The research paper aims to provide a deeper understanding in the meaning and definition of gay marriage. The main purpose of this research paper is to compare the different view or what we call as societal perception in different categories. The categories used in this paper are men in general, family perception on gay marriage, regional comparison and lastly religious point of view on this matter.Articles accessed through the internet nad newspaper were used to help give a wider view of scope on this field of study.
Marriage is what we call a lifetime commitment to constantly provide emotional intimacy to your spouse, thereby uncovering your true self and, ultimately, your unique purpose for being created. According to Robert F. Murphy in his book entitled “Cultural and Social Anthropology”, he stated that “Marriage is a truly peculiar institution”. According to the definition of marriage obtain from Merriam-Webster dictionary which is the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband for male and wife for female in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by the law. But as time passes, the marriage constitution of uniting a man and a female as one has change and now gay marriages have been recognized and to some country it is accepted based on the law. With this the issue of civil partnership or same-sex marriage has been one of the main topic of discussion in recent years (Auchmuty, 2004; Boyd and Young, 2003; Jeffreys, 2004). Same-sex marriage is slowly gaining a foothold across the world. In five countries—the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa—lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people can marry, although only in Canada is marriage completely equal for both homosexual and heterosexual couples (Ruth Mitchell, 2007). “Adding on, to some cultures, homosexual behaviors have been variously approved of, tolerated, punished and banned.”(N.Alagappar, K.Karamjeet, 2009). Before going deeper into same-sex marriage or gay marriage, let us first consider the definition of gay. Gay, according to the Oxford Dictionary brings the meaning of homosexual which is sexually attracted to people of one’s sex. This is characterized by the sexual attraction between people of the same sex including both male and female. Other than that, The Free Dictionary online by Farlex stated that the word gay refers to the people whose orientation is to the same sex, in large part because this is the term that gay people prefer when referring to them. The word ‘gay’ tells the difference from homosexual mainly because of the cultural and social aspects of homosexuality which opposed to sexual practice. According to the dictionary, it stated that many writers reserve gay only for males, but the word is also used to refer to females as well, in another term is called lesbian. Based on the definition of gay from two different dictionary, it is clearly stated that gay people involve both sexes, male as well as female who are sexually attracted to each other and this only happen between people of the same sexes. Gay marriage legitimization, a specific, divisive issue in the political and social dimensions, is concerned with several political and social issues that have raised fundamental questions about Constitutional amendments, equal rights, and American family values (Po.L.P, Meng.J, Zhou.S, 2010). With all the jobs done by the news, since then media have become relatively important not only in delivering the news but also in affecting the people’s attitude and perception towards gays and lesbian. As stated in Tan (1999), the media had played a crucial role in communicating foreground homosexuality, which forced and provoked unparallel discussion on sex and sexuality which are considered as taboo of the country. The potential exists that the media could influence matter, control innovation because it remains the potent way of informing society on a mass scale about things (Gideon, 2003). (As cited in Ponmalar et al, 2009) Religion View
Throughout the years, evidence of homosexual practices has been found in the form of graphic art as well as literature during the ancient civilization. Homosexuality being defined as a social problem nowadays has been the most consistent enemy towards the Church. In the Bible, both in Old and New Testament, a conclusion is drawn which is a person that is homosexual is an abomination to the Lord and that person is denounced as transgressors of the natural order, and are “disinherited from the kingdom of God”. In the medieval times, Peter Damian condemned the spread of homosexuality among the clergy as for Thomas Aquinas; he stated that homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural order of venereal act as becoming to the human race.” The civil law that tied to homosexuality originally followed the church law and always has been consistent with it. But as recently as 1971, forty-seven states had statutes defining homosexual acts as criminal behavior. By the mid-1970s, however, out of the forty-seven states that ban homosexuality, one third of it has begun to accept the idea of homosexuality among their citizens. In 1974, the American Psychiatric Association decided to remove homosexuality from its illness list for mental disorder. This is because homosexuality is basically not a mental illness but a rejection of heterosexuality norm. Cultural View
Before making clear our perspective or point of view towards homosexuality, first we need to have a wider view of the whole issue. To Westerners, the attitudes and behavior of Sambia and the Keraki of New Guinea are startling .The Sambia have the belief that no boys can grow into a man naturally unless they have done oral sex with men of the tribe where as for the Keraki, the homosexual only begins during puberty rites. For the Keraki, the unmarried or so call older guys will have anal sex with the younger ones. This ceremony will continue for the next generation. For the Sambia and Keraki, homosexual acts are considered as a passage to “masculinization.”
In the year 1948, Alfred Kinsey and his associates conducted a research on homosexuality and the Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. In his research, he concluded that most of the homosexual behaviors are a form of experimentation, and almost all of them continue living a heterosexual live. Other than that, in Kinsey’s research he also concluded that about 4 percent of U.S male is exclusively homosexual throughout their live. In Humphrey’s research, he stated that there are men that use a system of gestures to initiate sex at urinal and then move to the toilet stall for fellatio (oral sex). Most of these men that are seen doing this are mostly married and the reason for their action is due to the sexual frustration with their wives. While in Edward Laumann’s research which is carried out in the year 1994, he found that during the preceding five years, 2.2 percent of U.S women and 4.1 percent of U.S men had sex with their same sex partners. (James M. Hensley, 2009) In Malaysia, homosexual activities have be around since a long time ago but as it was a sensitive topic no one discussed it publicly until the local press highlighted it (Ho, 1998) especially during the trial of Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim on September 1998.An interview was held with Abdul Kadir Che Kob, an officer from the Malaysian Islamic department describes that homosexual as “shameless people” and homosexuality is a sin that is even worse than murder (Ramakrishnan, 2001), Herek, (1991) pointed out that gay and lesbians as immoral, criminal, sick and drastically different from what most of the members of society’s thinking of the term “normal”. Malaysia is a multiracial country and homosexuality is illegal here. Lesbians, gay and transgender are often seen as immoral and as it’s illegal in Malaysia, these groups of people are often treated as criminals. As same sex union is not recognized by the Malaysian government, hence there is no law that is stated to be against discrimination towards the homosexual people. In Malaysia, homosexuality is considered illegal and a sin that is punishable with long prison sentence up to 20 years and canning. (As cited in N. Alagappar et al, 2009)
The term societal perception is made out of two words which are society and perception. Based on the Thesaurus dictionary, the meaning of this two words combine is the point of view or the understanding of the public on a particular subject. This is also supported by the search engine Wise Geek with a more detailed statement stating that “Social perception is a term in social psychology that defines an individual’s ability to create an impression or judgment of other individuals or social groups. This is formed through observation and understanding existing information about an individual and drawing out conclusions from the information. This kind of perception is classified under social cognition, the brain’s ability to store and process available information associated with creatures of the same species. Aside from available information, observers with different moods and temperament can account for a variety of perceptions”. The attitudes of people or in other words societal perception towards gays and lesbians is considered as one of the few topics that is very important for social scientists, politicians and policy makers. Many studies these days have been documented concerning the high increase of acceptance of gays and lesbians in the United States. (GreenBerg and Bystryn, 1982; Loftus, 2001; Werum and Winders, 2001). Recent studies support the idea that societal perception or even a person’s attitude towards homosexuality is affected or influenced by several factors. These factors includes religious affiliation, religiosity, mass media, family, peers, a person’s gender and overall contact with homosexual individuals (Riaz, 2006: Calzo & Ward, 2009). According to Meghan Lehman and Megan Thornwall, in their research journals they stated that the attitudes shown towards homosexuality influence or affects how people interact with the members of the homosexual community. Positive perception or attitudes are often associated with social activism for the homosexual group or community while the negative ones are belief to have associated with hate crimes which are directed towards homosexual individuals. Other than that, individuals with negative thoughts towards bith gay men and women tend to be more authoritarian, less educated, more traditional when it comes to sex roles and are often showing negative views towards the minority groups (Herek, 1984 and 1991) This can be seen as many organizations nowadays have stepped into the path of not only accepting but also supporting gay rights where as what religions and religious have in common are being unsupportive ones towards gay issues. (Besen and Zicklin, 2007) These have caused confusion especially towards the young people as in whether to support the idea of gay rights or to reject as what they have learned through their religion. According to what Besen and Zicklin have written in their research, both of them stated that men in particular set up a more interesting research area as they show less acceptance and tolerance towards gay unlike their female counterparts even though it is proven that the young generation in whole is more tolerant than the rest of the population. For that reason, young men now are put in a condition in which one side is making them to be more tolerant and the other less. (Besen and Zicklin, 2007) a. Men
Mary Kite and Bernard Whitney (1996) in their research describe that men have more negative reactions towards gay men than women while there were no differences in their point of view between men and women on lesbians. Kite and Whitney (1996) did a good job in explaining this matter based on the gender belief system. Before going into their explanation, what gender belief system basically means is “a set of beliefs and opinions about both sexes and the purported true characteristics of masculinity and femininity” (p.97, Deuaux & Kite, 1987). The cultural gender belief system suggests that masculine and feminine gender roles are very obvious, stable and closely related or tied to their biological sex. Based on this belief, society are said to be stricter in their expectations towards masculinity than femininity, (Herek, 1986; Hort, Fagot and Leinbach, 1990). Therefore, men who put on more feminine traits often receive negative remarks by others compare with female that display a more masculine traits. (As cited in Besen and Zicklin, 2007). This statement was also supported by Meghan Lehmann & Megan Thornwall in their research paper concerning college student attitude towards homosexuality. One of the reasons why gay men receive negative reaction is because they are believed to have deviated from the gender norm which leads to the questioning of others towards the system itself. This will affect or threaten the true qualities of heterosexual men’s masculinity and will increase the negative views of men towards gay men. In this case men in other words have more negative reaction when communicating or dealing with other gay men as they see them as a threat towards the heterosexual male’s gender belief system where as lesbianism is considered sexy and unthreatening. (Reiss, 1986; Lounderback and Whitney Jr., 1997)
b. Family Perception on Gay Marriage
In Letitia Anne Peplau and Kridtin Beals research, both of them quoted from Savin-Williams & Estenberg, 2000 that most family member’s reaction when learning that someone in the family either a son or a daughter is gay or lesbian will often end up in disbelief, shock, guilt and anger which all falls in the negative category. According to a survey done back in year 2001, 50% of the lesbians and 32% of gay men have reported that either their “family or a member of their family” refused or unable to accept them due to their choice or preference of their sexual partners. (Kaiser Foundation, 2001)
The reasons to this negativity shown by the family members is most of them believe that gay or homosexuality is immoral or a sign of mental illness. Some of the reason that caused the parents not being able to accept the fact is that they believe that if their child continue being a homosexual, they will live a lonely live and that will also affect the following generation as some of the grandchildren may learn about it and might follow the footsteps of this particular uncle or aunty. Other than that, some families are afraid that their children who are involved in homosexuality will be discriminated against by people or even have concern about the risk of getting infected by HIV.
Most of the time this negative attitude shown by the family members only will last for awhile. As time passes, many families recover from the turmoil of disclosure and their relationship with their gay son or lesbian daughter improve. After the initial disclosure, some parents will strive to understand and learn more about their child’s experience towards homosexuality. Some of them even took the opportunity to join groups like Parents and Friends of Lesbianism and Gays (PFLAG). These kinds of groups provide support as well as educate in sharing their opinion as well as learning ways to support their child or friends. (Peplau and Beals, 2004) Based on the research done by Peplau and Beals on family perception towards homosexuality, it is clearly seen that families usually show forth a negative attitude towards homosexuality when they come to know about it but as time passes they will tend to change their negative thoughts on homosexuality and will try to give in their best to support either their son or daughter or even a relative that is tied to homosexuality.
c. Regional Views towards Gay Marriage
1. United State
A national survey was conducted during the past 30 years and the result was that Americans’ attitude toward homosexuality have become more tolerant as most American began to accept the idea of gay right and gay marriage (Loftus, 2001) A more recent survey was done by the Kaiser Foundation (2001) through phone interviews with 405 randomly selected from 15major cities in U.S. The result stated that 76% of the respondent believes that homosexuals are accepted by the society compare with the past. Today, a strong majority of Americans approve of laws to protect the civil rights belonging to lesbians and gay men in areas like employment (Loftus, 2001).
In the U.S., seven in 10 Americans reports having a friend, family member or acquaintance who is gay or lesbians. This is considered as one of the reasons why Americans accept the idea of gay rights and gay marriage. According to (Gentry, 1987; Herek, 1988; Schneider and Lewis, 1984) their research stated that those who know someone either a friend or their family members that are gay tends to lead to a positive point of view towards gays and lesbians.
As the ones who support gays and lesbians were the American citizens with liberal thinking, the republicans, conservatives and religious ones were the ones strongly opposing against the legalizing of gay marriage. This can be seen through the reaction and the way they treat the homosexual community as they see these group of people as immoral and an abomination to the gender belief system. 2. Malaysia
It is not part of the Asian culture flaunt or to show off their sexuality or sexual intentions as well as to “flaunt” about their sexual orientation. This is also applies in Malaysia as it is a country that is against the concept of gay rights and gay marriages. In Malaysia, the reaction towards homosexuality is basically a negative one. Most of the Malaysian society has a more conservative thinking towards homosexuality. It is believe that homosexuality in Malaysia is considered as illegal as well as punishable up to 20 years of jail and canning (N. Alagappar et al, 2009). One of the reasons why Malaysian citizen are unable to accept homosexuality is due to the religions taught in the country. In Malaysia, the key religion of the country is Islam and according to the teachings in Al-Quran, it is written that the Quran forbids any sexual relationship other than in marriage between a man and a woman. This can be clearly seen through the establishment of People’s Voluntary Anti-Homosexual Movement (PASRAH). This organization has vowed to eradicate homosexuality in Malaysia by introducing or imposing severe punishment as well as closing down all the gay gathering places. This not only caused a stir among the people but also indirectly causing homosexuality to be branded as a “threat” to the society. Other than that, according to Tan (1999) this kind of sentiment reflects that among the citizens there is an increasing hatred towards people that have different sex preferences compared with the rest. Even with all this negative remarks towards homosexuality in Malaysia, still the first gay marriage in a Muslim-majority Malaysia was held on the 7 August 2012. The couple held their banquet in Malaysia despite the opposition and outrage by conservatives in Muslim-majority Malaysia regarding their union. This event has stirred the minds of the people regarding their attitude towards homosexuality but influential Malaysians either in the religious field or the political field remain vehemently opposed to the growing numbers of gay community in the country. Generally, Malaysians feel uncomfortable when it comes to discussing about issues related to sex or sexuality, which is considered as a taboo. With this, issues regarding to homosexuality is not discussed or debated in public. Freedom of speech concerning matters related to homosexuality is much more reserved to the internet and certain electronic newspaper and a good example is Malaysiakini.
d. Religious View towards Homosexuality
Most religions in the world teach their followers that homosexuality is immoral and therefore we should not learn and practice it in our daily life. Among all the religions in the world, the religions that have been strongly opposed homosexuality or gay marriage are Christianity and Islam. 1. Islam
Nikah is an Arab term used for the word marriage. The original meaning of the word nikah is the physical relationship between a man and a woman. It also refers to the contract of marriage which makes the relationship lawful. The Quran specially refers marriage as "mithaqun Ghalithun,” which brings the meaning of a strong agreement. In Islam, homosexual (called gaum Lut, the “people of Lot”) are condemned in the story of Lot in the Quran and in the last address of Prophet Muhammad. However, in some Islamic societies, an attraction of men towards beautiful male youth are acceptable and is not generally condemned itself. With regards to lesbian homosexuality, female homosexuals are believed to not be severely punished as no penetration is involved. According to Shari’a (Islamic law) is most concerned about the behavior shown in the public and outwards, there is no strong condemnation as long as homosexuality is not done or shown in public. Among the schools from different groups of the Islamic believes, these school have their different interpretation on same-sex marriage. The Hanafi school which come under the Sunni group does not consider same-sex intercourse to constitute adultery, hence they leave the punishment to the judge’s discretion where as for the Imam Shafi’I school, same-sex intercourse is considered as analogous to other zina; thus anyone who is married and caught doing such sin is punished as an adulterer which automatically falls into the punishment of stoning to death while the unmarried man is left to be flogged as a fornicator. The Maliki School has the same interpretation as the Imam Shafi’i School. Lastly, Ja’fari school which belongs to the Shia group states that both married and unmarried that are caught to have commited same-sex intercourse automatically falls into the category of an adulterer which the punishment is stone to death. In Modern Islamic Laws, same-sex intercourse that might end up with death sentence is only found in 5 Muslim nations which are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, Yemen and lastly Sudan. In some Muslim countries for example Bahrain and Qatar, homosexuality is punished with jail time, fines or corporal punishments while in countries like Turkey, Jordan and Egypt same-sex intercourse is not forbidden there. However, Egyptian gays have been the victims of law against “morality”. In the Islamic law, only a certain number of male and female witnesses towards the homosexual act to testify in court. Even so there are those self-describe liberal Muslims that accept homosexuality and consider it as natural, regarding these verses in the context of modern society, or point out that the Qu’ran speaks against homosexual lust and not on homosexual love. However, this position remains highly controversial even amongst the liberal Muslims and this is taken into consideration as completely beyond the pale mainstream. This liberal thinking on homosexuality is supported by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle in his book entitled “Homosexuality in Islam”. In his book, he stated that no Muslims are better than another Muslim in terms of economic class, ethnicity or even sexual orientation. With this everyone even the gays and lesbians should be given their due respect and not being look down upon because of the different preference on sexual lust. 2. Christian
Marriage although in the bible wasn’t clearly defined but according to Brian Jones in his book entitled “A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, AND REMARRIAGE” states that God intended for marriage to form or produce a life-long relationship between a man and a woman. This is clearly shown right at the beginning of creation where the first marriage was between Adam, a man and Eve, a woman.
In Christianity, gay marriage is categorized as an abomination to the truth written in the Bible. Dr Peter Masters (2011) in his article book called “The Sword and Trowel” state that evil mindset of the people nowadays have gone against all the God’s ordained rules regarding relationship matter. This is not only for marriage but also the prohibition of intimate relationship before marriage and the prohibition of ‘vile affection’ between people of the same sex. This shows that in the beginning God created marriage with the purpose of giving men someone to hold onto or someone that supports them but due to men’s sinfulness and evil thoughts, they defile against God’s law on marriage which is only between a men and a women. According to Rev. Barbara Swartzel Anderson, in his book he put forth a bible passage regarding same-sex marriage. In that passage, it stated that men in a place called Sodom and Gomorah were condemned for their sexual immorality and unnatural lust which leads to the destruction of these two cities.
In addition to this, in Christianity, homosexual relationships fall short in the area of procreation, since they are unable to naturally fulfill God’s creation mandate for humanity which is to be fruitful and multiply to fill the whole earth. Adding on, homosexual also violates another principle of God’s creation design for human relationships which is complementarity. This is proven when one partner takes on the same sex as the other role which is completely opposed against the divine creation design.
In Christianity, there is no punishment shown in this live as we, as creatures created by God have to be thankful with what God have blessed us with for those who have committed the immoral sin of homosexuality. Even with that, those that are tied to homosexuality have to be given due respect in spite of the teaching of the Bible on this community of people as they are just the same as the rest, creations created by God.
As LGBT have been an uprising issue around the globe, community awareness have to be done in our country, Malaysia so that these group of people can receive the due respect that they should be given. According to Luis Arriaga in an article written on the Chicago Pheonix site, she stated that that one of the ways to create public awareness toward LGBT is through public education campaigns. This public education campaign was organized in Las Vegas with the theme of “Familia es Familia”. The purpose of this campaign is to strengthen the Latino voices for the acceptance of LGBT. Other than that, a website is launch with access to content that encourages the acceptance and empowerment of gay family members. The researcher supports this idea with a vision that one day everyone in this country will not be look down upon due to their status whether is heterosexual or homosexual.
In addition to that, the researcher suggests that employee or employers of the company should not discriminate the community of homosexual after knowing about the truth. This is because in this group of people or what we known as the gay people also face a lot of problems in their life either with their family members or with their friends when their gay status have been recovered. Other than that, the employer should make decisions that are beneficial to the company. For example, if one of the employees in the company is a categorized as a homosexual but in his work place he often performs well. With this, the manager or the person in charged should not force them to resign but to support them in their career. Adding on, students as young as pre-school level should be given education on matters related to homosexuality as not to discriminate them but to show the due respect. This is because often times teenagers when noticed or found out that someone they know is a homosexual or a gay, they will discriminate through whatever ways they can. With this, the main reason why homosexuals never publicly announced their status as gays or lesbians is due to the wide discrimination shown in some countries.
From this research, the researcher learns about the many different points and view of other previous researches that have done their research on this topic which is gay marriage. Even with the high uprising numbers of liberal minded people accepting and supporting the idea of gay rights and gay marriage in countries like U.S. still in other countries for example Malaysia, homosexual is not only illegal but if anyone caught connected with this matter will receive their due punishment. In addition to that, the researcher also managed to understand the thinking of family members towards homosexuality which often cases in the beginning is negative remarks but as time passes their view towards homosexuality changes as they try to understand and make an attempt to save the relationship with their love ones that are gays or lesbians.
Even with the negative look towards the idea of homosexuality, the researcher agrees that this community of people should be given the due respect and not being discriminated due to their different preference on sexual partners. In other words, the gay community should not be treated unfairly in any ways. This is because they are like anyone of us, humans and they have feelings which are easily prick when face with injustice by other who have different view on sexual matters.
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