http://voices.yahoo.com/gay-marriage-social-policy-11286164.html?cat=7 Gay Marriage and Social Policy
By Mark Gittner
The history of civil rights has been a long one. America first addressed this issue in the Declaration of Independence by declaring that "All men are created equal" (Congress, 1776). Since that time, America has tried to address issues by ending slavery, extending the vote, and addressing the rights of women and other races. However, hidden in the background has been the issue of gay rights. Homosexuals were not seen to have many rights in early America. In fact, laws were created, such as the "Sodomy Laws" that were used primarily to target homosexuals (Nguyen, 1999). Employment was mostly barred to open homosexuals in federal agencies such as the military and the FBI. There were few who were willing to stand out and advocate for gay rights. The earliest known group to do so was the Society for Human Rights in Chicago, created in 1924 (The American gay Rights Movement: A Timeline, n.d.). The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis were to follow in the 1950's. Then, 1969 would see the beginning of what is known as the Gay Rights Movement. The Gay Rights Movement has its historic beginning in the Stonewall riots, marking the first major attempt of gays to organize them and to resist discrimination (Nguyen, 1999). In 1969, policemen in New York started to raid gay bars. One such was the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village. The unlicensed bar was raided by policemen in the early mornings of June 28th 1969. As the policemen made their arrests, they confronted an angry and violent mob outside the Stonewall Inn. The mob was yelling, throwing coins, rocks, beer bottles, and bricks at the policemen. During the violent struggle the protesters were beaten by policemen. In retaliation, the crowd tried to set the bar with the policemen inside on fire. The crowd of protesters would grow to 400 but re-gathered for two following nights in order to protest against the police's discrimination of gay bars. Most recently debated as part of the Gay Rights Movement has been the topic of gay marriage. This topic gained the national spotlight in 1993 during a Hawaii case, in which judges found that the Hawaii constitution needed a "compelling reason not to extend to gays equal marriage rights" (Department, 2008). Following that ruling, Congress decided to push through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which prevented gay couples from receiving federally based benefits that were traditionally conferred by marriage. Since then, it has been the states that have scrambled to define their own stance on gay marriage, in some cases recognizing civil unions or domestic partnerships. The reasons this has been an important topic to the gay community have been numerous. In 1983, one of the first case known of was one in which a lesbian couple were unable to see each other in hospital after an accident (Nguyen, 1999). The court referred to the legal definition of marriage, the union of one man and one woman, to decide the case. Unfortunately, this is not the only reasons that the gay community wants the right to gay marriage. The federal government provides legal marriage with a vast amount of legal advantages "including tax advantages, next-of-kin-status (which gives one partner of a relationship the right to visit the other partner in hospitals), rights of inheritance in the absence of a will, and retirement benefits" (Nguyen, 1999). It is these rights, among others, that make the gay community so adamant for gay marriage to be legalized on a federal level. Right now the battle is on the state level, which each state has to decide individually. Each state has to answer some questions in regards to gay marriage. First is whether or not to legalize gay marriage in their state. Second, the state has to ask whether it will recognize gay marriages from other states. If gay marriage is not allowed, will the state...
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