All over the country debates have sparked up over the right for same-sex couples to get married. With the new Supreme Court refusing to hear cases trying to appeal decisions that legalized same-sex marriage, there are now 30 states in which gay marriage is legal. The piece “Gay marriage. Why now? Why at all?” Reese Kelly discusses the issues that led to the current fight for the right for same-sex couples to marry. In the 1970s the gay and lesbian community began by fighting for visibility, ending sexuality based discrimination, and creating self-affirming identities. The issue of marriage was often either ignored or believed to go against the entire goal of the fight as marriage worked to create and reinforce heteronormative culture. In the 1980s and 1990s the gay and lesbian communities began to focus on marriage rights due to the issues surrounding the AIDS crisis, which caused a need for legal partner status, the fact that the gay and lesbian population was growing older and settling down, and because of the new visibility and integration of gay and lesbians into the heteronormative society. After 9/11, the climate grew more conservative towards same-sex marriage as those who went against the typical societal scripts were viewed as unpatriotic, with heterosexuality being a major societal script. When the article was written only the state of Massachusetts had legalized same-sex marriage, though clearly that changed. The question that remains is why hasn’t same-sex marriage been legalized in more states and how long will nationwide legalization take?
Chrys Ingraham argues in “One is not a born a bride” that marriage in the United States is used as a “major site for the installation and maintenance of the institution of heterosexuality”, and this motif is apparent in the dialogue used by those opposing same-sex marriage. Often times those opposing same-sex marriage will claim that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman, and if anyone else is to marry that institution will be damaged. This ties in with the ideas behind the gay and lesbian movements in the 1970s which opposed pushing for the right to marry because of marriage reinforcing heteronormative culture. However it has become clear in the past few decades that marriage is about more than just enforcing heterosexuality as the norm, but it is also about issues of forming a family, such as second-parent adoption, health-care, such as visitation rights, and legal benefits, such as legal partner status. As much as marriage has been used to enforce heterosexuality across the course of time, marriage is about so much more and affects people’s rights far more than was once noted.
So as mentioned before, the Supreme Court recently refused to hear court cases that were trying to appeal decisions that would allow for same-sex marriage. By refusing to hear these cases the Supreme Court upheld the previous decisions, therefore legalizing same-sex marriage in those states. Other states have also recently struck down rulings banning same-sex marriage on their own, such as North Carolina where a federal judge ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in the 4th Circuit applying to the state’s Amendment 1 (which bans same-sex marriages). One might wonder about how this applies to daily life and how much of a difference does this make? For my aunts, I know this has made a huge difference. In my mind and the minds of my family members, my aunts have been married for twelve years. According to the state of North Carolina, my aunts got married this morning. While my aunts have been married, living together, and raising their daughter together for as long as I can remember they still felt it was necessary to go get a marriage license the moment they could (and quite frankly, this was still viewed as extremely exciting and monumental amongst all my family members). To me, this reveals the importance of all the legal benefits of having an official state and federally recognized marriage. Despite all the fullness of their lives before they received this paper, despite the supports of their friends and family, despite raising a family together, this piece of paper was still worth receiving. For many same-sex couples a marriage license is still necessary because marital status gives couples more than 1,400 rights and benefits from the federal government. All the love and support in the world can not provide that.
What I’ve always wondered is why people who aren’t directly effected by same-sex marriage care so much if other people get married? It may well be that because I’ve had the privilege of growing up in a family which exposed me to homosexuality and same-sex marriage I don’t see the issue the way others do, but to me allowing a woman to marry a woman or a man to marry a man just seems logical. Granting marital status grants so much more than the ability to call someone husband or wife, it grants rights and privileges which allows for a life with far less complications and confusion in relation to health care, adoption, taxes, and far more issues. Despite this, we’ve all heard why people don’t believe that same-sex couples should have the right to get married.
How long do you think it will take for same-sex marriage to be legal in all fifty states? What do you think will be the biggest limitations stopping this goal?