Same Sex Marriage Issue

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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A social institution is an aspect of society that is socially constructed. The primary institution of family can be further divided into the secondary institute of marriage, which can be even further divided into the social institution of same-sex marriage. The social institution of same-sex marriage can be interpreted in all three ways and has different functions and meanings in each of the three perspectives. The structural functional perspective acknowledges that while conflict does happen, it is only temporary. The conflict theory says that being a subcategory automatically places you at a lower social standing than the majority, and the symbolic interaction theory states that the value of the social standing is based upon the items that carry meaning in that particular social institution.

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Same-sex marriage was declared legal in the United States because banning it was said to be contradictory to the constitution. From a structural functional point of view, society is supposed to run smoothly as long as people do their jobs and institutions follow their preset rules. Same-sex marriage challenges that idea because marriage’s manifest function in society is to procreate and then to raise those children based on the ideals that society upholds. However, people of the same sex cannot biologically have children. Some people oppose same-sex marriages on the grounds that they cannot have biological children, therefore, should not have the privilege of getting married. Conversely, supporters of same-sex marriage argue that these couples can have children through surrogate mothers or in vitro fertilization. These processes allow same-sex couples to fulfill the manifest function of marriage, thereby legitimating it. Same-sex married couples with children say that they “view themselves and were viewed by others as married” (Heaphy, 2017). Defining marriage based on this manifest function does not consider the heterosexual married couples who do not have children, but are still considered married in society.

The dysfunction of the institution of same-sex marriage includes financial issues causing strain on the relationship and family and a loss of communication in the relationship, a factor that same-sex couples value when asked about important factors in their relationships (Heaphy, 2017). The manifest function of same-sex marriage is to allow two people to be emotionally involved with each other in a permanent and official manner. The latent functions of same-sex marriage could lead to more people campaigning for other unconventional marriage options to be made legal, such as polygamy, and an increase of adoption since people of the same sex are not able to have biological children together. An increase in adoption could lead to fewer children in the foster care system and more children enrolled full-time in a school due to a stable home environment, possibly reducing the number of adolescents and children living on the streets.

People who identify as part of the LGBTQ community are seen as a minority group. According to conflict theory, society operates based on a system of social inequalities like class, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Some of these inequalities benefit certain individuals, while putting others at a social deficit. This social inequality then leads to conflict, which results in change. Same-sex marriage has been a moral, political, and religious issue worldwide because it is a sub-category within society. A moral issue that same-sex marriage brings up is the belief that it violates the traditional view of marriage in society. This causes uneasiness in the public toward people in same-sex relationships. This form of cultural shock, therefore, puts same-sex couples and the LGBTQ community at a disadvantage within the rest of society (Bernstein, 2018). Same-sex marriages are also seen as inferior to marriages between a man and a woman because of the belief that it “creates a sterile union” rather than a family (Bernstein, 2018).

The disadvantage faced by same-sex couples is the fact that until 2015, same-sex marriage was illegal in all 50 states in America. However, in other countries, same-sex marriage is still not legal. In countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, people in same-sex relationships can face the death penalty, thereby placing them at a much lower social standing than heterosexual couples. This can lead them to face more problems and issues due to discrimination and persecution. Movements that fight for equal social standing of LGBTQ couples date back to the 1920s; the first of which was The Society for Human Rights, founded in Chicago by Harry Gerber. In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council passed an order to fight discrimination and violence towards LGBTQ couples and the community. As more and more countries start to legalize same-sex marriage, those that were initially opposed to the idea are beginning to develop anti-discriminatory laws to partially protect the rights of their LGBTQ population.

Symbolic interaction takes symbols and general social interactions and explains how they relate to a specific social institution, such as same-sex marriage. For many individuals in same-sex relationships, for example, the option of living together may have “significance in terms of commitment and perceived benefits” (Haas & Whitton, 2015). This means that the option of getting married and subsequently moving in together may provide same-sex couples with validation that their partnership is real, especially in places where same-sex marriage is not yet legalized. When their partnership is officially recognized by the state, it can instill a greater sense of commitment and loyalty. Thus, “cohabitation” provides a symbol of an official partnership and can give the people in the relationship a stronger sense of commitment and devotion to each other. Living together also portrays to the outside world that the people living together are emotionally involved (Haas & Whitton, 2015).

In general, in marriage, rings are a typical way to express devotion and loyalty to another person. Rings serve as a symbol that denotes a person’s emotional involvement with another. They work by providing a sense of unity between the married couple. Unity is conveyed through the uniformity in the two rings which are typically of the same color and design. This presents a message to outsiders that the two people wearing matching rings are emotionally involved. The rings serve to unite the two partners in same-sex marriage the same way it does for heterosexual marriages. Therefore, the rings reflect mutual understanding between the couple, which then conveys to the rest of society that they are involved in a committed relationship.

By analyzing social institutions from these three different perspectives, it is possible to further understand the small subcategories of society and consequently, society as a whole. From a structural-functional approach, same-sex marriage is seen as a temporary conflict. It can also be seen as a defining factor in becoming a minority group that holds a lower social standing in society. The value placed on its material items or the actions of its members can define it.


  1. Bernstein, M. (n.d.). Same-Sex Marriage and the Assimilationist Dilemma: A Research Agenda on Marriage Equality and the Future of LGBTQ Activism, Politics, Communities, and Identities. Retrieved from
  2. C. F., & D. R. (n.d.). Same-Sex Marriage: Global Comparisons. Retrieved from
  3. Haas, S. M., & Whitton, S. W. (2015). The Significance of Living Together and Importance of Marriage in Same-Sex Couples. Journal of Homosexuality,62(9), 1241-1263. doi:10.1080/00918369.2015.1037137
  4. Heaphy, B. (2017, September 14). Reflexive convention: Civil partnership, marriage and family. Retrieved from
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Same Sex Marriage Issue. (2021, May 10). Retrieved from