There are many questions surrounding same-sex marriage. Here are answers to some of the most common questions.
- “I believe God meant marriage for men and women. How can I support marriage for LGBT people?
- “This is different from interracial marriage. Sexual orientation is a choice.” “Won’t this create a free-for-all and make the whole idea of marriage meaningless?”
- “I strongly believe children need a mother and a father.”
- “How could marriage for committed same-sex couples possibly be good for the American family — or our country?”
- “What’s wrong with civil unions for same-sex couples?”
- “Can’t same-sex couples just go to a lawyer to secure all the rights they need?”
- “Won’t this cost taxpayers too much money?”
- “Where can same-sex couples marry today?”
- “What protections other than marriage are available to them?”
“I believe God meant marriage for men and women. How can I support marriage for same-sex couples?”
While marriage has deep religious meaning to many people, what actually protects couples and their families is the legal contract of marriage. No religion or religious leader is required to marry a same-sex couple. People of faith remain free to make their own judgments about what makes a marriage just as they are now.
Perhaps the clearest example is the difference in how the Roman Catholic Church and the U.S. government view divorce and remarriage. Because the church does not sanction divorce, a second marriage is not valid in the church’s view. But the government extends the same rights and protections to any remarried couple that it conveys on every other couple.
“This is different from interracial marriage. Sexual orientation is a choice.”
Decades of research all strongly suggest that sexual orientation is not a choice, and that a person’s sexual orientation cannot be changed. Who we are drawn to is a fundamental aspect of who we are. As a result, the desire for LGBT people to marry is equally basic. People should be able to choose the person they want to marry.
“Won’t this create a free-for-all and make the whole idea of marriage meaningless?”
Many people share this concern because opponents of gay rights have used this argument as a scare tactic — but it is not true. Granting same-sex couples the right to marry would not change the number of people who could enter into a marriage. Marriage would continue to recognize the highest possible commitment that can be made between two adults, plain and simple.
“I strongly believe children need a mother and a father.”
While many of us grew up believing this to be the norm and the ideal, families have grown more diverse in recent decades. Like it or not, this is the age of the modern family. And as researchers have studied how different family relationships affect children, it has become clear that the quality of a family’s relationship is more important than the particular family structure.
Studies have consistently shown, in fact, that children raised by LGBT parents do just as well — are just as happy and productive — as children raised by straight parents and show no difference in academic achievement, psychological well-being and social abilities.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and other leading child welfare organizations have all dismissed assertions that only straight couples can be good parents. Instead, their focus has rightly been on providing greater protections for the 1 to 9 million children being raised by LGBT parents today.
“How could marriage for same-sex couples possibly be good for the American family — or our country?”
The prospect of a change in our laws to allow LGBT people to get married has often caused people to worry and to fear the unknown. The same unfounded anxiety arose when some people fought to overturn the laws prohibiting marriage between people of different races in the 1950s and 1960s. But in reality, opening marriage to more loving couples and their families will only strengthen the institution. And the experience in states such as Massachusetts, which has allowed same-sex couples to marry since 2004, has only resulted in increased public support for these families and these marriages.
What about civil unions for same-sex couples?
Would you rather be in a civil union rather than marriage? Neither would LGBT people. A civil union is a legal status that provides some legal protection to couples at the state law level, but not at the federal level. Civil unions are just not the same as marriage.
“Can’t same-sex couples go to a lawyer to secure all the rights they need?”
Not by a long shot. When an LGBT person gets seriously ill, there is no legal document that can make their partner eligible to take leave from work under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act to provide care — because that law applies only to married couples. When LGBT people grow old and need nursing home care, there is no legal document that can give them the right to Medicaid coverage without potentially causing their partner to be forced from their family home. And when an LGBT person dies, there is no legal document that can extend Social Security survivor benefits or the right to inherit a retirement plan without severe tax burdens that stem from being “unmarried” in the eyes of the law.
Same-sex couples can only name each other in a will or a power of attorney. Even these documents remain vulnerable to challenges in court by disgruntled family members.
“Won’t this cost taxpayers too much money?”
No. In fact, treating same-sex couples as families under law could even save taxpayers money because marriage would require them to assume legal responsibility for their joint living expenses and reduce their dependence on public assistance programs such as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income disability payments and food stamps. Put another way, the money it would cost to extend benefits to same-sex couples could be outweighed by the money that would be saved as these families rely more fully on each other instead of state or federal government assistance.
For example, two studies conducted in 2003 by professors at the University of Massachusetts and the University of California found that extending domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples in California and New Jersey would save taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
“Where can same-sex couples marry today?”
Committed, loving couples can get married in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, New Hampshire, the District of Columbia and Vermont. The Iowa state Supreme Court, for instance, unanimously ruled that the equal protection provision of the Iowa Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the same right to marry as straight couples.
“What protections other than marriage are available to same-sex couples?”
At the federal level, there are only a few protections available to same-sex couples, such as protections for hospital visitation and a few benefits, like sick leave and long-term care insurance, for the partners of federal workers. In fact, a law called the “Defense of Marriage Act” says that the federal government will discriminate against same-sex couples who marry by refusing to recognize their marriages or providing them with the federal protections of marriage. Some members of the U.S. Congress have tried to go even further by attempting to pass a federal marriage amendment that would write discrimination against same-sex couples into the U.S. Constitution. This was defeated twice, in 2004 and 2006.