Mr. Adam Million
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Moderating Gay Rights
Homosexuality is a relative newcomer to the American political scene. Just fifty years ago it was taboo to even speak of intimate relations with another member of the same sex let along engage in them. Today, the debate over homosexual rights rages on amongst lawmakers and ordinary citizens alike. Should homosexuals be allowed to marry? Should homosexual couples be allowed to adopt and raise children? These questions are frequent topics of discussion when considering gay and lesbian rights. As Americans, it is our duty to effectively solve problems through the age-old methods of debate and compromise. In addition to this duty, as homosexuality becomes more and more socially acceptable, more and more men and women are announcing their homosexuality. The more time that passes, the more people these issues directly affect; as a corollary, it is increasingly necessary to directly mediate and deal with these issues.
The debate over whether or not homosexuals should be allowed the right to marry is one of the most popular debates of our day. On one hand, many people believe that allowing gays the right to marry would defile the sacred union, defined by them as “the union of one man and one woman” (Sears). In essence, proponents of this side of the issue believe that allowing same-sex couples to wed would change the definition of marriage itself. They believe that since marriage is a union overseen by the church, that the church, not the state, should control issues regarding marriage. Indeed , this ideal has been protected under federal law in the past. In 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act “which defined marriage for purposes of federal law as the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” (Bush). This is all well and good; after all, a majority of Americans would consider themselves to be members of the Christian faith, but this view misses the fact that because homosexuals are not allowed to marry, they miss out on many fiscal benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples. The fact of the matter is that barring same-sex couples from these rights and incentives is simply un-American as it deprives the rights of a minority based on personal, private choices. Many politicians today support a sort of middle ground between these two views. They submit that it would be detrimental to change the definition of marriage; they offer the solution of a civil union. This is a compromise that allows gays and lesbians to reap the benefits of a monogamous relationship while not altering the definition of marriage. This compromise is supported by many notable, respected American politicians such as Barack Obama, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, and Delaware Senator Joe Biden.
As previously mentioned, marriage carries with it many legal and financial incentives. Among these incentives are tax incentives, social security survivor benefits, and health insurance benefits (“What is a Civil Union?”). While civil unions do give said benefits to homosexual and lesbian couples, they do not allow quite the same things that a standard marriage would carry with it. For example, “immigration (a partner who's a foreign national can't become an American by entering into a civil union with someone) and veterans' and military benefits (only opposite-sex spouses have a right to pensions, compensation for service-related deaths, medical care, housing and the right to burial in veterans’ cemeteries)” (“What is a Civil Union?”). This should satisfy both parties as it keeps the right heterosexuals feeling special because they get a few extra benefits without changing the definition of marriage yet keeps the left happy at the same time because homosexuals can then share in the benefits that married heterosexuals enjoy. Allowing gays the right to civil unions and not marriage could be argued as a violation of the first amendment of the Constitution, however, as previously stated, the majority of Americans think in a way that reflects Christian ideals. This makes civil unions more of a cultural resolution than a religious one.
According to respected columnist and editor James Kirchick, “there’s nothing inherently wrong or shameful about being gay” (11). If that’s the case, then why are homosexuals in many cases not allowed to adopt and raise children? The right claims that there have been studies that same-sex couples cause detrimental effects on children raised under their care. Interestingly enough, the left asserts that not one single study conclusively proves that. With such contradiction, how is it possible to moderate this issue? Since both parties believe that scientific evidence supports their claims, it is obviously a tricky issue. Many conservatives who would argue the point that same-sex couples harm children could also claim that the basic family structure is at the heart of American society and good, conservative values. If that’s the case, then why would they argue against gay adoption? Allowing same-sex couples to adopt would create more stable two-parent families in this country and in turn bolster the cultural fabric of this nation. A suitable, mediated agreement to the impasse would be to allow homosexuals to marry only if they are currently in a civil union with a stable partner with a stable income; the same sort of rules that apply to heterosexual couples wishing to adopt.
Homosexuality is an issue often at the forefront of political debate. It is increasingly fought over in courts and society. While it is never possible to perfectly appease both parties in such a heated debate, it is possible to moderate the issues and come out with a compromise that is at least livable with both parties. Gays and lesbians have been persecuted and discriminated against for far too long. Homosexuality has been treated as a disease. Doctors thought that castration and life-long incarceration were both scientifically sound strategies for dealing with homosexuality (Tulin). Some people consider it a disease and even go as far as to blame homosexuals for the creation of AIDS and HIV. These “facts” are wholly unproven, unsupported lies used simply to blind Americans to the truth that homosexuality is not harmful. Doesn’t it seem like time to let them have at least a few of the rights they really deserve as human beings?
Bush, George. "President Calls for Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage ." Remarks
by the President 24 Feb 2004 6 Dec 2007
Kirchick, "A magazine's 'outing' says much about gay rights today." USA Today 0734745622
Aug 2007 11. 6 Dec 2007
Sears, Alan. "New York Decision Keeps Traditional Definition of Marriage in Play." Intellectual
Conservative 7 July 2006 6 Dec 2007
Tulin, Edward L.. "Where Everything Old is New Again--Enduring Episodic Discrimination Against Homosexual Persons." Texas Law Review 84:1587(2006).
"What is a Civil Union?." Fact Check. 9 Aug 2007. Annenberg Public Policy Center of the
University of Pennsylvania. 6 Dec 2007