Same-Sex Marriage
By Tyler V.
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Same-sex marriage is a controversial issue in the United States and has been since the 1970s. It became important as a political issue in 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed, federally outlawing same-sex marriage. This act defined marriage as between a man and a woman, which meant that no agency of the federal government would recognize state-sanctioned marriages that violated the act. Many people arguing in support of the legalization of same-sex marriage argue that it is a matter of equal rights for all, and those arguing against it cite religious reasons and their belief that it is against the idea of family. For these and many other reasons same-sex marriage is a controversial issue and raising awareness about it and the conflicts surrounding it is very important to its resolution.

Civil Union

A very important point in the United States same-sex marriage controversy is that of the civil union. Although a civil union is similar to marriage in many ways there is one key difference: federal recognition. Although civil unions may be recognized in-state, they cannot be recognized federally or out-of-state due to DOMA. The benefits include state tax benefits, access to better family health plans, parenting privileges, decision-making authority for an incapacitated partner, and protection under state divorce and separation laws. However, as is always the case with civil unions, these benefits are not federal. This has been the main complaint about civil unions, and promises to be central to the gay marriage debate for a very long time.

Religious Opposition

Much of the opposition to same-sex marriage is based on religious views, primarily those of Christians. Many advocates of ‘traditional’ marriage cite Bible sources as condemning same-sex relationships as unnatural and wrong, and also that same-sex marriage violates the traditional idea of marriage. Some of these anti-same-sex marriage advocates are the Church of God in Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, the Conservative Mennonite Conference, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, the Hutterite Brethren, the Orthodox Church in America, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention. That’s ten major religious organizations in North America that oppose same-sex marriage, and a mere three major organizations in North America, the Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Canada, and the United Church of Christ show support for same-sex marriage. This overwhelming religious opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage has played a huge role in the argument.

States and Countries

The United States is currently a hotbed of same-sex marriage controversy. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in two states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, although it remains federally unrecognized with the aforementioned Defense of Marriage Act. This act, the effects of which being mentioned before, was passed on September 21st, 1996. It was passed during a time when many believed a state would soon legalize same-sex marriage (this was not realized until May 17th, 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage) and, under the Full Faith and Credit Clause which states that all states must recognize the ‘public acts, records, and judicial rulings of other states’, other states would be forced to recognize the marriages. Over the years, and especially when Massachusetts and Connecticut recognized same-sex marriage, Connecticut on November 12th, 2008, this act has been the subject of controversy over whether or not it violates the aforementioned Full Faith and Credit Clause and the Equal Protection Clause, which states that no state shall deny equal rights and protection to anyone in its jurisdiction. Finally, on May 29th, 2008 in New York Governor David Paterson directed that although same-sex marriage cannot be legally performed in the state it would be recognized.

Same-sex relationships are also controversial in the military. In 1993 then-President Bill Clinton initiated the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, mandated by federal law, which prohibits anyone who ‘demonstrates propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts’ from serving in the United States’ armed forces, and prohibits any homosexual from disclosing their sexual orientation or speaking about any homosexual relationships. This policy also prohibits superiors from asking or initiating investigation of a serviceman’s sexual orientation. However, mere suspicion can still allow investigation, drastically reducing the effects of this policy.

The first country to legalize same-sex marriage was the Netherlands in 2001, followed by Belgium in 2003, Spain and Canada in 2005, South Africa in 2006, and Norway in 2009. Same-sex marriages are also recognized but not performed in Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, France, Israel, and Japan.

Proposition 8

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Proposition 8 was a California ballot proposition, during the 2008 general election, that aimed to edit the California state constitution by illegalizing same-sex marriage and redefining marriage as between an opposite-sex couple. It was a very controversial proposition and saw incredible funding, with the campaign for it pulling in $39.9 million and that against $43.3 million. These numbers combined pulled in the highest funding on any campaign in the election except for the presidential contest, and it was both supported and opposed by numerous organizations. It was supported by Senator John McCain, then-candidate for the presidency, and although Barack Obama did oppose the proposition, a move consistent with his support of same-sex marriage during his 1996 Illinois Senate campaign, he also said that he personally opposed the legalization of gay marriage and supported civil unions. The proposition was also supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Proposition 8 was also opposed by San Francisco governor Gavin Newsom; Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. Speaker of the House; both California Senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein; and twenty of the fifty-three-member California congressional delegation. It was also opposed by Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, and both Google and Apple, the latter of which donated $100,000 USD to the No on 8 campaign. The proposition was editorialized against by the New York Times and California’s ten largest newspapers (the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the Press-Enterprise (Riverside-San Bernardino), The Fresno Bee, and the Daily News (Los Angeles)).

13,743,177 people, or 79.2% of California’s eligible voters, voted on Proposition 8, and it was passed with a majority of 4.48%, or 599,602 votes. After the proposition’s passage there were a number of legal issues, and lawsuits to overturn it were filed. A prominent issue is whether roughly 18,000 same-sex marriages currently in effect in California will be annulled, and although California Attorney General Jerry Brown stated that the marriages will not be retroactively annulled the issue is still in doubt. The resolution on the final lawsuits is expected 90 days after the oral arguments were made, which was on March 5th, and hopefully that will once and for all resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in California.

Graphs

Graph 1

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This bar graph shows the change in acceptance and opposition of gay marriage from July of 2004 to March of 2008, and it is ordered by age. All four age groups showed an increase in acceptance, and a decrease in opposition. The greatest increase in acceptance was in the 30-49 and 50-64 groups with 7%, and the smallest increase was the 65+ group with 4%. The greatest decrease in opposition was in the 65+ group with 10%, and the smallest was in the 18-29 group with 6%. The fact that across all groups acceptance of gay marriage rose and opposition dropped is promising for full, legal acceptance, with a particular victory being won in the 65+ group. Although they showed the smallest increase in acceptance their decrease in opposition was the largest, and they undecided group also rose. Throughout the entire graph, opposition of gay marriage rose with age, and this could be an indicator that the education system and the public mindset has become more favorable towards gay marriage in recent times. This, along with all of the other changes, is a very important step on the road to acceptance of gay marriage in the United States.


Graph 2

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This bar graph shows the percent of each major political group who believe that gay marriage is an issue that is important to their vote. It also shows the changes in this in October of 2004, October of 2007, and May of 2008. The group with the most whose vote somehow depended on gay marriage was Republicans, at all three dates, and the group with the least in October of 2004 and May of 2008 were the Democrats, with the Independents taking their place in October of 2007. However, the percentage never broke 50% in any one group, and fell below 25% for both Democrats and Independents in October of 2007 and May of 2008. This shows that the majority of the country still believes that gay marriage is not an important issue, and this would need to change if it is to have any chance of being accepted and legalized.

Graph 3

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This bar graph shows acceptance and opposition of gay marriage order by level of education from July of 2004 to March of 2008. Over that period all groups have seen a rise in acceptance of gay marriage, with the greatest increases being college graduates and those with some college experience, seeing a 9% rise in acceptance, and the smallest being graduates of high school or less with a mere 1%. Opposition has also seen a decline in all groups, with the largest being in those with some college experience, at 9%, and the smallest in graduates of high school or less with a mere 5%. This clearly shows that as one’s level of education rises his/her likelihood of favoring gay marriage also rises, showing that as one gains a broader base of learning and experiences their willingness to accept new things also rises.

Graph 4

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This line graph shows the difference in support of gay marriage versus the support of civil unions from 2004 to 2008. Support for civil unions remained greater than support for marriage, but over that five year period the gap has narrowed. Both have seen a net increase, with support for gay marriage gaining 6% and support for civil unions gaining 8%. This is yet another step in the right direction for acceptance of gay marriage in the United States.

Graph 5

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This bar graph shows the results of various opinion polls taken in the months leading up to the 2008 general election. For the majority of the polls, as shown above, a larger portion of those selected for the poll reported against Proposition 8, with those in favor of it ‘winning’ a mere three polls. However, this was not the case in the real election and Proposition 8 succeeded. This graph is intended to be purely informative and to offer an interesting view on the dispositions of California about Proposition 8 before election day, and to show the possible unreliability of opinion polls, no matter how well orchestrated.

Graph 6

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This simple bar graph shows the results of California’s Proposition 8, and is intended to show two things. First, that although the majority of California does oppose same-sex marriage this should not be the only factor in determining whether or not to legalize it. Matters of human rights should be carefully considered and not just blindly put to the popular vote, which could easily lead to suppression of minorities, something that could be the case here. Second, this graph shows that, again, although the majority of California does oppose same-sex marriage the numbers are quite close, with those in favor of Proposition 8 constituting a mere 4.48% more of those who voted on the proposition. This goes to show that if awareness is raised on these matters this number could be easily changed and the results of Proposition 8 are thus not set in stone in any way.

Graph 7

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This series of pie charts shows a breakdown of the importance of gay marriage to the populace’s vote arranged by their level of acceptance of gay marriage. For those who ‘strongly oppose’ gay marriage 55% believe it is very important, with only 29% of those ‘strongly favoring’ gay marriage believing it is very important. This disparity is also clear in the difference between those who ‘favor’ gay marriage, with 12% believing it is very important, and ‘oppose’ it, with 22% believing it is very important to their vote. This makes much the same point as the previous bar graph, in that unless gay marriage becomes more important to those who favor it it will have no chance of becoming legalized. There are almost twice as many of those who oppose gay marriage believing it is very important than of those who support it, and the fact that those who oppose gay marriage believe it is more important than those who favor it do is a disturbing and grim fact that does not speak well for the acceptance and legalization of gay marriage.

Works Cited
BallotPedia.org. “California Proposition 8 (2008).” BallotPedia.org. 20 Jan. 2009. 23 Jan. 2009 <http://ballotpedia.org.php?title=California_Proposition_8_(2008)>.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office. “Travel Advice by Country.” Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). 23 Jan. 2009. 23 Jan. 2009 <http://www.fco.gov.uk-and-living-overseas/-advice-by-country/>.
GayDemographics.org. “ 2000 Census information on Gay and Lesbian Couples.” GayDemographics.org. 2002. GayDemographics.org. 17 Apr. 2009 <http://www.gaydemographics.org.htm>.
National Conference of State Legislature. “Same Sex Marriage.” National Conference of State Legislatures. Nov. 2008. 23 Jan. 2009 <http://www.ncsl.org/.htm>.
Sidoti (The Associated Press), Liz. “2000 census undercounted gays, advocacy groups contend.” The Cincinnati Enquirer. 27 June 2001. The Cincinnati Enquirer. 17 Apr. 2009 <http://www.enquirer.com/_census_undercounted.html>.
SpeakOut.com. “SpeakOut.com - Gay Rights.” SpeakOut.com. 2009. 23 Jan. 2009 <http://www.speakout.com///>.