Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage: Is It More Than a Religious Debate?
by Lei Cristine S.P. Garcia
Same-sex marriage is an issue that every American should take seriously. It is a current fight involving the basic civil rights of many individuals who seek what heterosexuals have. This issue is so controversial because there is not a lot of striking statistical information that proves whether there are solely negative or positive affects of this type of institution. There are mostly assumptions or fears as to what legalization will bring American society, and the only way to really gain more information would be to actually do something about it. The most interested parties are individuals who are homosexuals, feminists, religious extremists, and anyone open to change. These are the parties that will have the most impact with either supporting, or denying arguments within this topic. Some may agree with legalization stating that it would protect homosexual’s rights and advocate stronger relationships. While many argue that there are solely negative effects, others may be indifferent understanding both sides of the issue. The following three articles will represent the ideas that surround this issue in American society now and in the future, at the same time providing the pro, con, and neutral views. In “Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Would Strengthen Marriage”, Andrew Sullivan believes that same-sex marriage would protect homosexual’s civil rights as well as advocate strong steady relationships. Sullivan, the former editor of the New Republic, a magazine of politics and culture provides some appeal to ethos (Sullivan). His credibility can be assumed because he works as an editor for a political magazine that has most likely dealt with many controversial topics. The intended audiences for this article are educated individuals who are interested in learning how the negative aspects of same-sex marriage can be disproved. He gives a summary of the recent legal information about the undecided Federal Marriage Amendment before his main points informing his audience of the current progress(Sullivan). Sullivan first confronts the idea of sex and sexual difference when it comes to homosexual unions (Sullivan). According to Stanley Kurtz a cultural conservative critic, “Marriage springs directly from the ethos of heterosexual sex. Once marriage loses its connection to the difference between men and women, it can only start to resemble a glorified and slightly less temporary version of hooking up” (qtd. in Sullivan). It could be assumed that the typical explanation is that because there is no man and woman in a marriage, there is nothing keeping these homosexual couples from procreating freely. Sullivan’s rebuttal is that heterosexuals were the first to change marriage into an equal partnership without so much emphasis on gender roles. His belief is that because the idea of marriage has been changed it can now accept gays too (Sullivan). Sullivan continues with the next biggest argument that there is no monogamy among homosexuals. He specifically explains that gay men can not handle being in monogamous relationships, and insists that this argument does not adjust to lesbians who are assumed to be more monogamous (Sullivan). Sullivan’s counterargument is that in Vermont there are “twice as many lesbian civil unions as gay male ones” and “lesbians are up to four times more likely to get married than gay men” (Sullivan). He then concludes that society would have more monogamous lesbians unions. It is also Sullivan’s strong opinion that gay men are not always expressing their sexual freedom. He contends that many of them are honestly interested in the idea of social stability found in marriage including the financial support and security associated with it (Sullivan). Some may then argue it is unfair to automatically believe that gay couples can not achieve monogamy because marriage is a choice. In Denmark, where gay marriage has been around for quite some time, scholar Darren Spedale found, “the rate of straight marriages rose 10 percent and the rate of straight divorces decreased by 12 percent” (qtd. in Sullivan). Some may insinuate that these astounding numbers would lead individuals to understand that same-sex marriage is not purely negative. It is implied that Sullivan’s overall claim is that homosexual institutions can help strengthen the culture of marriage (Sullivan). The author has a mediocre appeal to logos by including some statistics when it comes to same-sex marriages. However, it is overwhelming information that would not necessarily convince his audience entirely that they should believe him. The evidence is lacking in arguing all the common grievances against same-sex marriage like, family structure. Sullivan appeals to pathos with a topic that infringes upon homosexuals’ civil rights and the fact that these unions are solely being regarded as negative. He approaches the topic as legalization being a solution to America’s scarred societal ego. This is effective because he defends same-sex marriage by saying it can have positive effects, like an overall strengthening of the institution of marriage. The against argument comes from the article “Gay Marriage Threatens Families” by Stanley Kurtz, a contributing editor at the National Review Online and research fellow at Hoover Institution. It is directly stated that Kurtz’s overall claim is that legalizing same-sex marriage would have only negative effects for marriage and for families (Kurtz). He claims, “marriage will be transformed into a variety of relationship contracts, linking two, three, or more individuals (however weakly and temporarily) in every conceivable combination of male and female” (Kurtz). This article appeals to ethos because Kurtz is a research fellow who is interested in factual and statistical evidence. This article is intended for an educated audience who is already informed about the topic of same-sex marriage. Some would also say that this article is just for individuals looking for supplementary information. This article acknowledges that same-sex marriages could provide the effect of the slippery slope into legalized polygamy, and that monogamy within marriage will cease to exist. Kurtz begins by stating the ideas against monogamy by gay marriage advocates, and then explains how they will eventually reform marriage (Kurtz). One of gay marriage’s most intelligent defenders, Andrew Sullivan reasons, “To the best of my knowledge, there is no polygamists’ rights organizations poised to exploit same-sex marriage and return the republic to polygamous abandon” (qtd. in Kurtz). Kurtz then responds that there are actually many organizations that attribute their success to the gaining popularity of gay marriage (Kurtz). He also points out that with polygamy, divorce rates will increase stating, “One study puts that rate of 19th-century polygamist divorce at triple the rate for monogamous families” (Kurtz). Kurtz reports a new idea of polygamy, which is called polyamory, an assortment of sexual combinations. For example: lesbians groups, bi-sexual individuals, and heterosexual group marriages promoting promiscuity. His biggest issue is that these ideas will eventually re-imagine the meaning of a traditional family. Children need a traditional, stable family setting which can only be provided by marriage of a monogamous couple, he declares. He even touches upon the idea of convenience associated with gay marriage and how it offers financial benefits. Kurtz disputes that there is nothing that will stop two heterosexual females from marrying each other in order to receive these benefits (Kurtz). Alan J. Hawkins, a professor at Brigham Young University adds that these benefits, “would turn marriage into the moral equivalent of a Social Security Benefit” (qtd. in Kurtz). The author uses many credible sources and quotes from educated individuals to provide for a strong appeal to logos. The evidence is very strong in defending how same-sex marriage could eventually open a can of worms when it comes to marriage. Kurtz’s studies and statements are based off factual and statistical information. Some think his appeal to pathos is very strong as well because this article is so concerned with the future of marriage within society and how it will be perceived in the long run if we decide to legalize gay marriage. By emphasizing thoughts of children growing up in non-traditional homes and how marriage will cease to exist forever makes this article effective emotionally. The final argument straddles the fence with the idea that same-sex marriage is allowing for freedom and takes a look at why it is a worthy cause comparing the positive and negative aspects. “Why Gays Should Support Same-Sex Marriage” by Richard Goldstein reports that democratic and progressive organizations are having a hard time committing to the gay marriage movement. Goldstein is an executive editor for the Village Voice, a book author, and the 2001 Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s columnist of the year. He recognizes that homosexuals should be allowed the option to get married not the obligation. At the same time he states some of the possible positive and negative effects. According to the title, this article is mostly intended to target gays who are undecided on the topic and Goldstein is trying to gain their support in any way possible. It is also written for educated individuals who want to understand other viewpoints, especially the opinions of democrats and progressives. One way the author appeals to ethos is by being an executive editor of what seems to be a culturally motivated publication. This is important because he probably encounters a lot of topics that are controversial and it would make him good at reporting all sides of the issue. His columnist of year award from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also appeals to ethos because it represents that he is familiar with the gay and lesbian community. Goldstein directly states his overall claim to be that the legalization of same-sex marriage has not gained much support from either democratic or progressive organizations. Not even celebrities have expressed enough interest to hold a fundraiser in honor of same-sex marriage he notes. However, he lists some groups such as National Organization for Women (NOW), the Leadership Council for Civil Rights, and National Association for the Advancement of Color People (NAACP) who have provided some support. Goldstein reports that some are too concerned with the future of marriage and families, while progressive groups who have joined in the fight are still not providing enough support (Goldstein). Goldstein emphasizes the first argument against gay marriage is that there are many possible consequences (Goldstein). Judith Levine from the Village Voice says, “In seeking to replicate marriage, reformers may stall the achievement of real sexual freedom and social equality for everyone” (qtd. in Goldstein). Some critics may even say that Levine’s belief is that the legalization of gay marriage takes away from the main issue of human rights and that it should be the first thing to argue against. On the other hand, queer theorist Michael Warner argues that marriage is trying to get homosexuals to become normal and that normal is not a characteristic that they should be trying to achieve, referring to marriage as “selective legitimacy” (qtd. in Goldstein). The counter argument reviewed by Goldstein is that this is an opportunity to change “an oppressive institution” and open the minds of many (Goldstein). Also, he asserts that gays and lesbians believe their relationships should be recognized legally as much as any heterosexual relationship. Goldstein continues by explaining that besides restricting freedom, a ban on this type of institution would create an even bigger upset to society. He even writes that an amendment that denies marriage to homosexuals would be negative in the support to end discrimination and it would allow inequality to grow. The fear of gay unions hides what Goldstein establishes as the idea that the amendment is truly targeting unfaithful heterosexuals and rapidly increasing divorce rates (Goldstein). The final statements of Goldstein’s neutral position focus on what homosexuals can gain from marriage rights. He states that they will be able to get their partner’s social security, qualify for public housing, gain access to healthcare and so on. Without same-sex marriage, he claims that homosexuals will be in the constantly poor lower class, and these are the same individuals who can gain so much from marriage. Goldstein then argues that everyone should be able to have these rights to begin with, no matter what your sexual preference (Goldstein). This article appeals to logos with quoted opinions of credible individuals. However, due to lack of strong statistical evidence and being more based on opinion some may reason that his argument is unreliable. Pathos is evident in that Goldstein presents this idea that homosexuals need support to gain their basic right of marriage. The appeal is strong because it is unfair that these gay and lesbian Americans can not be viewed as equal. The legalization of same-sex marriage is a very controversial topic filled with many opinions, but there are only three main arguments that represent the ideas that surround this issue in American society. The pro argument informs that it would protect homosexual’s rights as well as advocate stronger heterosexual relationships. Then, the con argument claims that there are only negative effects for marriage and families. The neutral argument defends that an amendment banning homosexual unions is not necessarily the answer and argues both sides of the issue. The most persuasive article is the argument against same-sex marriage by Stanley Kurtz. This article presents so much information touching upon many different aspects as to why this type of institution should not be legalized. It also provides lots of strong statistical evidence that is very convincing. The other two articles only touch upon some main ideas, like monogamy, and they do not give as much of a compelling appeal to logos. My current opinion is that I support the legalization of same-sex marriage based on the fact that it complies with the United States Constitution.