Gay Marriage

 


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Nowadays the problem of gay marriages becomes more and more important and actual, particularly in well-developed occidental countries such as the USA. The last presidential elections are a good evidence of this fact because, probably, the problem of gay marriages played such an important role in the campaign. The fact that the candidates raised this problem on the highest level indicates that very soon the role of the problem will increase. Anyway, it is evident that the society has to discuss widely and find some solution to this particular problem. Such a discussion has been already started and now it is in the progress, many specialists discuss it beginning from ordinary people to specialists in law, medicine, representatives of different religions, and finally politicians of the highest level. Naturally, one may ask why it is so important nowadays and what are its causes and possible consequences of its solution. In my opinion, it is the result of the gradual evaluation of western society, particularly its political and legislative traditions. It is evident that in those countries where human relations achieved such freedom as in the US, for instance, and where an individual, his or her rights are the highest value, and finally where democracy is the basis of all relations within the society then it is quite natural that people tend to develop interpersonal relations in the direction of enlarged freedom.

Consequently, taking into consideration all the variety of relations that exist or could exist within the society, we can easily come to the conclusion that people need to legalize such relations in order not to be a kind of outcasts. In the case of gays it is particularly important because it does not need to be prove that there is a big part of the society that oppose to any kind of homosexual relations, naturally for this part of the population gay marriages are unthinkable and certainly unacceptable, as a result gays become outcasts. Furthermore, the gaps in legislation or more precisely the absence of legislation regulating relations between gays themselves or between gays and the rest of the society lead to their isolation and in this sense they may be labeled as a deprived part of the society. Thus, one part of the society, represented by gays, strive for equality with other members of the society, at least through legalization their relations through the institute of marriage, while the other part, that may be defined as a conventional or maybe conservative, wants to sustain the existing situation or even oppose to any attempts to legalize gays family relations. That is why in my paper I am going to discuss the problem of gay marriage, I will try to find out what vies on this problem exist, and certainly I will discuss the definition of ‘marriage’ itself, how it relates to the existing doctrine of separation of the church from the state, and finally, I will dwell upon the constitutional violation of the principle separate but equal.

Firstly, I would like to start with the different attitude that is now formed in relation to the problem of gay marriages. From the very beginning I want to underline that views on this problem vary greatly. Probably, the simplest variant sounds as to be or not to be, in other words to accept or not gay marriages. It is certainly a question the answer to which will give us a definite solution of the problem but, unfortunately, it could be quite radical and shocking for a conservative part of the society. Naturally, there are some other attitudes to the problem and ways of its solution which differ from a total acceptance, however mainly from the part of homosexuals themselves and a relatively small part of traditionally oriented people, to a complete ignorance of this problem, those who belong to the ‘adepts’ of the latter becomes less and less numerous. Frankly speaking, it is quite difficult to find out who is right and who is not. But in my opinion, sooner or later we have to give a concrete answer to the question to be or not to be. To answer this question we have to regard at this problem from different ground as all people now actually do, but if they really want to solve the problem they probably have to find some compromise or simply try to listen and understand each other. So, I will briefly try to explain the main points of view on the problem and then I will discuss some of them a bit later.

So, we have to regard at the problem of gay marriages in two dimensions: moral and juridical and it seems to me that the former is much harder to deal with then the latter. I will try to explain my idea. The problem of gay marriages is for the major part of society is first of all the problem of morality. A great part of the population think how moral it is to accept marriages between gays, how it corresponds to their personal moral, and what is not less important religious views. The latter is of a paramount importance because as I will prove it a bit later the religious view on the problem is extremely important and actually enlarge the question from a concrete one whether to admit or not gay marriage to a larger, or even philosophical one, to the question of a traditional life style of the whole society. As for the juridical side of the problem, at the first glance it seems technically simple. It is supposed that through an amendment to the Constitution and several legislative acts the problem may be solved. But even this technical implementation of changes in the existing law will find a strong opposition regardless it is pro or contra gay marriages because it will influence the electorate attitude to this or that politician and it is quite risky to take a rigid ground without a possibility to change personal views.

Thus, we may say that gay marriage is the subject of public discussions and, in my opinion, it will remain as such for quite a long time because the solution of the problem is quite difficult from both aspects moral and juridical. Anyway the main and defining in this discussion will be public opinion which is influenced by many factors and some of them I have already mentioned.

One of such defining factors is the understanding and interpretation of the notion of ‘marriage’ itself. Traditionally, in western society the marriage is defined as “being between one man and one woman” (Chauncy 2004:198). Many people argue to what extent such a definition of marriage is correct and whether it is always true for all peoples living not only in the whole world but even in one country such as the USA. To make the debate clear I would like to explain why the notion of marriage as union between one man and one woman prevail in occidental culture. I think it is an undoubted fact that monogamy, which presuppose such a kind of marriage is a long time established form reigning in western societies. It is the result of the development of these societies throughout the history, they gradually evaluated from other forms of marriage to this one which is the most acceptable for the society. On the other hand, western societies are highly democratic and that is one of the main reasons why such a discussion whether to accept gay marriage or not, exist at all. Otherwise, in less developed or less democratic societies such a question might have ever been raised because the reigning traditional ideology would succumb all others, all views different from the common one. So, it is the society, its development, that shapes the public perception of the notion of marriage and engenders the problem of gay marriages.

However, such an attitude to the notion cannot be the only one accepted by the whole society without any remarks. If we take as an example American society we will see that there are a lot of opponents to the definition of marriage as a marriage between one man and one woman. As I have already mention such a situation is caused by democratic nature of American society itself. The followers of the idea of legalization of gay marriages estimate that the definition mentioned above is if not mistakable then quite arguable. They draw a lot of examples from the past of different human societies as well as they indicate at other modern societies and cultural or religious groups that exist in other countries or coexist in one and the same country, such as the USA. For instance they speak about the marriage in Oriental, mainly Muslim countries where the notion of marriage differs significantly from its western counterpart. In such countries polygamy, when one man marry several woman, is a norm of life and there is nothing shocking in such a situation. Furthermore, even the USA, which have been repeatedly named as a basic representatives of traditional western culture, have the Mormon culture in which like in Muslim cultures “polygamy was a viable option for quite some time” (Chauncy 2004:221). To support the equality between men and women in such a context, I can also name such a notion as polyandry. This phenomenon is spread in some central Asian cultures and it means an analogue of polygamy but in relation to women, in other words one woman may have several husbands.

Thus, we can see that the notion of ‘marriage’ may vary greatly and even people of one and the same country, having different cultures, may have different understanding of this notion. Briefly speaking it may vary from a traditional for western countries marriage between one man and one woman to a polygamy, or polyandry it is simply the question of existing culture, moral norms and often religion.

By the way, exactly the religion is the next thing I would like to discuss. More precisely I would like to discuss the separation of church and state and its relation to gay marriage. The separation of church and state is one of the tenets of western societies and it is the key element of western democracies which is claimed to provide equal opportunities for all people regardless their religious, political and personal views. This phenomenon has quite a long history and is well respected in western societies, including American because the separation of church and state was delineated and embraced so that a person could not be penalized for their religious views or lack thereof” (Weston 1991:167). For followers of gay marriages it is a strong argument in favor of the latter because they consider it as an unconstitutional act, contradicting to the principle of separation of church and state, because it does not provide really equal opportunities for a part of the population to act according their will in a legal way. For instance, in the USA gay and lesbians “have been married in various types of ceremonies around the nation and the globe” (Weston 1991:243) but what they lack of is the legal side of the problem. In my opinion, the real cause of such a situation is the domination of conservative religious views in American society, according to which gay marriage is absolutely immoral act, contradicting to traditional religious beliefs because despite a huge variety of churches existing in the US there is still not so many religions that admit gay marriage while the vast majority of churches oppose to such a kind of marriage. Consequently, the statesmen cannot unarguably support gay marriages. On the other hand, it really seems a bit contradictive to the principle of separation of church from state because personally, I have an impression that religious beliefs if not politicians themselves then their electorate play a very important role in their relation to the problem of gay marriages and at this point I would rather join those who believe that in this aspect the followers of gay marriage are discriminated and the problem is not in the possible misinterpretations or unfair preferences in understanding the Bible, for instance, which followers of gay marriage blame their opponents in. In my opinion, the main reason why it seems to be wrong is that in a political or legislative discussion religion should not play a defining role as it sometimes happens.

Thus, speaking about the principle of separation of church and state, applying it to the problem of gay marriage we should follow this principle strictly and remain objective enough and, whether one is an opponent or follower gay marriage, he or she must find other arguments in favor of pro or contra position not religious one.

One of such argument, in favor or against gay marriage may be a so-called ‘separate but equal’ principle. I believe that it may be an alternative solution of the problem of gay marriage, I mean alternative of ‘to be or not to be’ solution, it may be a kind of consensus between two opposing sides of the debate. According to this principle, it is suggested to *** minorities to have civil unions instead of a traditional marriage. And again as separate of church and state, as practically everything concerning the problem of gay marriage, it is quite contradictive and questionable. On the one hand, it suggests a real prospective for gays and lesbians to legally create their own families and in such a way to legalize their relations. For their opponents it is certainly a great deal but not for the followers of gay marriages who, in their turn do not treat civil unions as equal to a traditional marriage. Despite the fact that “legally they are one and the same” (Dobson 2004:287) it is still the point for a further discussion. It is quite obvious that civil unions are an attempt to separate a gay marriage from a traditional one by providing it for equivalent, i. e. a civil union. However, even legally it is not so simple because according to Supreme Court’s ruling separate but equal conception violates the Constitution and legislation in the USA. And again, in my opinion, here we mainly deal with not legal but moral problem. Even if civil unions and marriages were legally equal there would still remain a certain difference even though purely nominative but anyway it could be perceived as discriminating by followers of gay marriage because it would make gay marriage different from a traditional marriage even if this difference is only formal and from juridical point of view insignificant.

Consequently, we may say that civil unions being an alternative to gay marriages are not their substitutes, at least for those who are for gay marriages, on the other hand, they are probably the first step to the solution of the problem at large.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned I come to the conclusion that the problem of gay marriage exists and whether we want it or not it has to be solved somehow. In my paper I have discussed the key moments of the debate I have tried to understand roots of the problem and find possible ways of solution but what I can say at the end is that despite all existing moral, religious beliefs, political system, the society has to decide whether gay marriage worth existing or not, whether a part of society supporting such a kind of marriage has reason or not. So, the debate is open and sooner or later we will see what part wins or that seems more probable whether a real alternative could be find or not.

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