Apart from legal or religious definitions, marriage can be described as an extended relationship between two (or, in case of polygamy, among more then two) individuals and usually has the following features:
- a sexual relationship;
- an expected procreation;
- an existence of expectations or agreements to provide support for one another; and
- a ceremonial event formalizing the fact of marriage (Palmer, 1998, p.119).
At the same time Palmer points out that „none of these is a necessary condition, and if they are logically sufficient conditions when taken jointly, it is probably because of the inclusion of feature number four” (Palmer, 1998, p.119). The same-sex partnerships are compatible with all three major features of traditional marriage, being sex, procreation and support, which makes the forth feature, ceremony, merely a formality.
A compliance of the same-sex partnership with the first feature of marriage, a sexual relationship between spouses, is self-evident. While opponents of the same-sex marriages may claim that the same-sex intimacy is „unnatural”, technically, the condition of a sexual relationship within the same-sex partnerships is met, though certain controversy regarding procreation aspect of such sex may exist.
Turning to the question of procreation, no legitimate reason exists for preventing gays and lesbians from having children. Though child adoption may be legally or bureaucratically problematic for homosexual couples, they still may give birth to children via mating with opposite sex or using surrogate mothers or artificial inseminations. Therefore, while procreation via sex within a homosexual partnership is not feasible at the moment, there are other opportunities for a homosexual couple to have children. Moreover, many gays and lesbians do have children and have relationships close to traditional families, including commitments discussed further.
The last but not the least important condition of marriage is an existence of commitments to support for one another, including economic, physical, or psychological support. According to the results of Herek’s review of relevant studies, the same-sex and heterosexual relationships do not differ in their essential psychosocial dimensions (2006, pp.607-621). Moreover many of the homosexual couples claim that they want to get married in order to bear same rights and responsibilities as traditional pairs. It leads us to the conclusion that the condition of social commitments is fulfilled within the same-sex partnership, as well.
Information provided above, confirm that the same-sex partnerships comply with traditional characteristics of marriage, being sexual relationships, raising children and commitments. Thus legitimacy of the same-sex marriages is merely a legal issue as no valid social reasons exist for not allowing the same-sex marriages.
In Septermber 2007 National Review reported that an Iowa judge claimed Iowan state marriage law unconstitutional, ordering the government to recognize the same-sex marriages.
The same-sex marriage in the state of Iowa were legalized on 27 April 27 2009. Iowa’s first regarding the same-sex marriage came in 1998, after several court cases which were started in Hawaii, revealed that denial of the same-sex couples right for the marriages was incompatible with the constitutions of the most of the U.S. states, specifically it came in conflict with their Equal Protection Clauses. Several Iowa legislators hurried to pass a local state Defense of Marriage Act in order to prevent similar court challenges and to secure prohibition of the marriages between gay and lesbian couples.
In 2005, a lawsuit on behalf of Polk County six the same-sex couples and their children was filed by the Lambda Legal. These six couples, who were refused to be issued marriage licenses in Iowa, argued that such denial violated their liberty and equal protection rights guaranteed by the state constitution.
The New York Times reported on 31 August 2007 that the Polk County District Court ruled in a favor of these the same-sex couples, prompting the county to appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court („Judge Overturns Iowa Ban on The same-sex Marriages“). One and a half year later, on 3 April, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld unanimously the Polk County District Court’s ruling stating that there should be no important governmental interest in prohibition of citizens’ marriage licenses based upon their sexual orientation. The licenses were prescribed to become available 21 days since this ruling on 24 April 2009. Therefore Iowa became the forth state to allow the same-sex marriages. Other states that allowed the same-sex marriages are Massachusetts (the first state to recognize such marriages), Connecticut and Vermont („Same-sex marriage status in the United States by state”).
The major issue regarding question of the same-sex marriages is freedoms and equal rights of the citizens.
Allowing the same-sex marriages will make them quite widespread as there is significant amount of gays and lesbians in the USA and in Iowa. This will have significant effect on opinions regarding gays and lesbians. The same-sex marriages legalization can help to fight heterosexism and homophobia by making homosexuality more sociably acceptable. As the legalization of same-sex marriage relationships between gay and lesbian would be acknowledged as lawful. It also will make gays and lesbians more visible as they will receive the same protections as heterosexual married couples. This visibility will further improve acceptability of gays and lesbians throughout common society.
Same-sex marriage also can change the institution of marriage with regard to gender roles which support homophobia and heterosexism. Nan Hunter states that same-sex marriage may cause a „subversion of gender“(p.233). The author believes that statements such as „Who would be the husband? And who would be the wife?“ expressed by many opponents and critics of the same-sex marriages illustrate their existing fear regarding the revolutionary influence of same-sex marriages on gender roles (p.245). While these statements are aimed to ridicule the very idea of the same-sex marriages existence, they also illustrate one’s fear to loose support from the power granted by a social stereotypical role of the „husband“.
Hunter believes that same-sex marriages by subverting the role of gender would revolutionize institution marriage as it is common today and beginning the process of shifting the marriage from its oppressive roots towards gender equality. Eroded gender roles will stimulate reduction of an abusive practice of the homophobia and heterosexism, which would make benefits to society promoting equality and tolerance.
Besides positive social influence the same-sex marriages may have positive economical effect. In 2007-08 Lee Badgett et. al from the Williams Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) conducted a research in order to analyze the impact of the same-sex couples marriage legalization on state budget of Iowa. On 1 April 2008 they reported the following: „Using the best data available, we estimate that allowing the same-sex couples to marry will result in a net gain of approximately $5.3 million each year for the State. This net impact will be the result of savings in expenditures on state means-tested public benefit programs and an increase in state income and sales tax revenue” (p.1).
While legalization is likely to make significant changes to the society and to the institution of marriage in particular, it is unlikely that this impact will be negative. In fact, there is high probability that allowing everyone marrying the person of her or his own choice without regard to gender will strengthen marriage, furthering its natural evolution, while giving other benefits to the society.
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Herek, G. M. „Legal recognition of the same-sex relationships in the United States: A social science perspective”. American Psychologist, Vol 61(6). (2006). 607-621.
Palmer, D. „The Consolation of the Wedded”. In R. Baker, F. Elliston, K. J. Wininger (Ed.), Philosophy and Sex (pp. 119-29). New York: Prometheus Books. (1998)
„Judge Overturns Iowa Ban on The same-sex Marriages“. The New York Times. (31 Aug 2007). Retrieved on 29 Apr. 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/31/us/31iowa.html.
Lee Badgett, M.V., Baumle, Amanda K., Romero Adam P., and Brad Sears. The Impact on Iowa’s Budget of Allowing The same-sex Couples to Marry (1 Apr. 2008). The Williams Institute.
Hunter, Nan D. „Marriage, Law and Gender: A Feminist Inquiry,“ in David S. Caudill and Steven Jay Gold (eds.). Radical Philosophy of Law: Contemporary Challenges to Mainstream Legal Theory and Practice (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1995), pp. 221-33; p. 225.
„Same-sex marriage status in the United States by state” Wikipedia. Retrieved on 29 Apr. 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_status_in_the_United_States_by_state