Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What’s the Big Deal about Gay “Marriage”?

The debate rages on concerning gay “marriage” with no sign of abating. The gay community is determined to make gay “marriage” legal and available in all states, and many others are determined to not let that happen. While not making any moral judgments concerning the homosexual lifestyle, I’d like to summarize where each side is coming from. Hopefully it will help you to better understand each side’s position on this issue.

Why Do Gays Want to Get Married?

As I understand it, gays want to get married for two major reasons. First, the legalization of gay “marriage” would give the homosexual lifestyle legitimacy. In other words, it would provide the legal (and social) acceptance that is often lacking.

Second, the more practical reason for “marriage” is to provide partners (or “spouses”) certain rights and privileges now closed to unmarried couples. These would include medical benefits and various legal rights.

The downside of this is that if a gay “married” couple wants to separate, they would have to go through a divorce just like heterosexual couples. This could mean alimony, child support, joint custody, and all of those types of things, plus expensive legal bills.

Why Doesn’t the Majority Support Gay “Marriage”?

Based on the votes cast against the legalization of gay “marriage” in California and many other states, the consensus among Americans seems to be against it. What’s the problem with gays getting married?

First, marriage has always been between a man and a woman, with the main purpose of such a union giving birth to and raising children. Marriage, which is supposed to be for life, has protected women, who up until recently were very vulnerable if widowed or divorced. Even now, after a divorce the man’s standard of living either improves or stays the same, but the woman’s and the children’s standard of living generally drops. There are many single parent families headed by a woman who are either homeless or are living in or near the poverty line.

Because of these traditional purposes for marriage, using the term “marriage” for same sex couples doesn’t seem to apply. In addition, many gays believe in an “open marriage” in which the partners/spouses are free to have sexual relations with others. This is contrary to the traditional understanding of marriage, in which both husband and wife were expected to remain monogamous. While that ideal certainly hasn’t been realized all the time, that’s the expectation. Therefore, “open” gay marriages are contrary to the monogamous aspect of the institution.

Lastly, it’s bad enough that the heterosexual divorce rate is so high – we certainly don’t need gay divorces as well.

What Do We Do?

For the reasons outlined above, I don’t think there should be a legal act or entity called “marriage” if it involves two people of the same sex. I believe that the best solution is to have civil unions available to gays and cohabiting heterosexuals who don’t want to get married but who still want certain legal rights. These civil unions would provide at least some of the legal rights desired by gays, but wouldn’t be called a “marriage.” Civil unions would recognize that a formal relationship exists between two people, and would provide appropriate legal rights and protections.

Regarding civil unions, I don’t think there should be a “one size fits all” approach, but each one should be tailored to the wishes of the couple. Incorporated into the civil union documents should be a form of pre-nuptial agreement that would reduce litigation in the event the couple eventually desires to terminate the civil union.

One final thought. There are those who claim that legalizing gay “marriage” would destroy the concept of marriage. I believe marriage has already been seriously weakened by “no fault” divorce laws, lack of commitment, and self-centeredness (what’s in it for me?). Gay marriage could further weaken the institution because of the “open marriage” concept. Nevertheless, I believe heterosexuals must clean up their act and restore marriage to what it’s supposed to be: monogamous and for a lifetime. After all, there are often children at stake. Moreover, marriage is the foundational unit of society. If marriage crumbles, so does our society (which I believe we are already seeing).

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