As of August 29, 2012 eight states have legalized gay marriage, with Maryland signing legislation legalizing the act on March 1, 2012 to be effective January 1, 2013. Since Massachusetts made gay marriage legal in 2004 there has been an outcry from religious and conservative leaders regarding the decay of the moral fiber of America. Some on the right, including radio host and author Dennis Prager, say conservatives are not “anti-gay” but instead “fear the consequences of redefining marriage.” Prager cites, “denying the importance of both sexes in making families” and “choosing boys to be high-school prom queens and girls to be high-school prom kings” among his fears. Same sex prom kings and queens are one thing but some on the right believe the consequences are even direr. In a 2003 interview with USA Today, then Senator and future Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum equated homosexuality with “man on boy” and “man on dog” sex.
Despite the fears on the right, same-sex marriage doesn’t appear to have led down the slippery slope to either pedophilia or bestiality. Instead, what has happened since Massachusetts and the other states have legalized gay marriage is a decrease in the divorce rates among heterosexual couples in those states. In fact, “Ranking the states according to divorce rates reveals that all jurisdictions allowing gay marriage are in the bottom half when it comes to divorce, and four jurisdictions with marriage equality are in the lowest five,” says James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, an independent think tank dedicated to issues of social justice.
Despite numbers suggesting that marriage equality may be a stabilizing force for all marriages, opponents aren’t convinced. Scott Moody, an economist with the religious Cornerstone Policy Research, blames same-sex marriage in part for what he describes as an upcoming “demographic winter.” Moody says that, since homosexual partners cannot procreate, it will create a situation in which there aren’t enough younger people to necessarily support an aging population. Peron scoffs at this, saying, “denying gay people the right to marry will not magically turn them into heterosexuals anxious to breed like rabbits!” Many, like Peron, believe the procreation argument is a thinly veiled cover for bigotry and discriminatory attitudes toward those who don’t “deserve” to marry, noting that the same people are not calling for fertility tests as a precursor to marriage or attempting to deny elderly heterosexuals marriage licenses.
Protecting the rights of the members of gay and lesbian relationships is yet another compelling reason to institute equal marriage laws in every state. As it stands now, individual states can create their own laws regarding partner recognition and benefits but this does not translate to the more lucrative Federal benefits that many gay and lesbian couples are being denied. There have been far too many instances in which a partner dies or becomes critically ill or disabled and all decision making is taken away from the healthy or surviving partner, as well as the lack of survivor benefits. Healthcare coverage, something heterosexual married couples take for granted, is yet another benefit denied to gay and lesbian couples because of the lack of nationwide equal marriage laws being enacted.
Then there are those detractors who would cite the “immorality” of the government for making them spend their tax dollars on issues about which they do not agree. This too is a cover for bigoted attitudes. The government currently spends over nine billion dollars annually on defense—something which many people may consider immoral. Yet there isn’t the same level of outcry being heard about military spending on an unjust war in the Middle East as there is about a couple who are in love and want to spend their lives together and oh, by the way, just happen to be the same sex.
Achieving total equality in marriage is only the first hurdle though. Within most loving couples exists the desire to share and expand that love with a family. As equal marriage rights increase so too should adoption laws. The rights of gay and lesbian couples to adopt children should be an absolute given. To those opponents of such measures, consider the statistics. Children raised by two mothers have actually been shown to perform better scholastically and to be more well-adjusted than their peers in “traditional” family settings. Children raised by two fathers have shown to perform just as well scholastically and to be as well-adjusted as their more “traditional” peers, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Pediatrics.
Yet there seems to be a preponderance of doubt surrounding the adoption issue. Many states have legislated preferential adoption laws for heterosexual couples or even for singles wanting to adopt. This is an archaic attitude; surely children will always be better off with more people to care for them, yet states such as Michigan and North Carolina have yet to grasp this concept, as it is easier for a single person to adopt a child in these states than it is for a gay or lesbian couple.
The time to step out of the Dark Ages and into the enlightened times in which we are supposedly living is now. Equal marriage laws and equal adoption laws are the right, moral and just things to support. Love is love; parenthood is parenthood, regardless of sexuality. These two positive institutions are basic human rights to which everyone has a right, not just heterosexuals. My advice surrounds supporting politicians and organizations that promote equality, as well as educating people to overcome prejudice and ignorance. These are the most important steps that we can take to ensure equal rights for all people to love whom they choose to love and to be able to express that love by being committed, by being recognized and acknowledged and by being allowed to become a whole, loving family.
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