any state government should restrict marriage to a predefined heterosexual relationship while the homosexual American citizen is left wondering where they fit in, within our society.
The rights of the individuals involved in same sex relationships rest firmly on the views and beliefs of how Americans perceive homosexuality. The debate of genetics and whether or not the ‘gay gene’ is present and there is a choice in the matter of homosexuality is a key component in society’s eyes. Is there a choice or is it nature rather than nurture? Do society and the environment that one is raised in play a factor of whether or not an individual chooses a homosexual lifestyle? These questions weigh heavy in the minds of many Americans. Within the novel, The Science of Desire, Dean Hamer and Peter Copeland bring to light:
Beginning in the late 1800’s, psychiatrists and psychologists turned their attention to homosexuality and concluded that it was a mental disorder caused by misguided upbringing. This disease model remained the primary way of thinking about homosexuality during most of the twentieth century. More recently, however, some scientists have begun to view both heterosexuality and homosexuality as natural variations of the human condition that are at least deeply rooted in nature as in nurture (20).
These human sexuality researchers and geneticists have found that homosexuality is deeply woven within an individual rather than being solely a choice. In addition, most human sexuality researchers believe that one’s orientation is fixed and unchangeable. Exceptions are those specialists in human sexuality who are also religious conservatives. Many of the latter are members of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality or NARTH, a small professional organization that promotes conservative religious beliefs about homosexuality. The most conservative view of homosexuality feels that it is something that one does or a chosen lifestyle, that there are multiple causes including poor parenting, sexual molestation during childhood and perhaps even demonic possession. Addiction traps them in the lifestyle. They also feel that this lifestyle is a choice that is made later in life, after puberty and usually in the teenage years and that it is an unnatural, abnormal and deviant behavior. All the while, the Liberal America view of homosexuality is that homosexuality is genetically predetermined something that one is and is an un-chosen orientation, that it is normal and natural for a minority of humans. The key factor is that these individuals are all human whether you agree with their lifestyle, choices or sexual orientation.
One person’s sexual orientation really should not matter to somebody else, and focusing too much attention on root causes might reinforce the notion that homosexuality is an abnormality rather than normality. The greater the attention given to differences, the more those differences are reinforced, so deal with civil rights in terms of the basic right to conduct ones self in ways that do not harm another person, and as long as people do not harm one another, they should all be afforded the same rights. Homosexuality in no way violates this central tenet. The hate speech of bigots does violate it, as this speech is harmful due to the pain it causes through the denial of basic rights, not the least of which is to be able to live one’s life free from persecution. Michael Hugman, a reporter for the Collegiate Times at Virginia
I have heard the argument on occasion [that] “Homosexuals already have equal rights: the equal right to marry someone of the opposite sex.” I can just imagine someone saying this a few decades ago, when interracial marriage was a big issue: “Blacks already have equal rights: the equal right to marry another black person.” Both arguments should be disregarded as simple prejudice. There are many more faulty arguments that the anti-same-sex marriage side uses. All I can say is that whenever you encounter them, be sure to point out their obvious problems.”
This reporter points out that same-sex marriage and this great debate are not a new issue. Years ago, the same struggle for rights went on through the eyes of the African-American and years before that, the women of the United States fought for their rights to vote within our great nation. Herma Kay states, “Some critics of same-sex marriage see homosexuality as a ‘lifestyle choice’, not in the same class as race when it comes to discrimination. If science tells us otherwise, will that bolster gays’ and lesbians’ legal standing? I think not” (qtd. in Powell). Some religious conservatives believe that God created the institution of marriage thousands of years ago. They interpret the Bible as saying that marriages must only be between one man and one woman, and that any sexual behavior outside of marriage is forbidden. Thus, they feel that all same-sex sexual activity is a sin. They are aware that gays and lesbians can marry each other in places such as Massachusetts, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and British Columbia, but they do not recognize these as true marriages (religioustolerance). They conclude that homosexuals must remain celibate. Obviously many individuals cannot keep their own personal and religious views from clouding their judgment when it comes to a political standpoint. Many anti same sex activist will offer up their point of view, clouded with a mixture of church and state.
Even with the separation of church and state, the bible and the Judeo-Christian biblical ways still obscure every step in the pursuit for same sex marriage and equality for those seeking this right. The central problem with the argument from the anti same sex marriage side is that they go against the principles of our democratic republic. One of those principles is neutrality with respect to religion. That fact is that we are not just a Judeo-Christian nation, but also a melting pot of individuals from all over the world with various religions. We may have a highly religious population compared to other countries, but that does not mean that religion should be built into our laws and government. In fact, having a separation of church and state is what makes America different from countries like Iran and Iraq and due to this separation; it is illegitimate to base any laws on religion, including the ban of same sex marriage.
The Judeo-Christian beliefs and standpoint on same sex marriage is that this union is an abomination and sinful before the eyes of the Lord. A reporter from the New York Times wrote that about fifty prominent religious leaders, including seven Roman Catholic cardinals and about a half-dozen archbishops, has signed a petition in support of a constitutional amendment blocking same-sex marriage (Kirkpatrick). The bible is often recited and quoted, yet I suspect many do not fully understand these words of scripture. The scripture must be taken and interpreted line upon line, precept upon precept. This is to say that no single verse stands entirely on its own, but rather is supported by its surrounding text and by other scripture within the Bible. Taking any verse out of its context, without considering its surrounding text and supporting scripture, only twists the meaning of the verse. The Bible is infallible as it was written. This does not preclude mistranslation of ancient languages. The original language keeps the message intact, but human translators, being human, sometimes are inaccurate. Though many denominations will not admit this, it is a definite problem. Many passages often carry the brunt of an argument that it originally did not support, yet have been twisted to appear as if.
There are many common passages that people often consider those that condemn homosexuality. First, there is Sodom and Gomorrah, which is a classically held scripture used most frequently to prove how God hates homosexuality. This passage is most often misunderstood. It is written within Ezekiel 16:49, 50:
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good (King James).
The word rendered here as ‘abomination’ comes from ‘tow’ebah’ and is said to mean ‘idolatry’ or ‘idolaters’. In the Hebrew, it is very clear that it does not mean homosexuality (Wigram 1641). The notion that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for homosexuality does not hold up. The Hebrew is clear, and nowhere is homosexuality made an issue. In Leviticus 18:22 it is written: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (King James). In itself, it seems very clear. By looking at the surrounding context, something more comes to bear on this verse. Leviticus 18:6-18 tackles having sexual relations with relatives. Verse 19 says a man shall not have sexual relations with a woman during the ‘uncleanness of her monthly period’ and verse 20 condemns having sexual relations with another man’s wife. Verse 21 goes on to mention the sacrifice of children to Molech and false idolatry and then, verse 22 simply states, “Do not have sex with the male temple prostitutes”(King James). The entire Chapter is about idolatry. There for it is not a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, but rather a condemnation of the sexual promiscuity of the many idol-worshippers. Another commonly used scripture that is often mistreated to condemn homosexuality comes from Romans 1:26-27:
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust one for another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion “(King James).
Again, on its surface, it seems very straightforward, but notice how this fragment begins, “Because of this…” Because of what? This passage really begins with Romans 1:18. Taken in context, and translated properly, this passage is clearly about the pagan practices surrounding fertility worship and the sexual acts associated with that worship. Reverend Samuel Kader wrote that Christ believed that homosexuals, amongst others were named Eunuchs (91). A eunuch is defined as an individual that is not only someone who has been castrated, but is also one naturally incapacitated, either for marriage or for begetting children and abstains from marriage. Kader went on to write that many unmarried individuals were named by the Lord, a eunuch, for reasons such as being born inept, past abuse, no inclination to have relations with the opposite sex and for whatever reason, and there are many, eunuch means anyone not likely to get heterosexually involved. At any rate, this list expanded by Jesus certainly includes gay people and others of either sex (98). We can see clearly that homosexuals are, by God’s own definition, eunuchs. God stated, “…to them [Eunuchs] I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters…” (King James, Isaiah 56:3-8). It is therefore very clear that eunuchs, a population in which God himself includes homosexuals, have a place in heaven. Many followers that are against the same sex marriage act have and still do use many of these bible pages entirely too loosely. God had a greater intent than to cast out a few of his followers.
God made all people as they are innate, as well as there sexuality. The creator made genetics, and is therefore ultimately responsible for how each one of us turns out via those traits that are genetic. It is also very safe to say that God does not make junk, nor does he make people just so he can hate them. After all, God is love. The real truth is that God not only loves his gay children just as much as he does his heterosexual children, but he has seen the persecution they must endure, and has set for them “a name better than sons and daughters” and because of this they will walk with Jesus Christ. The mixture of church and state is irresponsible and reckless and leaves many American citizens wondering where their place is within the constitution and before the governments’ eyes. Is it so easy to discriminate an individual simply because you do not agree with their lifestyle? Should the government be allowed to alter documents of our fore fathers, based on bias and bigotry?
The government and our President have brought forth much debate on the subject of same-sex marriage and how allowing individuals within these types of relationships to marry would effect our constitution. The legality of same sex marriage has come under scrutiny. Matt Surman for the Associated Press points out that unlike most countries, the United States does not have a nationwide law regulating marriage, leaving the decision to individual states similar to other hot button issues such as capital punishment and assisted suicide. The United States government has attempted to examine new philosophies and perspectives, but what has not been considered is the legality of denying same sex marriage. Article IV of the Federal Constitution states:
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
Clause 1: The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
In other words, no state has the right to ignore civil agreements reached in other States. On the 16th of May 2004, Massachusetts passed a laws allowing same-sex marriage (Cooperman). There for, if a same-sex couple in Massachusetts gets married after this date, no state has the right to ignore that marriage. In fact, all states are required to recognize that marriage, because it is a civil matter. What this essentially means is that State Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA is unconstitutional, plain and simple. However, that too was struck down. As it also is unconstitutional by virtue of the Tenth Amendment, which states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. The Constitution does not explicitly give the Federal Government jurisdiction over marriage, the right to regulate marriage is, by default, given solely to the States to decide. Therefore, Congress had neither right nor power to pass DOMA in the first place. The solution, some may argue, is to amend the Federal Constitution, which is what George W. Bush endorses. The problem with President Bush stepping in and changing the constitution is that Article VI reads:
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary not with standing.
There are also issues within Amendment IX. Amendment IX states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This means that the Constitution is barred from contradicting itself. Thus, a Federal Marriage Amendment that would deprive a singled-out populace of any rights runs in clear contradiction to Article IV and Amendment IX of the Constitution. The Constitution says in Amendment XIV:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
This means that the states do not have a right to choose the people to whom it will grant rights and privileges. If one group of people is allowed to marry, all groups of people should be allowed to marry. If same-sex couples are barred from marriage, it is a reduction of the privileges they are entitled to as citizens of the United States. This would be a deprivation of liberty and prosperity and would strip same-sex couples of equal protection of the laws. Plainly, it is discriminatory and the Fourteenth Article clearly states that selective granting of privileges is not allowed in the United States.
Americans have striven over the years since Brown vs. the Board of Education to uphold that ruling socially separate but equal is not equal. In our societal efforts to make this ruling a social and legal reality, we have made tremendous strides to end all forms of discrimination, finally recognizing our fellow man and woman’s rights as unalienable regardless of creed, religion, race, gender, and even sexual orientation. Regardless how one attempts to argue in favor of banning same-sex marriage, our Constitution is clear that doing so is illegal, even to the point of disallowing our own Congress to revise the Constitution so that it might contradict itself. It would seem evident that if heterosexual couples use Article IV as a safety net and guarantee for their wedlock then that same right should be given to homosexual couples. This Article has often been cited as a reference point for interracial marriages in the south, when Southern states did not want to recognize the legitimacy of the union by the other state. As this is used for that lifestyle, there is no logical reason it should be denied to perhaps millions of homosexuals that want the opportunity to get married. With these obvious discrepancies within the Constitution and the Bill of rights, gay and lesbian activists are attacking the government’s position full force. The journal of Marriage and Family published in 2004 that the married couple was becoming more complex with the unions of same sex couples. Marriage was transforming and becoming deinstitutionalized and although the practicality of marriage was declining, the symbolic meaning behind a marriage was on the rise (Cherlin 848). Thus, this has opened the door to a more equal future for same sex couples.
Proposals to legalize same-sex marriage or to enact broad domestic partnership laws are currently being promoted by gay and lesbian activists, especially in Europe and North America. In the United States, efforts to legalize same-sex domestic partnership have had some, limited success. The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. reported that by mid-1995, thirty-six municipalities, eight counties, three states, five state agencies, and two federal agencies extended some benefits to, or registered for some official purposes, same-sex domestic partnerships (Jost). More than ten years later, these numbers are still growing at a slow rate. In 1994, the California legislature passed a domestic partnership bill that provided official state registration of same-sex couples and provided limited marital rights and privileges relating to hospital visitation, wills and estates, and powers of attorney (Buchanan). While California’s Governor Wilson eventually vetoed the bill, its passage by the legislature represented a notable political achievement for advocates of same-sex marriage. Vermont allows ‘civil unions’, the strongest law of its kind in the US and Hawaii law provides limited state benefits to same-sex partners. The passing of these laws could be the new foundation for a sweeping change in popular American politics and will perhaps pave the road for increased awareness of this human rights issue.
The constitutional rights argument for same-sex marriage affirms that there is a fundamental constitutional right to marry, or a broader right of privacy or of intimate association. The essence of this right is the private, intimate association of consenting adults who want to share their lives and commitment with each other and same-sex couples have just as much intimacy and need for marital privacy as heterosexual couples. Laws allowing heterosexual, but not same-sex couples to marry infringe upon and discriminate against this fundamental right. Leaving aside objections that may be held by particular religions, the case against same-gender marriage is simply that people are unaccustomed to it. Bigotry and prejudice still exist in our evolving society, and traditionally people fear what is strange and unfamiliar to them. One may argue that change should not be pushed along hastily. For far too many years, our great nation has fought for equal rights for women, African Americans and many others. Americans deserve equality and whether you are homosexual or heterosexual anything other than equal rights is unacceptable. One day same sex couples will be allowed to marry, so that they may enjoy the benefits, privileges, and responsibilities far too many couples already take for granted. After this fight for that which they should already have, they could never take marriage for granted. Let us celebrate, for this is the land of the free… and soon everyone will all be free to marry whomever they fall in love.
“Equal rights are not special rights unless you’re the one who doesn’t have them.”
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“The Constitution of the United States,” Article 6.
“The Constitution of the United States,” Amendment IX.
“The Constitution of the United States,” Amendment XIV, Section 1.
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