Marriage Without Boundaries: Gay Marriage
The issue of gay marriage has been in the spotlight recently, partially due to the push for equality of rights across the wide spectrum of humanity. The belief that all humans everywhere deserve to have the same rights across the board is not a new idea. Since early humans started migrating and moving, there have been various class systems and castes, each one pushing forwards for the betterment of themselves and their families. Homosexual individuals have always taken a backseat to heterosexual individuals, shunned and looked down upon. However, with the equal rights movement, we are starting to see the consequences of not affording certain sectors of people the same marital rights as everyone else.
Allowing same sex marriage would benefit their financial health, emotional health, family unit, and allow the basic human right to get married. Homosexuality is not only seen in one species only, it has been observed in many different species in the animal kingdom. Primates in specific, have been known to bond for extended periods of time in homosexual relationships. A pair of penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo have seemed to pair for life, feather preening, entwining necks and flipper flapping among other gestures of affection have been noticed along with completely ignoring the zoo’s female penguins. (8) Dolphins which are some of the only animals who have been observed to have intercourse for fun, also have documented incidents of same sex relationships while ignoring the females of the same species.
Male flamingos have been observed do court each other with elaborate displays as they would a female, build nests together and raise foster chicks with each other. (8) In some cases, researchers believe, it is an evolutionary reaction to the overpopulation of certain sexes. It provides superior offspring care, supplying more parent tandems. More than 1,500 animal species have been noted to have lasting, bonding homosexual behavior noted over time. Health insurance in America is a strange, strange concept, worth examining in relation to gay marriage. The two may not seem like they have much in common until you understand that to cover your spouse with your health insurance, you must first have a spouse. According to the Movement Advancement Project(1) there are nearly 400,000 LGBT individuals in Ohio alone. All of these people are faced with the same legal, financial and medical decisions we all are.
Who will handle our medical wishes if we become incapacitated? Who can have access to our bank accounts? How will we cover our loved ones under our health insurance. For most people this is a non-issue, they will never have to worry about the legality of their sexuality. For those that do however, there is the frustrating concept that with the stroke of a pen, they will no longer be able to help cover their same sex spouse with health insurance, they will be able to be overridden by their spouses family when it comes to end of life or emergency decisions. Marriage equality is essential for these issues to become a thing of the past. The natural assurance a straight couple has that they will legally be able to support and care for their spouse should be a feeling that all couples should be able to enjoy, regardless of their sexuality.
Even the U.S. Supreme Court has declared 14 times since 1888 that the institution of marriage was open to men and women both, without any limitation in regards to religion, race or nationality. (7) The option to adopt a child is open to straight couples as long as they pass certain criteria. The same option is ‘open’ to homosexual couples, however, the criteria for the adoption to go through seems to be more complex than hetrosexual couples. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that there are still adoption agencies that discriminate against alternative lifestyle couples(2). Many of the faith based agencies will actively chose straight couples over LGBT couples, citing financial or environmental issues with the latter (3).Even in the workplace, there are many obstacles in the way of LGBT would be parents, from no ‘maternity leave’ to discrimination on FMLA (family medical leave of absence). Forming families, traditional or otherwise, is part of the fundamental human experience.
The bond formed of marriage and parenthood regardless of the circumstances, is extremely important to our mental health. We form families as a network of support, something to catch us if we fall, and everyone is entitled to make their own net as they so choose. The inherent joy and happiness that comes with saying “I do” is something that should be available to everyone. According to Abraham Maslow psychologically, there is a need for happiness and safety for a human being to thrive and flourish.
Physiological needs are food, water, shelter, air, warmth and clothing, which most people in America do have access to. Once these needs are met, however, our psychological needs come into play, the need for love, belonging, dignity, independence and friendship. These are considered to be “higher needs” (4) those emerging when our basic life necessities are met. Considering these needs are necessary to a higher functioning human experience, they should not be restricted by the need to have certain attractions. The rush of joy and pleasure upon seeing our significant other is not restricted by sexuality so the idea of marriage should not be either. The need for intimacy is a necessary human psychological need and the legitimacy of a marriage should not be based on where they fall on the Kinsey scale. The next need on Maslow’s pyramid is the need for self actualization, which is the need to develop ourselves as individuals. This can mean our creativity, our need to write, paint, draw, sing or dance. This need is not dependant on our sexuality, but the need for family is, which makes no sense at all. One of the most basic human rights is the one to be accepted into society without reservation.
Homosexuality is no longer considered to be a ‘disease’ or ‘mental illness’. However it wasn’t until 1973 that homosexuality was removed from the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) which was widely used to treat and diagnose a variety of physical and mental conditions. (5) By removing this from the manual, it has removed some of the stigma from the orientation and allowed people to accept and understand that homosexuality is not a condition but rather it is a normal variant of adult human sexuality. This understanding has changed the social script when it comes to alternative lifestyles and allowed people to enjoy their lives in the open rather than behind closed doors. The chant of ‘love is love’ has become the rallying cry of equality and the driving force to allow everyone to enjoy the benefits of marriage, despite their orientation. Aside from the emotional repercussions of not allowing marriage between same sex couples, there are serious financial consequences.
According to Forbes financial (6) married couples enjoy certain tax breaks and the ability to give gifts or financially support each other without having to pay additional taxes. The highest allowable gift amount for unmarried couple is $14,000 a year. Is that all we spend on a significant other during the year? That includes food, rent or mortgage, medical bills, car payment and insurance for your spouse. As a married couple, you can contribute to your spouse’s retirement fund and if something should happen to your spouse, you can receive their retirement and social security(6). Unmarried couples can do none of these things, even with domestic partnership or civil union. As a spouse, you have more control over the situation if your partner was suddenly incapacitated in a medical emergency such as a car accident or heart attack. If you are not the blood relative or spouse of the incapable person, you have no control over their situation. If the parents of one person dislikes the other? Things will be tied up in court instead of allowing the family to spend their time helping to heal. If your partner passes away without a will, their estate will go to next of kin, not to a partner, without the protection that marriage affords.
Even buying a home is easier under the umbrella of marriage, most loan companies will balk at the idea of loaning a home loan to a single person and you can not file jointly without first being married. The legal and financial protects found within the walls of a marriage should be a common sense idea that envelopes everyone without reservation. The original trope of marriage is supposed to be between a man and a women, but if we hold to antiquated ideas like that we will never move forward as a society. The stagnation of thought is a pitfall that has caught humanity time and time again.
During the Dark Ages, we eschewed philosophical thought for stagnant religion and humanity suffered greatly for it. Just like the Dark Ages, we as a society hold our decisions against an imaginary moral yardstick, judging everything based on outdated thought patterns and ideals. We have already discounted the thought that homosexuality is an illness, which was ‘supported’ by many highly decorated physicians of the time. At the time of women’s suffrage, many men decried the very idea that a woman had the mental capacity to understand the varied nuances of political doctorate. Now we have women running for the presidency, women holding office, women running countries. This is not so far removed from the idea of equality in marriage, many are rallying to prevent it without wanting to see the damage they are causing. If we have learned nothing else from the repression of groups of individuals throughout the course of our history, it should be the lesson that these progressive ideas generally eventually will win out and being on the wrong side of history is embarrassing.
Admittedly, we are a long way from our ancestors locking their relatives up for displaying ‘strange notions’ of alternative forms of love or expression. Still we have a long way to go until it is safe and normal for someone to love and live freely in their lifestyle. Before the Dark Ages, it seems that homosexualty was not only tolerated, but it was a seemingly acceptable form of existence. It wasn’t until after the reformation that it was suddenly scorned and reviled due to the church condemning the behavior as unnatural. These religious teachings soon turned into law as the separation of church and state was an unheard of concept. These laws against homoasexuality not only persisted in puritanical countries, but it followed the expansion of humanity to new continents. Holding on to these ideals, however would have not allowed humanity to move forward in the least. Slaves would never have been freed, women wouldn’t have the right to vote and stove pipe hats would have still been in style. And no one wants that.
One of the main arguments against marriage equality is that it is an institution for the purpose of procreation, which is not even remotely correct because if that were the case, couples who are unable to have children would be stopped from entering marriage. There would be a gigantic public outcry over the thought of heterosexual couples not being allowed to participate in what is seen as their given right. In some places it is even seen as a rite of passage into adulthood Even some heterosexual couples are opting for a childless lifestyle, choosing each other and a life together, rather than procreation. These modern ideals are being incorporated into modern marriages so the idea that the same goals would be denied to another couple based on their sexuality is ridiculous. The Catholic church takes the same stance on marriage without procreation as it does on gay marriage, but historically it is one of the more conservative faith based institutions.
Although with most churches, it will absorb modern ideals that will help it remain relevant and attractive to its congregation. Previously in the Catholic faith, you could not marry if the couple were of two different faiths, but now there is the option to convert or simply marry anyways. Adaptation is a fundamental process in history, whether we are talking about faith or societal norms. Most of America has been raised to see the leaving of one’s parents house and the entering into a new house and a marriage, as a turning point in our lives. There are multiple rituals and parties that occur around the same, most denoting the arrival of adulthood and entry into marriageable age. The Jewish faith has the Bar and Bat Mitzvah to signal the impending arrival of additional responsibility and ability to follow Jewish law as an adult.
Rumspringa is the Amish coming of age tradition, the Apache nation has the Sunrise Ceremony, Japaneese youth have Seijin-no-Hi, but all of these people have homosexual members. What must it be like knowing that you’re coming of age and you have no hope of a fruitful life with someone you actually love. How degrading and demoralizing, humiliatinng and dehumanizing it must be to realize every morning that you wont ever be able to be yourself and you have to fake it, “Gay marriage won’t lead to dog marriage. It is not a slippery slope to rampant inter-species coupling. When women got the right to vote, it didn’t lead to hamsters voting. No court has extended the equal protection clause to salmon. And for the record, all marriages are “same sex” marriages. You get married, and every night, it’s the same sex.” This was stated by Bill Maher of late night television and it continues to ring true. Just because same sex marriage is legalized, does not mean that people will push the legislation into the realm of weirdness.
The only thing people are asking for is equality. The legal permission to love and protect who they love and protect, the ability to do the same things that straight couples have been able to do for centuries. Gay marriage should not be revolutionary, it should never be acceptable to live in fear of love. In conclusion, the ‘radical’ idea of marriage equality, same sex marriage, homosexual marriages, should not be radicalized in the first place. This is an issue of human rights, whether it is right for one group to deny the rights of another group based on fear or cited religious reasons. It is a simple conversation about whether we believe that all humans have the same unencumbered rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Gay marriage is necessary because no matter how you believe, family is one of the driving forces behind our economy and our country. Regardless of how the family is formed, the fact still stands that the love inside the word ‘family’ is the same. It means home, it means safety and it means security, but only if we can agree as a country that ‘family’ is still family no matter who you are.