2 years ago I took this speech class in college. It was one of the most inspiring courses I had taken to date and I felt like sharing a bit of my old writings (remember, this was me at 22) with you. Especially since the topic of same-sex marriage has been a great deal in the past few days over here.
New Orleans, about two years ago:
While a joyful parade is attracting hundreds of people on and around Bourbon Street, with its colorful masquerades and costumes, men in women’s clothes wearing make-up, high heels and feather boas, a different march is taking place in a side alley one block away from Bourbon street. It is a demonstration against homosexuality. Men in leather gear and dangerous looking equipment are waving signs with slogans such as “homosexuality is sin”, “ban homosexuality”, and citing paragraphs from the Old Testament. For me, this situation gave me something to think about, and to do some research on the topic of homosexuality in the U.S. I have been specifically interested in the issue of homosexual marriage ever since.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Laura, and tonight I will persuade you that the United States has to take measures for allowing same sex-marriage in every single state.
I will outline the basic problems surrounding same-sex marriage, the causes for some of these problems, and what steps can be taken in the future to reinforce same-sex marriage in every state.
According to encarta.com, marriage is defined as a “socially recognized and approved union between individuals, who commit to one another with the expectation of a stable and lasting intimate relationship.” Marriage has to be legally and socially approved, and it is regarded as a relationship that involves rights and benefits no other union (or relationship) can have.
Today, as cited in the NCSL.org (national conference of state legislature), in our fifty states, only 6 states issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
Ten other states accept same-sex marriages that have occurred in a different state, or offer civil unions for same-sex couples. Some of you may wonder what the difference between a civil union and a marriage is: A civil union is an alternative type of relationship for those homosexuals who are not allowed to marry, and it comes with a fraction of the rights and benefits a marriage has. However, it is not accepted equally across the States, and every state has a different definition of it. As you can tell, this constitutes a problem. Everyone knows how to understand a marriage but for civil unions, the definition is not so clear.
Now, let’s turn to causes for the opposition of same-sex marriage. They have political, religious, and societal motives.
First, as stated in the NCSL, in 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (aka DOMA). This Act refines marriage as between a “man and a woman,” and, thus, excludes marriage between same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage is not federally recognized, and the amendment gives states the opportunity to prohibit this type of marriage. DOMA has had such a strong influence on the state’s legislations, that, shortly thereafter, laws within states were passed that did not recognize same-sex marriage or marriage formed in another state.
Second, religious proponents are still fighting the war against homosexuality, in general. As I saw in New Orleans, people like to take certain passages of the bible and illustrate how these oppose homosexual marriage. Religion is closely related to societal beliefs. According to Alex Rich in his article “Same Sex marriage: An Overview,” opponents declare that homosexuality is believed to be a choice made by the individuals, rather than being biological determined. Religious preachers thus label homosexual “practices” sin, and see no relation between biological genes and homosexuality.
Third, a privilege of marriage is having legal responsibility for a child. Adopting a child is an option same sex couples consider. However, opponents strongly believe that children will display abnormal behavior when being raised by a same-sex couple. As cited in Lyonn-nore Chittom in her article “Same Sex Marriage,” it is strongly believed that each biological parent carries a different responsibility and role towards a child. As further cited, children might become confused and disturbed as which parent to turn to for assistance.
I have outlined the three major problem areas to you. Now, I will turn to look at what solutions are offered to fight harmful beliefs against homosexuals and how same-sex marriage can become socially and legally accepted.
First, referring to my last point, the APA has readily denied any harmful effects same-sex couples can have on raising children. Homosexual role models do not affect children negatively, and, most importantly, children are not confused in their sex role identity, as most opponents like to claim. Thus, a same sex-couple is perfectly capable of providing a home environment comparable to heterosexual parents.
By allowing marriage, same sex couples could enjoy the privilege of raising a child and providing him or her with a loving and caring home.
Second, considering the issue of religion and societal beliefs:
I am not here to convince you whether what stands in the bible is true or untrue, I can only say that many alternative forms of life style have been accepted nowadays, which would have not been accepted by bible standards. Cohabitation is one.
We should also recognize that homosexuals have been around as long as human beings have been around. The idea that homosexuality is a choice of lifestyle, like some opponents usually state, is biologically false.
Thirdly, the DOMA is a strong act that has had an effect on most states. As I told you earlier, only 16 states show some form of acceptance for homosexual couples in a legal way. The rest 34 states choose to follow the DOMA. It is clear that laws depend on the public opinion, and that the people belonging to the states had an effect on whether proposing or opposing same-sex marriage. However, the DOMA and other legislations taken by the states should not depend on the public opinion. It should not even have been passed those 13 years ago, since it goes against the 14th amendment.
As stated in Section 1 of the 14st amendment: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Clearly, the DOMA and any other law enforced against same-sex marriage is a breach against the Constitution. It should be abolished immediately.
Every American individual has the privilege to marry. Until 1996, it was not illegal to wed same sex couples. Because it was socially unaccepted, Congress passed the DOMA, and it is restricting homosexuals in their right to live according to their own sexual orientation. It is restricting same-sex couples in expressing freely how one feels for another.
In conclusion, I have outlined the problems and causes surrounding same sex marriage. I have given you some solutions of how the United States can fix this problem.
Civil unions are an answer. But they cannot come up for the privileges a marriage provides. They cannot come up for the ceremony, nor the very special day two persons enjoy and want to keep in memory.
Adoption and inheritance privileges are not an option for same sex couples living together. They would not have the right to decide about any medical issues concerning their partner. Same-sex marriage has taken a leap in the last few years. Let us hope that it will take a further leap in 2010, 2011, and thereafter.
Thank you for your attention!
(Oct 2009, for UMUC Europe)