For as long as the institution of marriage has been around, so too has the belief that it
represents the union of one man and one woman. Now gay men and lesbians are challenging that
institution. They believe that their relationships mean the same in their sphere as heterosexual
marriages do in our sphere. Homosexuals would like to see their marriages legalized.
In 1991 three gay couples filed a lawsuit, in Hawaii, for denying them marriage licenses.
They claim that the refusal amounts to gender discrimination, which violates the Equal Rights
Amendment. Judge Kevin Chang ruled, in 1996, that same-sex couples have the right to legally
marry. This ruling makes Hawaii the first state to recognize that gay and lesbian couples are
entitled, by law, to the same privileges as heterosexual married couples (CNN). Under the Full
Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution, this also forces all states to recognize these marriages
as far as federal benefits are concerned. Congress has approved a bill, the Defense of Marriage
Act, that will allow states to decide whether to recognize homosexual marriages. The second part
of the bill would define “for federal purposes” as the union of a man and a woman. Under such a
definition gay and lesbians, even if they win the right to marry in Hawaii or elsewhere, would not
be able to file joint federal tax returns, claim federal pension, or survivor’s benefits, or be allowed
to file for green card status (Gallagher 21).
I don’t feel that marriages between gays or lesbians should be given the same status as
heterosexual marriages. Since when do gay people think they can broaden the institution of
marriage to include themselves? They shouldn’t be able to. The institution of marriage is
recognized by the church, homosexuality isn’t. I don’t feel that gay people have given a reason
that carries enough weight for the government to legalize same-sex marriage.
Should gay people fight for the right to marry? Gay rights activists say absolutely. Gay
couples should be afforded the same benefits as heterosexual couples. The legal status of
marriage rewards the two individuals with substantial economic and practical advantages.
Married couples can file joint tax returns. Social security provides benefits for surviving spouses
and their dependents. They can inherit money and property from one another without a will.
They are immune from testifying against a spouse, and marriage to an American citizen gives a
foreigner the right to residency in the United States. Another advantage would be health
insurance provided by employers. These benefits usually include the employee and their spouse.
Employers generally will not include a partner who is not married to an employee, whether of the
same sex or not. Very few insurance companies will extend benefits to domestic partners’ who
are not married (OUT/LOOK 234-235).
Gay marriages are highly emotional topics in the 90s. Many people feel that gay marriages
would show heterosexual people how much two people can love each other even if they are of the
same sex. Homosexual relationships are more than just sex with someone of the same gender.
Homosexual relationships include feelings and being able to share those feelings with the person
you love. “People have become used to the idea of defining gay people solely in terms of sexual
acts,” says Gregory Herek, a research psychologist at the University of California, Davis.
I think many heterosexuals get very nervous when they have to think of gay
people in terms of relationships, because it challenges the way they have always
thought about gay people. I find it interesting that the same people who condemn
homosexuality as being a promiscuous lifestyle also say they’re against gay
marriage because they wouldn’t want to recognize stable gay relationships, says
Herek (Gallagher 24).
Rep. Barney Frank asks, “How can you argue that a man and woman in love are somehow
threatened because two women down the street are also in love?” Later, he put the question in
more personal terms. Frank said he respects the marriages of fellow committee members but
added, “I don’t understand for a minute how I demean them by living with a man” (U.S. House).
Most people, when asked the question “What is your opinion of gay relationships?”, their first
response encompasses sex, promiscuity and AIDS. When asked about heterosexual relationships
they generally answer with love, companionship, and families. If same-sex marriage is made legal,
the next generation won’t think of it as taboo.