News Day Tuesday: Gay Marriage

At San Francisco City Hall, as many as 10,000 gathered, carrying signs, flags and even copies of their marriage licenses. (photo: Jim Wilson / NYT)

Marriage.  What is it?  A right?  A responsibility?  A contract?  An institution?  All of the above?  None of the above?  How would you define it?  What does it represent?  Why is it so important to so many people for the law to side with their own vision of what marriage is?
The answers to these questions lie at the heart of heated debates and passionate protests that have been sweeping across the U.S. recently after voters in California, Florida, and Arizona approved constitutional bans of same-sex marriages.  This past Saturday, tens of thousands of demonstrators from New York to San Francisco rallied in front of city halls and capitol buildings to protest the passage of these bans.  As a testament to the respect people have for each other, most of these demonstrations have been peaceful and largely without incident.  Yet there is no ignoring the fact that deep differences exist in the way people view marriage and how it should be treated under the law.  The opposing sides have focused much of their energy on California – largely because only six months ago, its Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriages by ruling that same-sex couples had the constitutional right to marry.  California’s Proposition 8, which passed by a margin of 52 to 48 percent, effectively overturns that court decision by amending the state constitution to read: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
Supporters of amendments like Proposition 8 insist that they are not anti-gay but pro-marriage.  Some believe that marriage is a sacred covenant, ordained by God to be between a man and a woman.  But religion is only one side of the argument.  For many people, marriage acts as a societal “glue” of sorts because it is the foundation upon which families are built.  Since only heterosexual couples can reproduce and have children, they believe marriage should reflect that biological reality.  Others believe a more inclusive view of marriage is a slide down a slippery slope – if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, then where do we draw the line?  At polygamy?  At pets?  At fictional characters?  Others argue that legalizing gay marriage will endanger freedom of speech.  They worry that if religious beliefs prohibit churches or other organizations from providing services to gay couples, or if people voice their disapproval of homosexuality in any way, then those parties will be accused of discriminatory practices and/or hate crimes and be subject to lawsuits, fines, and arrests.
On the other side of the fence are people who believe marriage should be available to any couple who loves each other enough to make that type of commitment.  They argue that claims based on religion are without merit because they violate the separation of church and state.  They insist that to deny same-sex couples the right to marry is no different from, and just as discriminatory as, denying mixed-race couples the right to marry.  Supporters of gay marriage also argue that, from a legal standpoint, domestic partnerships and civil unions aren’t satisfactory arrangements because they don’t qualify for the more than 1,100 federal laws that apply to married couples – for example, laws governing veteran’s benefits and Social Security.  Others argue that even if same-sex unions gained the same legal status as marriages in every way except for the term “marriage” itself, that such a scenario would still mark these couples as different or abnormal, and thus prevent them from becoming fully integrated into society.
It’s complicated, right?  And this is assuming that sex can be clearly defined into 2 categories: male and female.  On top of all that is the debate pitting the government against the will of the people.  In California, several same-sex couples and the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles filed lawsuits with the state Supreme Court seeking to block the enforcement of, and eventually to overturn, Proposition 8.  This puts the government and the people of California in a bind.  If the majority of voters approved Proposition 8, then is it okay for the courts and/or the legislature to step in and overturn the will of the majority?  In a democratic society, is it ever okay to ignore the will of the people?   LaDoris H. Cordell, a retired Superior Court judge, points out that there have been a number of times throughout American history when the courts overrode the will of the majority:  when they ordered the desegregation of public schools and public accommodations, when they opened voting to people of color, and when they granted mixed-race couples the right to marry.  Cordell states that the furor “with which society greeted these courageous and controversial court rulings was ultimately replaced by acceptance.”  Thoughts?
There are others who say that the legal recognition of gay marriage is inevitable, that it is only a matter of time.  To support this argument, they point to changing attitudes of generations, and in particular the younger generation.  According to exit polls, young people were among the biggest opponents of Proposition 8: 64% of 18-24 year olds voted against it.  In contrast, 61% of people aged 65 and older voted for Proposition 8.  So what do you think?  Is it only a matter of time?  What do you think accounts for the stark difference in attitudes between the older and younger generations?
Interested in reading more arguments for Proposition 8?  Go here.  Against it?  Go here.
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17 Responses to “News Day Tuesday: Gay Marriage”

  1. Gina Says:

    I’m neutral on gay marriage, to be honest. I’m neither for it nor against it. But I won’t try and stop people. Gay marriage is allow in my state (Connecticut) and it’s also allowed in Massachusetts.

  2. Lydia Says:

    I can’t help but feel like ‘let the love flow and let the magic of it inspire people all over the world’, but, I guess it’s not that simple.

  3. MarilyneL Says:

    I think that the younger generation is more open-minded than the older generation. The latters maybe more religious and, for them, a marriage needs a man and a woman. As far as the court that could actually go against the majority, I hope that it will. In my philosophy class, we are presently studying the “Utilitarism” which is basically weighing the pros and the cons and then, come to a decision. However, this way satisfies the most people, but ignores the minority, which is bad. One of the critics we can do this theory, is actually about that. So, if we would have only listened to the majority over the years, indeed, non-with people would still experience segregation and would not have the same rights. I mean, come on, we gottta evolve here. You just can’t forbid two people loving each other to get married if that is what they want. Best of luck out there 😛

  4. Kendra Says:

    I don’t think the connection between two people, should come along with rules and rituals. Love is love and we should all be able to express that in what ever way we want. Why are so many people afraid?

    Marilynel-I love what you are studying in Philosophy…and fun topics we could all discuss on the forum?

  5. Binks Says:

    For every argument for Prop 8, there is an equally valid reason against Prop 8, same as with many controversial issues.

    I, personally, I’m completely against Prop 8. I feel very strongly that it should not have passed, but alas that is my opinion.

    I believe the younger generations are more accepting of it, they have grown up and been introduced and interacting with open gays, etc. While the older generations tended to try to hide it, because they are closer attached to traditional views and religious sanctions, and young ppl right now…aren’t. We are more liberal and broad minded as opposed to previous generations. I believe it is only a matter of time that it will pass, with younger generations being able to vote in the upcoming years there is a higher probability of it to be more accepted and marriage to same-sex couples to be granted.

  6. G Says:

    You can’t teach an old dog news tricks. Why do I bring this up you ask? Well, the majority of people for laws that ban gay marriage are, you guessed it, older and more set in their ways. Which also means that they were not raised in an open environment like today and right now, they are the voting majority. But I would bet money that in about four or five more years, when the last of the Generation Yers are legally able to vote, it won’t matter that the old dogs can’t be taught new tricks and prop 8 will seem like a dot far away in the distance.

  7. taylor nikole Says:

    ughh dude! i totally missed this!
    haha
    i was just scrolling right by it 🙂

    ughh this made me mad…
    and i live in one of the states that banned it.
    Mari didn’t seem very happy with us -_-

    and it made me realize something while talking to her about it… it doesn’t just affect the people in those areas, but everyone else in what some consider that ‘minority’.

    wow i actually talked to my teacher about this today,,,
    she said something like
    “my cousin is gay… she has the crappiest attitude, but i think its weird how her wife can make her so happy when no one else can, i guess love is just love and its a gift”
    and then she added.
    “especially since there is hope in making that person happy”

    dude i totally agreed.
    love is love

    and @ kendra

    im not sure if its being scared… rather than, in a way, selfishness.

  8. taylor nikole Says:

    ^^ im not even sure if my reply to kendra was english *sigh*

  9. G Says:

    It was Taylornese 😛

  10. taylor nikole Says:

    oh i speak it fluently 🙂
    LOL

  11. G Says:

    I should hope so haha.

  12. taylor nikole Says:

    hahah i took 15 years of it
    mhm
    and 2 years of french
    and then english
    nope
    i cant speak that

  13. Le Amazing Mari Says:

    lol this is the 2nd time I see my name randomly popping out here haha

    Yeaaaah needless to say I wasn’t impressed with prop 8 being passed. Meh!

    Nope, no pretty words to address this issue at the moment lol Here is to hoping that someday everyone will have equal rights.

  14. Maxima Says:

    I’m for gay marriages, but I’m against gay couple
    raising children. Too much of the same influence on a little person.

  15. taylor nikole Says:

    your name only pops up because you are special
    “stop eating that paste mari”

    well no, you also did inform me while i was debating prop 8 with rich… so i give you props :-p

  16. Ashley Says:

    im probably in the middle because i could care less if you get married. If you’re happy with the person you’re in love with it and you know they are who you’re gonna spend the rest of your life with then do it. Get married, it doesn’t matter what others think. If people actually believe that gay marriage should be against the law is ignorant because you’re not letting people be happy. This is a happy country. The land of the free it shouldn’t be against the law.

  17. dom Says:

    I think gay marriage is a good thing
    If that can shock some ,we can calls differently but gives gays the same rights as heterosexual, the society must serve people and not the other way … and the times are changing (I hope)
    In France some Mayor (Green Party) spent marriages gays, and unfortunately after they had some troubles.
    Dom

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