Several countries have already acknowledged the rights of same-sex couples to marry. However, despite this paradigm shift, contentions against same-sex marriage have remained pervasive.
Opponents of same-sex marriage ground their arguments on parenting concerns, moral standards as dictated by religious ideologies, tradition, and concerns over the evolving definition of marriage that might later acknowledge polygamy and incest. But there are strong arguments for same-sex marriage.
Why do we need to recognise and legalise same-sex marriage? Apart from pissing off conservative hardliners, the clamour has resilient social and moral reasons. One of the arguments for same-sex marriage centres on the need to acknowledge social diversity through social integration, cultural integration, or multicultural pluralism—whatever model that would work best. A society that welcomes same-sex marriage simply embraces the existence assortment while remaining unified under a binding jurisdictional authority.
Then there is also the argument that centres on secularism. Secularism is the principle of the separation of the state from religious institutions and that people from different religions or beliefs are equal before the law. Because one of the arguments against same-sex marriage involves religious moral standards, the legalisation of same-sex marriage demonstrates freedom from religious influence. A secular society understands that religions do not hold a monopoly on morality and laws.
Furthermore, it is important to note that same-sex couples are not pushing for church or any religious marriages. Instead, they are pushing for civil marriage. If religious hardliners would argue against same-sex marriage based on religious teachings and standards, then it would be fitting for them to also protest marriages that transpire outside their institutions or jurisdiction.
In consideration of the aforementioned religious argument, a Catholic marriage would be different from a marriage between Muslims or even members of other Christian dominations. The point is, it would be disastrous to give a religion the sole authority to define the scope and limits of marriage. It is also worth mentioning that throughout the course of history marriages are administered not only by religious leaders but also of head of states and government officials, among others.
Procreation or child rearing is another argument against same-sex marriage. Opponents would maintain that marriage has a social purpose centred on the creation of families and a biological purpose that involves procreation. This point severely limits access to marriage not only among same-sex couples.
If people would argue that the primary and unbendable purpose of marriage os to promote procreation and the establishment of families, then they would also deny other couples who are unable to produce offspring the right to marry. Take note that there are heterosexual couples who observe wedding rites even though they are past their reproductive prime. There are also individuals who are simply unable to produce a child because of their health conditions.
Arguably, one of the strongest arguments for same-sex marriage involves legal dimensions. Married couples have exclusive access to rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities. These legal dimensions concern social security, tax exemptions or deductions, immigration, employee benefits, health coverage, insurance coverage, shared property and inheritance, and familial authority and representation, among others.
By denying same-sex couples the right to marry, the government is also denying them access to several rights while also positioning them as mere second-class citizens. Take note that marriage inequality can foster discriminations, prejudice, and unequal treatment.
It is also important to note that marriage is a stabilising force in the society. Arguments against same-sex marriage often cite the possible consequences arising from their perceived devaluation of marriage as an institution. However, allowing same-sex couples to marry would integrate them and their relationship better in the society. Safeguarding the stability of these relationships is also similar to safeguarding the stability of the society. Same-sex marriage would further promote society building.
While some opponents present civil union instead of marriage to recognise the partnership of same-sex couples, this proves to be disastrous. Marriage is more universal and expansive unlike civil union that lacks full recognition. Worse, civil unions can promote discrimination toward same-sex couples because such could dismiss their relationship as inferior to marriages and render involving parties as second-class citizens.
Promoting civil union instead of marriage would be reminiscent of racism and racial segregation through the concept of “separate but equal” in which African-Americans were relegated to separate railroads cars, schools, and public spaces. The experience of the United States proved that the concept could never result in true equality because separation creates a distance and a semblance of social hierarchy.
Some have also argued that same-sex marriage could lead to devaluation of marriage that would lead to members of the society marrying anyone or anything. Opponents have compared same-sex marriage with odd wedding celebrations or unions such as shot-gun marriage, underage marriage, and marrying a non-human or inanimate object. But this argument is disastrous because it throws off an important legal and moral dimension of marriage—consensus.
There are also real social, cultural, and personal benefits that come from marriage and in this case, same-sex marriage. According to a breakthrough study by Lee Badgett, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, that investigated the impacts of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands and Massachusetts, married same-sex couples felt their marriage has increased their commitment and responsibility toward each other, resulted in stronger sense of security and stability, and promoted their sense of belongingness in their extended families and communities. Same-sex marriage strengthens the relationship between couples.
And like in any other marriages, married same-sex couples are, on average, healthier and happier than their cohabiting counterparts or singles based on several studies. Allowing same-sex couples to marry could also further promote the acceptance of the LGBT community and minimise discrimination and bigotry. It is very important to remember that several members of the community have experienced anxiety and depression because of the way society has treated them.
In a nutshell, same-sex marriage benefits both the same-sex couples and the society. Marriage provides couples with economic, social, political, and emotional security. Through their marriages, they are able to work as partners who are able to perform shared responsibilities and promote their wellbeing and relationships with the help of legal guarantees, including rights and privileges, as well as familial and social support. Recognising this partnership is also essential in promoting social stability—especially considering that marriage and families collectively forms the basic unit of the society and that same-sex couples, through marriage, could help them better integrate in the society.
Arguments against same-sex marriage centres typically on what opponents deem as devaluation of marriage as institution that could hard heterosexual relationships and their families. However, if there is anything that harms marriage, it is bad marriages in which couples disregard their responsibilities and their commitments toward their relationships.
It would certainly difficult for heterosexuals to imagine life without marriage. For most, if not all, a married life is a goal and marriage marks a turning point in their lives. For the LGBT community, the absence of laws supporting same-sex marriage creates a world turned upside down—a totally different environment from the world of heterosexuals.