Same Sex Marriage Issue

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Updated: May 10, 2021
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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 says that the value of the social standing is based upon the items that carry meaning in that particular social institution.

Same Sex marriage was declared legal in the United States because banning it was a said to be contradicting 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, and acknowledges that while conflict does happen, the issues that occur are temporary. 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 because people of the same sex cannot biologically have children. People opposed to the idea of same sex couples believe that because they cannot have biological children together, same sex relationships should not have the privilege of getting married to each other. However, on the other side, people who support same sex marriage use the fact that same sex couples can use surrogates and in vitro procedures to have children, and therefore fulfilling the manifest function of marriage and making their marriage official. Same sex married couples with kids 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 kids, but are still considered to be married in society.

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Dysfunctions for the institute of same sex marriage include financial issues causing strain on the relationship and family and a loss of communication in the relationship, something that same sex couples value when asked about important factors in a relationship (Heaphy, 2017). The manifest function of same sex marriage would be 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 of adoption could also lead to less kids in the foster care system and more children enrolled full time at a school due to a stable home environment. Possibly also reducing the number of adolescents and kids living on the streets.

People who identify as a part of the LGBTQ community are seen as a minority group. According to the conflict theory, society operates based on a system of social inequalities like class, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Some of these benefit others while putting others at a social deficit, and social inequality then leads to conflict which leads to change. Same sex marriage has been a moral, political and religious issue world wide because it is a subcategory in society. A moral issue that same sex marriage brings 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 culture shock then, as a result, puts same sex couples and the LGBTQ community at a disadvantage from 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 idea that it “creates a sterile union” rather than a family (Bernstein, 2018).

The disadvantage faced by same sex couples is the fact that up until 2015 same sex marriage was not legal in all 50 states in America. However in other countries, same sex marriage is still not legalized and in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, people in same sex relations can face the death penalty. Therefore placing them in a much lower social standing than heterosexual couples. This can then give them more problems and issues in society because of discrimination and persecution. Movements that fight for equal social standing of LGBTQ couples dates back to the 1920’s; 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 are starting to legalize same sex marriage, the countries that were initially opposed to the idea of same sex marriage are starting 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, in this case, same sex marriage. The option of living together for example may for many individuals in same-sex relationships have “significance in terms of commitment and perceived benefits,” (Haas & Whitton, 2015). Meaning that the option of getting married and consequently moving in may give same sex couples validation that their partnership is real, specifically in places where same sex marriage is not yet legalized. When partnership is official by the state it can instill a greater sense of commitment and loyalty out of obligation. Therefore “cohabitation” provides a symbol of an official partnership and can give the people in the relationship a stronger sense of commitment and devotion towards each other. Living together also portrays an understood message that the people living together are emotionally involved (Haas & Whitton, 2015). In marriage, in general, rings are a typical way to express a devotion and loyalty to another person. Rings serve as a symbol that states a person’s emotional involvement with another. Rings do this by providing a sense of unity between the married couple. Unity is presented by the uniformity in the two rings; they are typically the same color and design. It lets outsiders know the two people wearing coordinated rings are emotionally involved. They serve to unite the two partners in same sex marriage the same way it does for heterosexual marriage. Therefore meaning that, rings reflect a mutual understanding between the couple which then conveys to the rest of society the fact that they are involved in a committed relationship.

By analyzing social institutions from the three different perspectives, it is possible to further understand the small subcategories of society and consequently better understand society as a whole. Same sex marriage is seen as a temporary conflict as presented by the structural functional approach. It can be also seen as a defining factor in becoming a minority group that holds a lower social standing in society, and can be defined based on the value it places on its material items or actions its members do.


  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