31 March 2013
Classical Greece, 7th century BC. When a male child reaches an age somewhere between 13 and 17, he prepares to become a fully recognized citizen. This includes training for the military, and becoming the apprentice of an older, male member of the society. This elder teaches his new apprentice responsibility, social norms, and the odds and ends of being an adult. He also engages in penetrative sex with him. Homosexuality has been a part of society for a very long time. In fact, one of the only other human conditions that outdates it is marriage. With both concepts being so old, it should come to no surprise that the two have crossed paths. In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act was passed. This act revised the definition of marriage to “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” Later, in 2004 a surge of gay marriages brought national attention to the subject once again. This sparked an argument that has continued to this very day. The purpose of this article is not to dispute the charges for or against same sex marriage. This essay will examine gay marriage from the economic, sociological, and historical perspectives. Through these perspectives, the issue of gay marriage will be more clearly defined. Historical
For the purposes of this essay, I would like to begin by using the historical perspective to examine interracial marriages as a segue into same sex marriage. In the budding America, a law was passed in 1691 that prohibited interracial marriages. This set the tone for the next 276 years. Though there were flows and ebbs, in which some states would take a negative stance on anti-miscegenation laws, the majority of the nation supported these laws. During the Jim Crow era, they were pushed even further. The punishment for interracial relationships were often cruel and extreme because the general belief of the time was that interracial marriage would have negative impacts on the economy, children, and even general health. Modern times have shown, however, that these arguments were all biased and untrue (Wikipedia).
Almost mirroring the arguments surrounding miscegenation, arguments have been made challenging same sex marriages and relationships. Opinion polls reported by Gallop between 2004 and 2005 outlined the basic American stance on the issue. In one poll, conducted in 2004, Americans were asked if they would favor or oppose a law that would allow homosexual couples to legally get married, or if they had no opinion on the issue at all. The results showed that only 24% of Americans would have favored such a law. 23% did not have an opinion about gay marriage, and the majority, 53%, opposed such a law - with 44% of those respondents opposing it strongly (Carroll). Though this poll had no immediate influence on the outcome of legislation surrounding same-sex marriage, it showed the general disdain Americans had for gay marriage and homosexuality in general.
As if to supplement those results, in late 2005 the American Family Association – a conservative Christian foundation listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center as of November 2010 for the “propagation of known falsehoods” and the use of “demonizing propaganda” against LGBT people – published a website called NoGayMarriage.com. This website delineated 10 reasons against same-sex marriage, and generated millions of views and nods of approval. These arguments included same-sex marriage being a slippery slope that leads to polygamy, same-sex couples adopting and turning their children into baby homosexuals, and same-sex marriages draining the economy and bringing about divine retribution (Head). This website and article reinforced all the negative stereotypes surrounding gay legislation and used the religious tendency of the American people to set the movement back.
The AIDS epidemic of the late 80s veiled the gay community in a shroud of perceived danger and mystery. The majority of the public still perceived AIDS as largely a gay disease, even though the epidemic was increasingly transmitted through heterosexual contact. In addition, gay and bisexual men with AIDS got more blame and less sympathy than heterosexual men and women with the disease, regardless of whether they were infected through sex with one or many partners. This translated to beliefs that, like interracial couples once were thought to, same-sex couples would promote disease within the population (Herek). Sociological
The validation of same-sex marriage as plausible is relatively new. However, recent times have seen dramatic changes in public views. In 2003, 55% of a random sample of 1,001 American adults believed that same-sex marriage should be illegal, and only 37% believed that it should be legalized. Over the course of 10 years, those results have flip flopped; where now 58% believes that same-sex marriage should be legalized and only 36% believes the opposite. The poll, conducted by The Washington Post in conjunction with ABC News, shows how public support for gay marriage has fared over the years; from 2003 to present. It also breaks down results by age and party alignment. The vast majority of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 support gay marriage; 81% to be exact. Their older counterparts between the ages of 65 and death are less liberal, with only 44% supporting gay marriage (Cohen). Though just a poll, the current amount of fervor surrounding debate over the issue turns this source into a personal victory for marriage equality advocates, often citing the poll as reason to overturn current legislature. Economic
The economic perspective presents a practical view on same sex marriage. Whereas the former present public opinion and a social component, this view can be measured by actual currency. As an example, let’s take a look at the state of Iowa. In April of 2009, Iowa extended the right of marriage to same sex couples. The following year brought vast economic gains to the state, especially in the forms of tourism and wedding expenditures.
First and foremost, the basic procedure of same sex marriage was find a hotel, get married, wait for three days to get the marriage license, and then go home. There were roughly 2,000 marriage licenses issued within the first year of the legalization of marriage. Only 866 of those licenses were given to couples who had residence in Iowa. That means that all other couples who were issued licenses were visiting the state. Those couples had to pay hotel costs, transportation costs, and out-of-state taxes. Both residential and visiting couples had guests at their wedding as well. On average, the marriage of residential couples included 16 guests who needed one-night hotel accommodations. The marriage of visiting couples included about 6 guests who needed one-night accommodations. That brings the estimate for the number of visiting guests up to roughly 21,000. Those couples who were from out-of-state also had to book an additional three night stay in order to obtain their marriage licenses, due to the three day waiting period.
Another factor that accounted for Iowa’s economic boost was the total amount of money spent on the weddings themselves. The estimated average cost of residential same sex weddings was $4,500 per wedding. The cost of visiting ceremonies averaged $1,800 per wedding. Both factors combined brought the total estimated economic boost of Iowa to roughly $12 million (Kastanis). Of course, this phenomenon has been used as a milestone for gay marriage; the argument being that if there was marriage equality throughout the nation, there is potential for $600+ million in economic gains. That sort of gain could do a lot for the economic situation the nation is currently facing. The Break Down
Each perspective brought to light a different aspect of the varying attitudes surrounding same-sex marriage. There were a few overlapping ideas; mainly that homosexuality is quite controversial, and that the fight for marriage equality is not black and white. On one hand, the historical sources show that Americans have had typically negative views of homosexuality in general. That makes sense, since roughly 78% of American adults subscribe to Christian beliefs; a religion that has traditionally looked down upon homosexuality. These beliefs dictate that homosexuality should never be acceptable, and that marriage is strictly to be between a man and a woman. Coupled with the many misconceptions of homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic, the gays of America might have been running an uphill race. However, history does provide positive examples of how the fight for marriage equality could turn out. Taking a page from the book of interracial marriages, the major fight for the marriage equality movement is battling the stereotypes America has had throughout the years. Though there has been a lot of debate surrounding various social norms, the issue comes down to all members of the nation having equal rights, no matter what their creed. Following history’s various fights for rights, the books could one day read – same-sex marriage was wrongfully not allowed, there was a movement followed by enlightenment, and same-sex marriage was legalized.
The sociological source also supports the idea that the future of same-sex marriage could turn out very similar to that of interracial marriage. Polls have shown that acceptance of homosexuality in general has significantly increased over time. Also, the long term study of attitudes surrounding same-sex marriage has shown that attitudes have essentially flipped; where once denial of those rights was at a high of roughly 61% in 2005, acceptance is now at a high of 58%. This shows how society is changing. Even the economic perspective ushers in more positive correlations with same-sex marriage. The boost of economic activity in Iowa following the legalization of same-sex marriage shows the potential for economic gains throughout the nation. Iowa alone profited nearly $12 million.
Of course, the sources are not all completely aligned. There is always, for example, the risk that the current minority who reject same-sex marriage could once again become the majority. Although it is not likely, the flare of acceptance then rejection during the early 2000s proves that anything is possible Also, the economic perspective could be completely flipped. For example, same-sex couples are currently paying a lot of money in the form of taxes. This generates a significant amount of revenue for the government. One instance of this would be how surviving spouses in heterosexual marriages don’t have to pay taxes on their deceased spouse’s estate, while same-sex widows must pay a 35% estate tax on anything in excess of the $5 million exemption. If legalized, married same-sex couples would be entitled to certain taxes and Social Security benefits. This could in turn cause a greater strain on the economy. In conclusion, it is only through varied knowledge that we find truth. Through reading multiple sources, I have learned that same-sex marriage is more beneficial than harmful. The discrepancies found between the articles all revolved around personal bias, such as religious barriers or negative misconceptions. Those are not proof enough for me to reject my stance on the issue. Works Cited
Carroll, Joseph. "American Public Opinion About Gay and Lesbian Marriages." Gallup. Gallup, 27 Jan 2004. Web. 3 Apr 2013. <http://www.gallup.com/poll/10432/Gay-Lesbian-Marriages.aspx Cohen, Jon. "Gay Marriage Support Hits New High In Post-ABC Poll." The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company, 18 Mar. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2013. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/03/18/gay-marriage-support-hits-new-high-in-post-abc-poll/> Head, Tom. "10 Really Bad Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage." About.com. About.com, 7 May 2006. Web. 2 Apr. 2013. <http://www.google.com/url?q=http://civilliberty.about.com/od/gendersexuality/tp/Arguments-Against-Gay-Marriage.htm>. Herek, Gregory M., Ph.D. Nationwide Poll in USA Shows That AIDS Continues To Be A Stigmatized Disease. Rep. University of California, Davis, 8 Jan. 2000. Web. 2 Apr. 2013. <http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/genpress.pdf> Kastanis, Angeliki. Estimating the Economic Boost of Marriage Equality in Iowa: Sales Tax. Rep. The Williams Institute, Dec. 2011. Web. 2 Apr. 2013. <http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Badgett-Kastanis-Herman-IA-Economic-Boost-Dec-2011.pdf> Wikipedia contributors. "Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. Wikipedia contributors. "Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 3 Apr. 2013.