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Same-sex marriage is the most conflicting issue in the contemporary social world. The opponents of the single-sex marriage propagate that same-sex marriage is harmful socially and morally whereas its proponents are of the view that same-sex marriage is an individual right that brings no harm to the society. This paper explores the both viewpoints in the social, religious and historical perspective.
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Marriage is not only a summation of two spouses but it is an all-encompassing phenomenon that includes social, cultural, moral and legal aspects. Marriage is developed as a social "patronaged" and culturally patterned institution that is much more that an intimate personal relationship as it has assimilated and incorporated itself with other social institutes. But its basics remain a variety of close associations between spouses. Marriage is an important institution as it provides an organized framework to the lives of the spouses and capacitates them with a purposeful.
Since the last half of the 20th century, certain segments of the society defied the views of the conformist propositions about the nature and purpose of marriage have been challenged by different sections of the society about marriage and challenged the tenet that marriage is and should be entirely heterosexual. (This phenomenon developed in the last years of the 1950s and surged in the early years of 1960s.) This segment of the community disseminated the notions that marriage has nothing to do with heterosexuality and it is exclusively superfluous religious and legal fiction. They further propagated that different another dimension of the marriages i.e. same-sex marriage, should not be sacrificed at the altar of conventional religious morality. Generally, this change in the thought process of society compelled these segments of the society to indulge in same sex marriages. (Cantor, 2006) However, this phenomenon was unable to gain the legal sanction and social endorsement. In the last decade of the last century, they were able to get the legal recognition in many countries. (Netherlands was the first country to recognize and sanction civil marriage to same-sex couples in 2001 followed by Belgium in 2003. From 2203 till now, several countries of the world, notably Scandinavian countries have approved same-sex marriages as legal including South Africa. (Cantor, 2006))
The proponents of heterosexual marriage base their arguments on the religious, social and historical fact. (Dent, 1999; Frank, 2006; Finnis, 1997; Reid, 2005;Vetri, 1998)They are of the view that marriage is a social and religious bond between a man and woman. They provide biblical references that marriage as an institution is an association of one man and one woman. (As mostly these opponents of same-sex marriages are from countries where the Christian population is in majorities such as Western Europe and North America. In other parts of the world, the debate is not heated but it is a fact that most religious scriptures like Koran, Vedas, and Torah etc. also support the phenomenon of heterosexual marriages.) Furthermore Christianity is against gay and lesbian relationship and considers it immoral and unethical. In some cases has ordered to outcast the convicts of such crimes. In Christianity, marriage is considered a holy and sacred obligation since the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). So it was considered a vital activity since the time of Jesus as a legitimate and sacred sexual relationship between man and woman. Several legal court decisions and constitutional codes also include the same definition of marriage.
Prof Eskridge (1993) provides a crux of the arguments of the opponents of the same-sex marriages by saying:
"Marriage, they say, must involve a man and a women because (1) this is the definitional essence of the marriage (2) the Judeo-Christian tradition requires it and/or (3) the modern Western nation-state has structured society around the assumption that only different-sex marital unions are allowed."
They further say that on one hand, it capacitates men to achieve their moral and personal discipline that is a pre-requisite to achieve success in life; it also enabled them to live a stable and balanced domestic life. On the other hand, it facilitates the married women gain a protected and stable social status, acknowledgment of protection and economic provision of their children.
Apart from these two parties i.e. men and women, a third party gets involved at a later stage of marriage. This party is children that are the ultimate outcome of marriage. Marriage provides a conducive family environment for the rearing of children. The provision of this milieu is a seedbed of sociability and an initial cradle for learning for the young ones. The upbringing of these siblings necessitates economic and emotional needs that are provided by this family structure where parents contribute their share in the socio-economic provision and emotional requirement of their prerequisites hamper their socialization process that can cause enigma for the society in future.
In a more specific way, family contributes toward the psychological development of young ones by providing answers to the questions regarding their biological and psychological origins, identity. As answers to these questions enable them to understand their purpose of life as well as connect them to both a mother and father. It also establishes a feasible structure of love that is a mandatory requirement for their social development and psychological growth and anchors their identity as they learn to move about the larger world. This clear microcosmic view capacitates them to have a broad and clear view of the macrocosmic world and socialize them in a way that they can be productive and effective to the overall society.
A research study "Why Marriages Matters: Twenty-One Conclusion from the Social Sciences" by twelve scholars have tried to summarize the positive effects of marriage through analyzing research literature and found that "Marriage is an important social good associated with an impressively broad array of positive outcomes for children and adults alike… Whether American society succeeds or fails in building a healthy marriage culture is clearly a matter of legitimate public concern." [Doherty, William J. et al., 2002]
Certain other researchers exhibit that children who are not reared by their own biological parents suffers physical illness and psychological retarded and also indulge in negative social tendencies like substance abuse, early unwed pregnancy, and criminal misconduct. (There is a vast variety of research studies are available on this topic. Please see Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval. Cambridge, MA. 1997 for detailed studies on the issue. ) So, all these research studies manifest that same-sex marriages are harmful to the children. These arguments against same-sex marriages derive their strength from the variety of sources i.e. social, cultural, religious and moral and say that none of these aspects of life allows same-sex marriages.
The proponents of same-sex marriages refute all the above-mentioned arguments and consider them a mockery of historical facts and constitutional rights of the individuals. (Patterson, 2001; Perkins 2004; Eskridge, 1996 etc.)The basic precept for the opposition to same-sex marriages is based on the assumption that marriage is a bond between one man and one woman. If we look at the ultimate objective of the marriage, we will find that it is the personal intimacy and emotional affiliation between the spouses. As Durkheim observed that "By forcing a man to attach himself forever to the same woman, marriage assigns a strictly definite object to the need for love, and closes the horizon." (Durkheim, 1952. p.271) So this close association is based on the mutual attraction and harmony of minds. But Durkheim is unable to observe one thing that this personal intimacy can develop between two members of the same sex based on reciprocal magnetism. So they musta right to live a conjugal and matrimonial life.
Furthermore, Durkheim observes another objective of marriage i.e. marriages regulates the human propensities and checks the unrestrained longings and desires. So it is the longing in either spouse of the same-sex couple to feel attracted toward the other. So by allowing same-sex marriage, this longing can be regulated properly. Additionally, same-sex marriage is not a matter of personal choice as adversaries of the single sex marriage consider that men indulging in same-sex can opt to heterosexual marriages if they want to. But this is not so simple a phenomenon as Scott Bidstrup says;
"Many of the reasons offered for opposing gay marriage are based on the assumption that gays have a choice in who they can feel attracted to, and the reality is quite different. Many people actually believe that gays could simply choose to be heterosexual if they wished. But the reality is that very few do have a choice -- any more than very few heterosexuals could choose which sex to find themselves attracted to."(Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives)
Mostly opposition to same-sex marriage is based on the religious traditions that denounce any type of same-sex relationship. But if one does not believe in the religion or at least its definition of marriage then why it should follow its precepts. Moreover, the propaganda that homosexuality is nothing except the lust for sex. In reality, homosexuality is much more than mere indulgence in sex. It is a manifestation of mutual love and attraction toward someone. Scott Bidstrup says in this regard that "Sex, in a committed gay relationship, is merely a means of expressing that love, just the same as it is for heterosexuals. Being gay is much more profound than simply a sexual relationship; being gay is part of that person's core identity, and goes right the very center of his being." (Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives)
Historically, same-sex marriage is a primitive phenomenon that was recognized socially and stately in various parts of the world. Prof Eskridge is his well-researched work "A history of Same-sex marriage" (1993) provides various historical facts that prove the above-mentioned assumption. For example, he illustrates that in ancient Egyptian society, same-sex marriages was acceptable "at some points in its history". (p.20) He provides the example from certain archaeological remains like "tomb of two male courtiers of the fifth dynasty (circa 2600 B.C.) includes base beliefs of the "two men in intimate poses". He further quotes the views of social historian David Greenberg to affirm his point of view about same-sex marriage that "same-sex relationship was accepted by the state because Pharaoh provided their tomb". (p.21)
He again cites David Greenberg to explore the state recognition of same-sex relationship in the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia where "Mesopotamian monarch, notably King Zimri-Lim of Mari and King Hammurabi of Babylon, had male lovers akin to wives". (p.22) He further suggests hat although earlier laws of Mesopotamia regulates the action of sexual indulgence and marriages but it has no connotations toward disapproval or prohibition of a same-sex relationship. Eskridge further supports his argument about the primitiveness of same-sex marriage by providing an example from "Classical Greece and Pre-Christian Rome". These arguments forwarded by Professor Eskridge clearly negates the assumptions of the opponents of same-sex marriages that heterosexual marriages are the absolute form of marriage since the ancient time.
The second argument arguments against the single-sex marriages stem from the special benefits of the heterosexual marriage and the basic tenet of this assumption is that same-sex marriages are unable to provide a conducive environment to the children for their social and psychological development. The supporters of the same-sex negate this assumption and say that;
"Children will be benefited by being brought up in a stable and nurturing home even if they are not biologically related to both of the individuals raising them, for example, because the children were adopted or because they were a product of a previous marriage. Concern for the next generation militates in favor of affording legal recognition to couples (seeking that recognition) who are raising children, whether or not the children are biologically related to both adults and whether or not the adults are of different sexes. (Strasser, 2003)
So Strasser manifest that conducive home environment is the ultimate necessity for the children to be socialized properly. The above-mentioned studies (on page 4) in favors parenting does not specify the single-sex parenting of heterosexual parenting as same-sex marriages also provide parenting to their adopted children. Furthermore, these studies do not illustrate that children of the heterosexual couples also indulge in various anti-social activities and have certain disabilities. So the assumption that single-sex marriages will harm the parenting and child rearing activities that are often attributed as the prime functions of marriage is based on fictitious fears and fictional grounds.
Besides refuting conventional views on same-sex marriages, there is a strong case for single-sex marriages that is based on ground realities and the socio-cultural changes over the past few decades. The foremost argument is the changed conception and perception of marriage. Over the past few decades, marriage has been evolved as essential as "emotional intimacy" rather than an institution for child procreation and rearing. This new conception of marriage gives strength to same-sex marriages. Gallagher says in her illustrious work Normal Marriage: Two Views that;
In the larger sweep of history, despite significant countercurrents, this view of marriage as emotional intimacy is gaining dramatic ground. In this sense, same-sex marriage is not an outlandish deviation; it is the logical result of rather popular a contemporary view of marriage as a personal right of the individual, created by the individual, for purposes that the individual alone defines. When two individuals who happen to have desires and tastes for each other coincide for a lifetime that is beautiful. If not, it just is not anybody else business. (Gallagher, 2003)
"Marriage has rules that originate outside any particular union of two spouses and that establish soft boundaries around the relationship that influence the partners in many ways. The boundaries around marriages are the commonly understood allowable limits of behavior that distinguish marriage from all other kinds of relationships. The social norms that define the institution of marriage identify married spouses in ways that distinguish them from others."
But this point of view sustains that phenomenon that Marriage is the ultimate amalgam of the married couple and social norms are established to make this couple distinct from others. It further reinforces the idea that social norms about the marriage are the pre-requisites of the society and its needs. This makes the same-sex case stronger as the changed perception of marriage has engulfed these extra-individual manifestations of marriage and now it is merely a bond between two persons
Now the question arises that why this same-sex marriage should be sanctioned as the legal marriage. Prof. Eskridge is of the view that a large part of the contemporary compensation package and fringe benefits available to the workers and employees contains the provision that these benefits are also available to the workers’ legal spouse. So this has augmented the financial rewards of a legal marriage. (Eskridge, 1996) So denial of a legal status means the loss of financial benefits to the spouses of same-sex marriages. Prof. Eskridge has further noted fifteen others benefits of legalizing the same-sex marriage (pp. 66-70) in his illustrious work "The Case for Same-Sex Marriage: From Sexual Liberty to Civilized Commitment".
Legal opposition to the same-sex marriages does not flow from any logical and constitutional opposition as U.S. constitution provides complete independence of individuals’ acts. In a decision, a federal court has attributed this legal opposition to the traditional definitional obstacles of marriages that has its roots in the Judeo-Christian morality. The court decision says;
The definition of marriage, the rights and responsibilities implicit in that relationship, and the protections and preferences afforded to the marriage are now governed by the civil law. The English civil law took its attitudes and basic principles of canon law, which, in early times was administered in the ecclesiastical courts. Canon law in both Judaism and Christianity could not possibly sanction ant-marriage between the persons of the same sex because of vehement condemnation in the scriptures of both religions of all homosexual relationship. Thus there has been for centuries a combination of scriptural and canonical teachings under which a "marriage between the person of the same sex was unthinkable and, by definition, impossible" (Adam vs. Howerton)
This clearly manifest that legal opposition was based on the Judeo-Christian tradition and it has nothing to do with the constitutional rights of the individuals. So an attempt must e made by the constitution making authorities to put in place a law based on individuals rights instead of fictitious religious traditions. Furthermore, the interpreting authority i.e. the U.S. Supreme Court must interpret the laws in the light of constitutional provision instead of obsolete civil law derived from religious beliefs.
All these arguments clearly manifest that same-sex marriages do not harm the basic foundation of socio-cultural life and they should be sanctioned as legal and lawful partnership like heterosexual marriages.
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