Some basic questions
Basic questions concerning same-sex marriage:
"What is the purpose of marriage?" Opinions differ:
In the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case before a California federal court during 2009 & 2010, a coalition of Roman Catholic, Mormon and evangelical Christian groups called ProtectMarriage.com argued in favor of the state adopting a conservative Christian belief about religious marriage. They believe that its purpose is to encourage responsible parenthood. This is where a man and women marry with the intent of having and raising their biological children who are genetically related to both of them. This is impossible for same-sex couples. Thus, the coalition believes that such couples should not be allowed to marry.
- Lawyers for the two same-sex couples who were plaintiffs in the case argued that the state adopt a civil and more inclusive definition of marriage that might or might not include children. They view marriage as a lifetime commitment by two persons to support each other materially, emotionally, physically and spiritually, " 'till death do us part." This would embrace all types of marriages, most of which would be by fertile opposite-sex couples who may decide to conceive and raise biologically related children. It would also include same-sex couples, and infertile opposite-sex couples who might decide to accept and raise their children via adoption, artificial insemination, other assisted fertility methods, or surrogate birth.
"Is there more than one type of marriage?" Opinions differ:
- Some individuals and groups believe that the definition of marriage specified by their faith group and which restricts marriage to one man and one woman is the only valid one. It should be adopted by the state. Same-sex marriage cannot be considered a marriage. Many feel that marriage was defined by God in the Garden of Eden, that this definition predated the first government, and that this definition cannot be changed. Thus, SSMs are logically impossible.
Others argue in favor of two types of marriage: civil and religious. A religious marriage is whatever a faith group defines it to be. In the past, religious groups have refused to marry inter-racial couples, same-sex couples, couples where one partner is disabled, etc. A civil marriage would be defined by the state as a union of two persons who are willing to make a commitment to support each other emotionally and in every other way, hopefully for life. When the Ontario Court of Appeal on 2003-JUN-10 legalized same-sex marriage for the first time in that Canadian province, they defined civil marriage as: "the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others." Any two persons, regardless of gender, would be able to enter a civil marriage if they had reached a sufficient age and were not too closely related genetically. Of course, a person would only be able to enter a religious marriage if they met both the requirements of their faith and their state.
"Are same-sex marriages (SSMs) a threat or benefit to the institution of marriage?" Again, opinions differ:
- Many religious and social conservatives argue that marriage was defined by God and has remained unchanged as a union of one man and one woman. They are convinced that children being raised by same-sex couples are heavily disadvantaged because they are missing either a mother or father as a role model. In court, they have presented studies that compare children raised by their biological parents with those raised by single parents to prove that children do not do well if raised by other than their biological parents. Allowing SSMs would devalue the institution of marriage and lead to lower marriage rates and higher divorce rates.
- Many religious liberals, secularists, child psychologists and others argue that the institution of marriage has taken many forms from biblical times until today. Polygamy is often mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Before 1967, only couples of the same race were able to marry in many states. Before the civil war, African Americans were not allowed to marry in many states. SSMs are simply a logical extension of this trend.
Studies indicate that negative effects have not materialized in those jurisdictions where SSM has become available. Massachusetts, the state that first legalized SSM has the lowest divorce rate in the nation. Studies in various European countries that have had SSM longer than Massachusetts also report no negative effect.
Again, if both sides in the SSM conflict could cooperate in joint studies to determine the outcome of children raised in families headed by same-sex parents, and the effects, if any, of SSM upon marriage and divorce rates, etc. then a compromise might be reached on the basis of hard data rather than emotion.
Unfortunately, only one large scale study was made that investigated the outcome of children. It was the ACHESS study in Australia during 2013 that involved about 500 children in families led by same-sex parents. They reported that:
"... children with same-sex attracted parents are developing well. They are growing up in a range of contexts and score well on measures of health and wellbeing in the face of discrimination. Further analysis of the ACHESS data will identify in what ways this discrimination affects children and their families, as well as characterising overall health and wellbeing in more detail..."
Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted on 2010-AUG-22
Latest update on: 2016-MAY-07
Compiled by B.A. Robinson