Several countries have already acknowledged the rights of same-sex couples to marry. However, despite this paradigm shift and the achievements of the global LGBT movement, contentions against same-sex marriage have remained pervasive in different societies around the world.
Opponents of same-sex marriage ground their arguments on parenting concerns, moral standards as dictated by religious ideologies, culture and tradition, and concerns over the evolving definition of marriage that might eventually pave the way for the normalization of polygamy and incest. But there are strong arguments for same-sex marriage.
Arguments for Same-Sex Marriage: Benefits for LGBT Members and the Society as a Whole
Promotion of the Principle of Secularism
Why do we need to recognize and legalize same-sex marriage? The clamor has resilient social and moral reasons. One of the arguments for same-sex marriage centers on the need to acknowledge social diversity through social integration, cultural integration, multicultural pluralism, or whatever model that would work best. A society that welcomes same-sex marriage simply embraces the existence of assortment and diversity while remaining unified under a binding jurisdictional authority.
Then there is also the argument that centers on the promotion of secularism. Secularism is a principle that warrants the separation of the state from religious institutions while also removing or minimizing the role of religion in different public spheres. Thus, under this principle, people from different religions or beliefs are equal before the law.
Because one of the arguments against same-sex marriage involves religious moral standards, the legalization of same-sex marriage demonstrates freedom from religious influence and thereby, the promotion of and adherence to secularism. A secular society understands that religions do not hold a monopoly on morality and laws.
Arguments Against Religious Justifications
It is important to note that same-sex couples and supporters of marriage equality are not pushing for church or any religious marriages. They are specifically pushing for civil marriage. If religious hardliners would argue against same-sex marriage based on religious teachings and standards, then it would be fitting for them to also protest marriages that transpire outside their institutions or religious jurisdiction.
A Catholic marriage would be different from a marriage between Muslims or even members of other Christian dominations. The point is, it would be disastrous to give religion the sole authority to define the scope and limits of marriage. It is also worth mentioning that marriages have been administered not only by religious leaders but also by heads of states and government officials throughout history.
Procreation or child rearing is another argument against same-sex marriage. Opponents would maintain that marriage has a social purpose centered on the creation of families and a biological purpose that involves procreation. The problem with this argument is that it severely limits access to marriage not only among same-sex couples.
If people would argue that the primary and unbendable purpose of marriage is to promote procreation and the establishment of families, then they would also deny other couples who are unable or unwilling to produce offspring the right to marry. Take note that there are heterosexual couples who observe wedding rites even though they are past their reproductive prime. There are also individuals who are simply unable to produce a child because of their health conditions while others simply refuse to have children.
Legal Arguments for Same-Sex Marriage
One of the strongest arguments for same-sex marriage involves its legal dimensions. Married couples have exclusive access to rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities. These legal dimensions concern social security, tax exemptions or deductions, immigration, employee benefits, health and insurance coverage, shared properties and inheritance or estate transfer, and familial authority and representation, among others.
By denying same-sex couples the right to marry, the government is also denying them access to several rights while also positioning them simply as second-class citizens. Marriage inequality not only fosters but also institutionalizes discrimination, prejudice, and unequal treatment.
Remember that marriage is a stabilizing force in society. Arguments against same-sex marriage often cite the possible consequences arising from their perceived devaluation of marriage as an institution. However, allowing same-sex couples to marry would integrate them and their relationship better in society. Safeguarding the stability of these relationships is also similar to safeguarding the stability of the society.
Preference for Marriage Over Civil Union
Some opponents advocate for civil union instead of marriage to recognize the partnership of same-sex couples. However, this can be problematic. Marriage is more universal and expansive, unlike a civil union that lacks full recognition. In several jurisdictions, there are also rights exclusive under a marriage that are not present in civil unions.
Civil unions can promote discrimination toward same-sex couples because such could dismiss their relationship as inferior to marriages and render involving parties as second-class citizens. Promoting civil union instead of marriage would be reminiscent of racism and racial segregation. For example, in the United States, the concept of “separate but equal” relegated African-Americans to separate railroads cars, schools, and public spaces.
The experience of the United States, as well as of other countries such as South Africa, which experienced apartheid, and India, which struggled with the caste system, proved that separation and relegation could never result in true equality because they create a distance and a semblance of social hierarchy while institutionalizing discrimination.
Some have also argued that same-sex marriage could lead to devaluation of marriage that would lead to members of the society marrying anyone or anything. Opponents have compared marriage between same-sex couples with odd wedding celebrations and unions such as shot-gun marriage, underage marriage, and marrying a non-human or inanimate object. But this argument is disastrous because it throws off an important legal and moral dimension of marriage: consensus.
Other Benefits to Same-Sex Couples
There are also real social, cultural, and personal benefits that come from marriage, and in this case, same-sex marriage. Professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Lee Badgett conducted a breakthrough study that investigated the impacts of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands and Massachusetts.
Findings revealed that married same-sex couples felt their partnership has increased their commitment and responsibility toward each other, resulted in a stronger sense of security and stability, and promoted their sense of belongingness in their extended families and communities. Same-sex marriage strengthens the relationship between couples.
And like in any other marriages, married same-sex couples are, on average, healthier and happier than their cohabiting counterparts or singles based on several studies. Allowing same-sex couples to marry could also further promote the acceptance of the LGBT community and minimize discrimination and bigotry against its members. It is very important to remember that several members of the community have experienced anxiety and depression because of the way society has treated them.
The Importance of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage for LGBT Community Members and the Society as a Whole
Same-sex marriage fundamentally benefits both the involved couples and society. Marriage provides couples with economic, social, political, and emotional security. Through their marriages, they are able to work as partners who can perform shared responsibilities and promote their wellbeing and relationships with the help of legal guarantees, including rights and privileges, as well as familial and social support.
Legally recognizing the partnership of same-sex couples is also essential in promoting social stability. Remember that marriage and families collectively form the basic unit of society. Same-sex marriage would further integrate LGBT members into society.
Arguments against same-sex marriage centers typically on what opponents deem as a devaluation of marriage as an institution that could hard heterosexual relationships and their families. However, if there is anything that harms marriage, it is bad marriages in which couples disregard their responsibilities and their commitments toward their relationships.
It would certainly difficult for heterosexuals to imagine life without marriage. For most, if not all, a married life is a goal and marriage marks a turning point in their lives. For the LGBT community, the absence of laws supporting same-sex marriage creates a world turned upside down—a different environment from the world of heterosexuals.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Badgett, L. 2009. When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage. NYU Press. ISBN-10: 0814709303
- Ofosu, E. K., Chambers, M. K., Chen, J. M., and Hehman, E. 2019. “Same-Sex Marriage Legalization Associated with Reduced Implicit and Explicit Antigay Bias.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116(18): 8846-8851. DOI: 1073/pnas.1806000116
- Tuller, D. 2017. “The Health Effects Of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage.” Health Affairs. 36(6): 978-981. DOI: 1377/hlthaff.2017.0502