This paper deals with the equal rights in same sex marriages and the various issues that they face from society. Although a majority of people have come to accept same sex relationships, there is still a number of those opposed to the issue and it remains a touchy subject in many societies. They are recognized as a minority group and suffer through discrimination due to their sexual orientation. Under current laws, a gay couple is treated different from a heterosexual couple. Since the Stonewall riots of the 1960s, many organizations formed to protect the rights of gays and are striving to have them treated just as equal to their heterosexual counterparts. These organizations have played a significant role in challenging discriminatory treatment. Homosexuality can be traced back to ancient Rome, Greece and even parts of medieval Europe. Many factors have led to the reluctant acceptance of same sex unions most being religious factions who claim that homosexuality is clearly condemned in the Bible. Although many people agree that gays and lesbians should be accorded equal rights in terms of housing, job opportunities and so forth, nearly 70 per cent of Americans’ are opposed to gay marriages.
Homosexuality is the sexual relationship between persons of the same sex; i.e. male-male or female-female. There is need to understand what homosexuality really is in order to form opinions against it. To begin with, society has conditioned us into the school of thought that marriage is essential between a man and a woman. This is what is taught to us since childhood. In the same light we are made to think that being homosexual is a defect or a mental condition.
Homosexuals have suffered since before the 1960s whereby the Greenwich group refused to allow further harassment by the administration. This revolt led to the Stonewall riots that have become a landmark in the gay and lesbian community. During that time, there were no laws that protected them or advocated for their rights. They were discriminated upon in schools, work and even social establishments. They were arrested and charged for criminal offences; they were constantly raided upon and made to feel inferior to others. Ten years ago, anyone advocating for equal rights of homosexuals would have been scorned upon. These days it has almost become a trend that even the main stream media focuses upon. We have seen many influential people ‘come out of the closet’ and although we accept them, still we show some indifference towards them.
There are various issues that people involved in same sex relationships undergo. Chief among them is the fact that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. Marriage has been defined religiously as a sacred and holy institution. However, there has to be a separation in terms of defining the laws that govern marriage. Legally, it is we as individuals who author the rules under which a union has to be said as married or not. Religious leaders can argue about the ramifications of committing sacrilege of marriage by allowing union between homosexual couples but have no right to deny legal right and protection of a minority group due to their sexual disposition. Conservatives are not succeeding in their efforts to convince that homosexuality is repulsive to an extent that they should be denied civil liberties. This is an act of hypocrisy since they are first and foremost human beings. They have to be protected under the law. As a minority group, they are like any other marginal group in America such as Hispanics, Middle Eastern, orient etc. they deserve as much of the civil rights as the next person. Denying them the right to marry is like denying a Hispanic the right to marry.
The sacred nature of marriage is however, arguable since even the scum of society are allowed this right. For example, on one hand you have a gay couple with no criminal records being denied the right to marry however, you have a convicted criminal, a repeat offender, murderer, child molester and so on enjoying the right to form unions. Logically this does not make any sense. The Bible that Christian conservatives quote from has the provisions for incest as well as polygamy. Many great leaders such as King David and Solomon, Jacob, had multiple wives, while Christians would argue that this is the Old Testament and is old thinking. Hence, the institution of marriage has greatly changed since the beginning of time and continues to change to today. Same sex is one of those stages through which marriage is undergoing.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Sex discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of that person’s sex. Sex discrimination also can involve treating someone less favorably because of his or her connection with an organization or group that is generally associated with people of a certain sex (Bidstrup, 2009). There have been cases of homophobia in workplaces where homosexuals are treated differently or at times passed over for job opportunities. In as much as they are protected against in the law, they feel left out in so many ways that they do not live up to full potential in their work leading to depression and other related issues. Although at times this may be difficult to prove in order to prosecute, it is still happening all around us. EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers who are covered by the law.
They charge any person found guilty of committing discrimination due to the sexual orientation of others. In 2006, a human rights commission in Australia conducted a research into discrimination involving same sex marriages and various accounts were given to show the same. Some of the accounts clearly showed how many were forced out of employment due to the pressures involved. One teacher was forced to resign since she could no longer hide her relationship; another worker at a major financial bank had to seek alternative employ after he was told that if rumors about his sexuality were true he would loose his top position. They suffer through harassment, lack of adequate job opportunities, and the rampant homophobic nature in places of work. Many are afraid to come out in their places of work for fear of the repercussions. They also face discrimination in accessing medical care. One woman gave an account of how her lesbian friend was denied the right to see her partner, who was dying, by the hospital because they did not deem her as her spouse. She said this had a huge emotional impact on the woman to today. In June of 2007, the Commission found that there were 58 federal laws that discriminated same sex relationships. Towards the end of 2008, the Australian government had amended over 60 laws that discriminated same sex relationships.
The lack of a clear law defining the extent to which gay couples are involved with each other has been seen to cause greater harm than good. State and federal laws do not protect partners in gay marriages as they should. In the case of death, one partner cannot claim any benefits to the deceased by law. Usually this will go to the family. Many times this is the same family that disowned them for years; they can be forced to testify against their partners in a court of law. As a society we need to educate the majority on the dangers of discriminating against gays and lesbians. We must accept that they are a part of our community and they are here to stay. There have been states and governments that have opened up to civil marriages for same sex couples. They include Massachusetts, California, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire; countries such as South Africa, Belgium, Iceland and Sweden also provide for legal same sex marriages. Although same sex relationships are accepted in most western countries, in many developing countries this is not the case.
In Uganda, there is bill that seeks to give jail sentences to any one who fails to report homosexuals to the police and there is a death penalty for homosexuals where one of you is HIV positive, a gay couple in Malawi was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Representatives of the government said that it was not African culture for a man to marry a man. Gays have been described as worse than dogs or pigs by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. In Kenya, homosexuals were the victims of mob violence at a health centre as they sought medical care.
There are various ways in which we can protect homosexuals in our societies. Charity begins at home. Homo sexuality is not a lifestyle choice but it is a biological trait. Therefore it is not a demon that will need exorcising or to be beaten out of you. Parents should teach their children to accept each person for who they are and not pass judgment. The values that such gay couples exhibit in their daily lives are often similar to those of heterosexuals. They are devote in their unions, they abide by the law, the play their part in serving the community. In doing so, they make not only their own lives better, but those of their neighbors as well.
It is therefore evident that the reasons for discrimination against gays and lesbians do not have any justification. We should all learn to be accommodative to each others desires. If we can accept criminals to live and walk freely among us, what right do we have to raise fault at people who have done us no wrong. When some of these advocates against gays are abusers and bullies in themselves, these are just people who want an equal opportunity to live as they please. People cannot change from thinking that homosexual relationships are wrong; however, this does not give them any right to harm others. The government should therefore step up and not allow some individuals to cause harm to others because they think they have a religious obligation to. We should get over ignorance and act like the just and honorable society that we are, finally honoring that last phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance; "With liberty and justice for all."