In addition to being viewed as a sacred institution, marriage has since time immemorial been understood as a religious and legal commitment between a woman and a man. Marriage is also considered as the ultimate expression of love between a man and a woman (Chauncey 16). This view has, however, been altered in the recent past with the commencement of homosexuality in different parts of the world, especially in the developed countries. Gay marriage has been around for some time and the fights for gay marriage rights have been gaining momentum around the world. Some of the Western countries have enacted legislation to ensure that gay marriages are not discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. It has also been observed that quite a number of individuals around the world are slowly embracing the idea of homosexual relationships, regardless of the fact that such couples have not yet been given a go ahead to marry (Gerstmann 43).
Countries that have accepted homosexuality, or rather legalized this form of sexual orientation, perform homosexual marriages in defiance of the law and, thus, have given rise to the debate of whether or not gay marriage should be legalized.
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It is easier for an individual to become reflective about the time in history when marriage was considered a settled activity and a time when no one would have entertained the notion of legalizing same sex marriage (Williams 134). While there are those who are in full support of gay marriage, there also are those who are totally against the idea, especially the religious groups. Majority of religions consider homosexuality a sin and an abomination, thus, should not even be considered or embraced by the society (Chauncey 21). Those in opposition of gay marriage also argue that by embracing this form of marriage, the whole idea of marriage institution as ordained since time immemorial would be weakened, leading to lack of respect for the heterosexual marriage. Gay marriage is considered to be confusing the younger generations with regards to gender responsibilities and expectations as per the society, for instance the fact that only a woman and a man can procreate (Gerstmann 44).
Same sex marriage is a controversial issue, because, according to the majority of religions, it is not religiously recognized and is not ordained by God, and for these reasons it is viewed as immoral. The gay marriage issue is complex due to the different opinions that people express concerning the topic. Liberals argue for the same sex marriage to be legalized, and that civil unions were available to homosexuals to allow same sex couples receive benefits. Conservatives, on the other hand, argue that neither civil unions nor gay marriage should be allowed to same sex couples, and legal union should be limited to heterosexual couples only.
According to legal battle over gay marriage (2011), marriage cannot be argued from a definition point of view and that it is a social contract that should also be granted to homosexual. It is clear that the author believes that homosexuals are able to form the long term relationships as straight couples, and giving homosexuals a right to affirm their relationships and commitments does not reduce the incentives for heterosexual to do the same. The other main point is that just like heterosexuals, homosexuals are capable of the sacrifice, the responsibility and the commitment because they have already enjoined these commitments and responsibilities and should not, therefore, be denied an equal legal standing.
Same sex marriage or civil unions have immerged as a controversial issue because of the growing acceptance of homosexuality. Long before, homosexual were thrown to jail and until 1950s when the first significant study on homosexuality was done, homosexuality was regarded as a mental illness (Marco 23). A more recent study on homosexuality revealed that an individual sexual orientation is the result of both genetic and environmental factors that are beyond the individual’s control. As a result of this study and others that have confirmed that some homosexual are born that way and it’s not their fault, the public has come to accept the fact that heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality are three forms of sexual orientation that are natural , unchangeable and normal (Marco 27).
It is also argued that same sex couples should be given equal right to marry just like any other person. Denying gay couples the right to marry will be violating the Universal human rights issue, health, physical and mental issues, the goals of normalizing LGBT and equality before the law. Arguments for same sex marriage are based on the fact that gay marriage is no longer a religious issue, but human rights argue on the fact that religious and civil institutions, as far as marriage is concerned, are two different entities. While civil unions grant same sex couples the right to marry and share responsibility, just like heterosexual marriages; religious marriage define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Those who argue against gay marriage base their argument on the religious teachings. Most religions, such as Christianity and Islam, prohibit gay marriage. It is believed that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Homosexuality is immoral and, according to the Bible, it is a capital offence. Leviticus 20:30 has stated clearly that the penalty for homosexuality is death for both parties involved. For most religious people marriage is considered to be a sacrament and a covenant between a man and a woman that is witnessed and blessed by God. Such people oppose same sex marriage citing the religious teaching and they feel that they will be violating their beliefs as far as their religion is concerned.
The fact that some states have accepted homosexuality and legalized it, makes more people accept it and with the increasing gay activists fighting for gay rights many people around the world have accepted same sex marriage. Christian believes towards homosexuality have been split with some denomination giving gay couples membership. Cultural view on marriage has also been altered where marriage is not viewed as a lifetime commitment where only death should separate two people who are married. Divorce rates are now at 50% and most couples are living together before marriage, with both men and women having children outside marriage. Perceptions on same sex marriages have been altered too and are now more accepting than before. All these factors have resulted in the controversy, surrounding gay marriage with more people accepting it while others arguing against it. According to Statistics on US family (Ca 9410), roughly 2 million American kids under the age of 18 are being raised by their gay parents.
Associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Sir Anthony Kennedy, came up with the liberty concept that had protection against sexual orientation. In a case involving Evans and Romer he gave a court opinion that nullified the Colorado constitution refuting homosexuals the right to forward local discrimination asserts. Justice Kennedy's view expressly ruled against the Court's judgment in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986).In all the cases Anthony Kennedy endorsed liberal members of the court. Anthony Kennedy, among other justices, upholds the American Boy Scout organization right that was to ban gays from being scout mastered. To show his support for homosexuals he blocked the Washington officials from publishing the names of those who have signed a petition for a Gay Rights Domestic Partnership law.
Most pro-gay marriage argues that marriage is based on trust, love and commitment to each other, and as long as two people are in love and committed to each other, they should be allowed to marry and live together, regardless of their sexual orientation. A number of same sex couples that have been given the go ahead to marry each other legally have proved that indeed, same sex marriage between two people who love each other can work just like any other heterosexual marriage. In fact the number of divorce in heterosexual marriage is increasing and this is threatening the heterosexual marriage institution. The marriage institutions convey respect and dignity to the same sex couples and reduce promiscuity.
If same sex couples are granted permission to marry then they would enjoy joint ownership of properties, insurance cover as well as medical cover among other benefits that married couples enjoy (United Nations 5). With the increasing number of children being raised by gay couples it is fair to give them an opportunity to enjoy parenthood as a couple where they will help each other in bringing up disciplined children and develop strong family ties.
The conflict theory maintains that there will always be conflict between different groups of people in the society regarding a certain issue. Gay marriage is one of this issues and will always have contradicting opinions with some having the believe that it is inborn and that they should be given the right to express their natural feelings, while others believing that private sexual acts between gays are illegal, because according to them marriage is sacred and supposed to be between a man and a woman.