Why is Marriage so Important, Anyway?

Yesterday, I commented to a friend that I had sent out another letter, this time to Bill Frist because of the interview he gave on NPR. He asked me why it was so important. For a moment, I wasn’t sure what to say. It was so obvious to me why it was important that I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. Fortunately I recovered quickly and started listing some reasons, but it was haphazard since I didn’t really have my thoughts organized.

I thought that if one person might ask – and an exceedingly sane person at that – then others might not understand why this issue is so important. Of course only about six people read my blog either on my website or on livejournal, and most of those already understand the issues, but perhaps someone else will stumble upon this and maybe it will help. If nothing else it will satisfy this urge to write that I’ve been dealing with lately.

So, why is the right to marry so important?

I’ll get to my own arguments in a moment, but I’d start with this document from HRC on Answers to Questions About Marriage Equality. It covers a lot of it and better than I can. Read it. Send it to friends. Educate the world.

But, I need to put something in my own words and not rely on the words of others. I’ve spent of time writing letters saying why we shouldn’t ban
same-sex marriage, but what’s the argument on the flip side? Why should we allow same-sex marriage?

Love seems to be a good reason. After all, that’s usually the reason why two people get married. If you meet someone and fall in love and want to spend the rest of your life with that person, does it truly matter if that person is male or female? Some would say so, but they are acting solely from fear and hate. I’ve met couples that have been together for years and their marriages are indistinguishable in the love and sharing and caring from
any heterosexual marriage. That kind of love can’t be wrong.

However, strangely enough, the state doesn’t care about love. Two people can love each other and never marry regardless of their sexual orientation.
And, from the state’s perspective, love isn’t a prerequisite for marriage. All you need is a blood test, a birth certificate, and a fee. And, for now, to have two individuals of the opposite sex. So, if love won’t carry the day, then what other reasons are there?

How about protecting our families?

When a couple marries, they are bound together in more than just bond of love. They are bound together legally. Those legal bonds give each
certain rights that they would not otherwise have. The right to make medical decisions for a spouse. The right to inherit property. The right to be covered on a spouse’s medical insurance. There are so many of these rights that I couldn’t begin to list them all. Without the right to marry, only a small subset of them can be created. With the right to marry, they come along as intrinsic to the package.

Couples need to know that their relationship is protected in any state in the Union. Even if you happen to live in a state where civil unions are
permitted, that civil union may not grant you any legal standing outside of that state and it definitely carries no weight with the federal government.

If a same-sex couple does have children, what kind of message are we sending them when they learn that their parents are not permitted to marry? Aren’t we implicitly saying that they aren’t a family? Studies have shown that children raised by gay or lesbian parents are normal, happy children if they come from a loving family. This is exactly the same as with a heterosexual couple. These are families and they should be treated as such.

Those who say gays and lesbians shouldn’t be permitted to marry because of family values have got it completely wrong. It is precisely because of family values that marriage should be permitted. I f we didn’t care about family then why else would we bother?

Ultimately it’s about acceptance by society. If the right to marry is granted then this is a huge step toward equality. If marriage is permitted then states that prohibit adoption would no longer have any right to balk. Businesses would have no question about whether to grant benefits. Schools would have no doubt about who the parents were. Hospitals would not question who the spouse was.

The fact is that while sexuality is a continuum, most people tend toward one end of the spectrum. Most of the remainder tend toward the other with a small group spread out everywhere in between. There is no medical os psychological reason to say that there is anything wrong with any of them. The fact that it has survived in our genome for so long might argue that it has some value to the species. I don’t have any evidence to support that, but it is a possibility.

So, if there’s nothing wrong with gays and lesbians then why shouldn’t we be able to live our lives openly and with full recognition of our relationships? There are only two logical conclusions that I can come to. Either the state must recognize same-sex marriage or the state must get out of the marriage business altogether. It shouldn’t get to pick and choose who gets to marry.

A small but vocal minority has tried to create fear and hate. Another small but becoming more vocal group has tried to live and love. Tell me which of those sounds like good moral values to you.

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