Last updated on: 1/30/2021 | Author: ProCon.org

On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the US Constitution in all 50 states. Prior to their decision, same-sex marriage was already legal in 37 states and Washington DC, but was banned in the remaining 13. US public opinion had shifted significantly over the years, from 27% approval of gay marriage in 1996 to 55% in 2015, the year it became legal throughout the United States, to 61% in 2019.

Proponents of legal gay marriage contend that gay marriage bans are discriminatory and unconstitutional, and that same-sex couples should have access to all the benefits enjoyed by different-sex couples.

Opponents contend that marriage has traditionally been defined as being between one man and one woman, and that marriage is primarily for procreation. Read more background…

 

Pro & Con Arguments

Pro 1

To deny some people the option to marry would be discriminatory and would create a second class of citizens. Same-sex couples should have access to the same benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

On July 25, 2014 Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel ruled Florida’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional and stated that the ban “serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society.” [105]

As well as discrimination based on sexual orientation, gay marriage bans discriminated based on one’s sex. As David S. Cohen, JD, Associate Professor at the Drexel University School of Law, explained, “Imagine three people—Nancy, Bill, and Tom… Nancy, a woman, can marry Tom, but Bill, a man, cannot… Nancy can do something (marry Tom) that Bill cannot, simply because Nancy is a woman and Bill is a man.” [122]

Over 1,000 benefits, rights and protections are available to married couples in federal law alone, including hospital visitation, filing a joint tax return to reduce a tax burden, access to family health coverage, US residency and family unification for partners from another country, and bereavement leave and inheritance rights if a partner dies. [6] [86] [95]

Married couples also have access to protections if the relationship ends, such as child custody, spousal or child support, and an equitable division of property. [93] Married couples in the US armed forces are offered health insurance and other benefits unavailable to domestic partners. [125] The IRS and the US Department of Labor also recognize married couples, for the purpose of granting tax, retirement and health insurance benefits. [126]

An Oct. 2, 2009 analysis by the New York Times estimated that same-sex couples denied marriage benefits incurred an additional $41,196 to $467,562 in expenses over their lifetimes compared with married heterosexual couples. [7]

Additionally, legal same-sex marriage comes with mental and physical health benefits. The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and others concluded that legal gay marriage gives couples “access to the social support that already facilitates and strengthens heterosexual marriages, with all of the psychological and physical health benefits associated with that support.” [47]

A study found that same-sex married couples were “significantly less distressed than lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons not in a legally recognized relationship.” [113]

A 2010 analysis found that after their states had banned gay marriage, gay, lesbian and bisexual people suffered a 37% increase in mood disorders, a 42% increase in alcohol-use disorders, and a 248% increase in generalized anxiety disorders. [69]

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Pro 2

Gay marriages bring financial gain to federal, state, and local governments, and boost the economy.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2004 that federally-recognized gay marriage would cut the budget deficit by around $450 million a year. [89]

In July 2012 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that gay marriage had contributed $259 million to the city’s economy in just a year since the practice became legal there in July 2011. [43]

Government revenue from marriage comes from marriage licenses, higher income taxes in some circumstances (the so-called “marriage penalty”), and decreases in costs for state benefit programs. [4]

In 2012, the Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) found that in the first five years after Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004, same-sex wedding expenditures (such as venue rental, wedding cakes, etc.) added $111 million to the state’s economy. [114]

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Pro 3

Legal marriage is a secular institution that should not be limited by religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Religious institutions can decline to marry gay and lesbian couples if they wish, but they should not dictate marriage laws for society at large.

As explained by People for the American Way, “As a legal matter, marriage is a civil institution… Marriage is also a religious institution, defined differently by different faiths and congregations. In America, the distinction can get blurry because states permit clergy to carry out both religious and civil marriage in a single ceremony. Religious Right leaders have exploited that confusion by claiming that granting same-sex couples equal access to civil marriage would somehow also redefine the religious institution of marriage… this is grounded in falsehood and deception.” [132]

Nancy Cott, PhD, testified in Perry v. Schwarzenegger that “[c]ivil law has always been supreme in defining and regulating marriage.” [41]

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Pro 4

The concept of “traditional marriage” has changed over time, and the idea that the definition of marriage has always been between one man and one woman is historically inaccurate.

Harvard University historian Nancy F. Cott stated that until two centuries ago, “monogamous households were a tiny, tiny portion” of the world’s population, and were found only in “Western Europe and little settlements in North America.” [106]

Official unions between same-sex couples, indistinguishable from marriages except for gender, are believed by some scholars to have been common until the 13th Century in many countries, with the ceremonies performed in churches and the union sealed with a kiss between the two parties. [106]

Polygamy has been widespread throughout history, according to Brown University political scientist Rose McDermott, PhD. [106] [110]

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Pro 5

Gay marriage is a civil right protected by the US Constitution’s commitments to liberty and equality, and is an internationally recognized human right for all people.

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), on May 21, 2012, named same-sex marriage as “one of the key civil rights struggles of our time.” [61] In 1967 the US Supreme Court unanimously confirmed in Loving v. Virginia that marriage is “one of the basic civil rights of man.” [60] In 2014, the White House website listed same-sex marriage amongst a selection of civil rights, along with freedom from employment discrimination, equal pay for women, and fair sentencing for minority criminals. [118]

The US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in the 1974 case Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur that the “freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause” of the US Constitution. US District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote on Aug. 4, 2010 that Prop. 8 in California banning gay marriage was “unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.” [41] The Due Process Clause in both the Fifth and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution states that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” [111] The Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment states that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” [112]

Since 1888 the US Supreme Court has declared at least 14 times that marriage is a fundamental right for all. [3] Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees “men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion… the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.” [103]

Amnesty International states that “this non-discrimination principle has been interpreted by UN treaty bodies and numerous inter-governmental human rights bodies as prohibiting discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation has therefore become an internationally recognized principle.” [104]

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Pro 6

Marriage is not only for procreation, otherwise infertile couples or couples not wishing to have children would be prevented from marrying.

Ability or desire to create offspring has never been a qualification for marriage. From 1970 through 2012 roughly 30% of all US households were married couples without children, and in 2012, married couples without children outnumbered married couples with children by 9%. [96]

6% of married women aged 15-44 are infertile, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [97]

In a 2010 Pew Research Center survey, both married and unmarried people rated love, commitment, and companionship higher than having children as “very important” reasons to get married, and only 44% of unmarried people and 59% of married people rated having children as a very important reason. [42]

As US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan noted, a marriage license would be granted to a couple in which the man and woman are both over the age of 55, even though “there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.” [88]

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Con 1

The institution of marriage has traditionally been defined as being between a man and a woman. Civil unions and domestic partnerships could provide the protections and benefits gay couples need without changing the definition of marriage.

John F. Harvey, late Catholic priest, wrote in July 2009 that “Throughout the history of the human race the institution of marriage has been understood as the complete spiritual and bodily communion of one man and one woman.” [18] [109]

In upholding gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee on Nov. 6, 2014, 6th US District Court of Appeals Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton wrote that “marriage has long been a social institution defined by relationships between men and women. So long defined, the tradition is measured in millennia, not centuries or decades. So widely shared, the tradition until recently had been adopted by all governments and major religions of the world.” [117]

In the Oct. 15, 1971 decision Baker v. Nelson, the Supreme Court of Minnesota found that “the institution of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family, is as old as the book of Genesis.” [49]

Privileges available to couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships can include health insurance benefits, inheritance without a will, the ability to file state taxes jointly, and hospital visitation rights. [155] [156] New laws could enshrine other benefits for civil unions and domestic partnerships that would benefit same-sex couple as well as heterosexual couples who do not want to get married.

2016 presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina stated that civil unions are adequate as an equivalent to marriage: “Benefits are being bestowed to gay couples [in civil unions]… I believe we need to respect those who believe that the word marriage has a spiritual foundation… Why can’t we respect and tolerate that while at the same time saying government cannot bestow benefits unequally.” [157]

43rd US President George W. Bush expressed his support for same-sex civil unions while in office: “I don’t think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that’s what a state chooses to do so… I strongly believe that marriage ought to be defined as between a union between a man and a woman. Now, having said that, states ought to be able to have the right to pass laws that enable people to be able to have rights like others.” [158]

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Con 2

Marriage is for procreation. Same sex couples should be prohibited from marriage because they cannot produce children together.

The purpose of marriage should not shift away from producing and raising children to adult gratification. [19]

A California Supreme Court ruling from 1859 stated that “the first purpose of matrimony, by the laws of nature and society, is procreation.” [90]

Nobel Prize-winning philosopher Bertrand Russell stated that “it is through children alone that sexual relations become important to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.” [91]

Court papers filed in July 2014 by attorneys defending Arizona’s gay marriage ban stated that “the State regulates marriage for the primary purpose of channeling potentially procreative sexual relationships into enduring unions for the sake of joining children to both their mother and their father… Same-sex couples can never provide a child with both her biological mother and her biological father.” [98]

Contrary to the pro gay marriage argument that some different-sex couples cannot have children or don’t want them, even in those cases there is still the potential to produce children. Seemingly infertile heterosexual couples sometimes produce children, and medical advances may allow others to procreate in the future. Heterosexual couples who do not wish to have children are still biologically capable of having them, and may change their minds. [98]

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Con 3

Gay marriage has accelerated the assimilation of gays into mainstream heterosexual culture to the detriment of the homosexual community.

The gay community has created its own vibrant culture. By reducing the differences in opportunities and experiences between gay and heterosexual people, this unique culture may cease to exist.

Lesbian activist M.V. Lee Badgett, PhD, Director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, stated that for many gay activists “marriage means adopting heterosexual forms of family and giving up distinctively gay family forms and perhaps even gay and lesbian culture.” [14]

Paula Ettelbrick, JD, Professor of Law and Women’s Studies, wrote in 1989, “Marriage runs contrary to two of the primary goals of the lesbian and gay movement: the affirmation of gay identity and culture and the validation of many forms of relationships.” [15]

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Con 4

Marriage is an outmoded, oppressive institution that should have been weakened, not expanded.

LGBT activist collective Against Equality stated, “Gay marriage apes hetero privilege… [and] increases economic inequality by perpetuating a system which deems married beings more worthy of the basics like health care and economic rights.” [84]

The leaders of the Gay Liberation Front in New York said in July 1969, “We expose the institution of marriage as one of the most insidious and basic sustainers of the system. The family is the microcosm of oppression.” [16]

Queer activist Anders Zanichkowsky stated in June 2013 that the then campaign for gay marriage “intentionally and maliciously erases and excludes so many queer people and cultures, particularly trans and gender non-conforming people, poor queer people, and queer people in non-traditional families… marriage thinks non-married people are deviant and not truly deserving of civil rights.” [127]

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Con 5

Gay marriage is contrary to the word of God and is incompatible with the beliefs, sacred texts, and traditions of many religious groups.

The Bible, in Leviticus 18:22, states: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination,” thus condemning homosexual relationships. [120]

The Catholic Church, United Methodist Church, Southern Baptist Convention, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, National Association of Evangelicals, and American Baptist Churches USA all oppose same-sex marriage. [119]

According to a July 31, 2003 statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II, marriage “was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose. No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman.” [54] Pope Benedict stated in Jan. 2012 that gay marriage threatened “the future of humanity itself.” [145]

Two orthodox Jewish groups, the Orthodox Agudath Israel of America and the Orthodox Union, also oppose gay marriage, as does mainstream Islam. [13] [119]

In Islamic tradition, several hadiths (passages attributed to the Prophet Muhammad) condemn gay and lesbian relationships, including the sayings “When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes,” and “Sihaq [lesbian sex] of women is zina [illegitimate sexual intercourse].” [121]

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Con 6

Homosexuality is immoral and unnatural, and, therefore, same sex marriage is immoral and unnatural.

J. Matt Barber, Associate Dean for Online Programs at Liberty University School of Law, stated, “Every individual engaged in the homosexual lifestyle, who has adopted a homosexual identity, they know, intuitively, that what they’re doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive, yet they thirst for that affirmation.” [149]

A 2003 set of guidelines signed by Pope John Paul II stated: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family… Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.” [147]

Former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee stated that gay marriage is “inconsistent with nature and nature’s law.” [148]

J. Matt Barber, Associate Dean for Online Programs at Liberty University School of Law, stated, “Every individual engaged in the homosexual lifestyle, who has adopted a homosexual identity, they know, intuitively, that what they’re doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive, yet they thirst for that affirmation.” [149]

A 2003 set of guidelines signed by Pope John Paul II stated: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family… Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.” [147]

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Did You Know?
1. The world's first legal gay marriage ceremony took place in the Netherlands on Apr. 1, 2001, just after midnight. The four couples, one female and three male, were married in a televised ceremony officiated by the mayor of Amsterdam. [152]
2. On May 17, 2004, the first legal gay marriage in the United States was performed in Cambridge, MA between Tanya McCloskey, a massage therapist, and Marcia Kadish, an employment manager at an engineering firm. [26]
3. The June 26, 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges US Supreme Court ruling made gay marriage legal in all 50 US states. [168]
4. An estimated 293,000 American same-sex couples have married since June 26, 2015, bringing the total number of married same-sex couples to about 513,000 in the US. [169]
5. On May 26, 2020, Costa Rica became the first Central American country to legalize same-sex marriage. [170]

 
 

Our Latest Updates (archived after 30 days)

Jared Polis First Sitting US Governor to Marry Same-Sex Partner
9/17/2021 -

Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) married long-time partner Marlon Reis on Sep. 15, 2021, in the first same-sex marriage of a sitting US governor. Polis was the first openly gay man elected as governor in the US and the second openly LGBTQ+ person elected governor, after Oregon Governor Kate Brown who identifies as bisexual.

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