Thursday, February 10, 2011

Civil Unions vs. Gay Marriage

Thoughts on Life is divided into three sections: Poetry, Short Stories, and Non-Fiction.
In the third section (although it's not listed in the Table of Contents for some reason), there is a speech that I wrote last year for my English class. I would like to share it with you.

For more really good articles on the subject, check out here and here.

Civil Unions vs. Gay Marriage: Which is the Better Option?

     “Good morning, Hank. It’s Sunday, June 28, 2009, and I’m angry!” That is how Printz Award winning author of young adult literature and prominent video blogger John Green began his video entitled “Gay is Not an Insult." He then went on to explain that in order to insult someone, you must “paint them with character traits or identities that are bad," and therefore “gay” is not an insult because being gay is not a bad thing, and neither are the two other popular YouTube insults of "nerd" and "virgin" (“Gay”). However, some people disagree with this statement, saying that homosexuality is indeed bad, and that such people can't stay commited to a relationship. They believe the institution of marriage should be reserved for straight couples only, and therefore have created a "separate but equal" institution known as a civil union as a perfectly acceptable alternative for them to be joined in. This commonly held belief is incorrect, as civil unions are not equal to marriage, and gays deserve the right to marriage even if civil unions did give the same benefits.

     The point of whether or not homosexuality is a sin, when it comes to the issue of gay marriage versus civil unions, is completely moot. Even convicted felons are not denied the right of marriage, so the moral status of it has nothing to do with the legal matters of allowing it.

     Some people insist that gay couples can’t uphold the same standards of commitment and legitimacy to the marriage that straight couples can, and use that as an excuse to deny them their right to marriage. This mantra, in addition to being a falsehood, has no grounds in relevancy. These individuals do not take into account the statistically higher rates of illegitimacy present in certain racial populations: marriage is not denied to them either (Sullivan). In fact, lesbian couples have one of the highest commitment rates (Gannon) because of the naturally higher and stable levels of the hormone oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin promotes emotional love and strengthens such bonds between people, while also creating the desire to “nest” and settle down. Men, on the other hand, have very low and tempermental levels of this hormone compared to women and therefore are more likely to break the commitment of marriage (Grundy). This fact, degrading to the cause for equality as it is, is tossed out the window when it is considered that due to their long, draining, and dedicated fight to gain the right of marriage, when the sun dawns on a new day in the history of gay rights, those couples will treat their new option with a respect and seriousness far greater than that given to it by their straight counterparts who take it for granted.

     Now let us explore exactly why civil unions are not an acceptable alternative to marriage. According to Yale Law School, there are 1138 federal protections granted to married couples, but not to spouses joined in a civil union. In addition, employers are not required to give benefits such as insurance to such people, whereas married spouses automatically receive them (Ayres). This shunts unmarried couples joined in a civil union into an unfair and disadvantaged situation. They can legally be kept out of hospital rooms while their spouse is on his or her deathbed, and suffer many other kinds of pain due to this lack of protection. Public officials, such as judges, have the right to refuse to officiate a civil union between people of the same gender, while they are required to marry heterosexual couples if asked (Ayres). This is a gross injustice, as now not only has equality been removed from the marital system, but so has security. There is no garuntee any given official will consent to facilitate, since his personal views may interfere with his decision. Should gay judges be allowed to deny marriage to straight couples because of their views? Furthermore, lesbian and gay couples can only choose to be in a civil union, or settle for nothing at all, while straight couples can choose either (Lambda). This restraint on options begs for discrimination by implying inferiority where none exists.

     Our country’s Declaration of Independence declares that “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, [and] that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (U.S. Declaration of Ind.). Being martially joined with the person you love certainly falls under “the pursuit of happiness”, as well as liberty. By creating an alternative to anything for a minority (in this case, gays and lesbians), the government violates this constitutional promise of equality.

     Other than strictly legal matters, there are social effects from being in a civil union that are rather undesirable. “Without the word ‘marriage’, other people ‘have to wonder what kind of a relationship it is, or how to refer to it, or how much to respect it’…Those couples lose the respect and dignity they deserve for their commitment to be responsible for each other” (Lambda). Respect is a commodity in the world, and it is one many people fail to give to those who deserve it. Why should gays lose what little they do receive over a meaningless squabble of terminology and religious versus legal definitions?

     Some may say that marriage isn’t at all important, so why bother fighting for equality within it? The answer is simple, and Lambda Legal puts it very nicely: “if access to marriage weren’t a big deal, there would be no effort to restrict it in the first place” (Lambda). Regardless of whether or not homosexuality is “sinful,” people falling under that banner are humans just like the rest of us and deserve equal rights, as promised by our country, ironically known as a “land of equal opportunity”.

     All of you may be thinking something to the tune of "I'm straight: this doesn't affect me. Why should I bother to help?" The same thought once traveled the synapses of my brain. It was then that I realized that that was exactly the sort of thing going through the Germans' brains as they watched Jews march past them to their deaths. It was then that I took my stand. It is estimated that around 10% of the global population is at some level (conscious or unconscious) of homo- or bisexuality, and 1% have some sort of intersex condition (Green “Sex”). This means that the outcome of this battle could have a significant impact on as many as three people in this room right now. Even if you're not one of those potential three, how would you like it if you weren't allowed to religiously or legally be joined to the person you loved? This isn't a personal matter; it's a matter of principle. If we compromise our belief in equality in just one instance, what's to stop us from doing it again and again?

     In conclusion, gays deserve the same rights as straights based on the equality supposedly ensured by U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. All arguments against this are proven worthless by either other groups sharing similar traits yet receiving the same rights as everyone else or by the separation of church and state. Civil unions do not provide a suitable alternative for marriage, due to both legal inequalities and social disadvantages. One day, homosexuality and gay marriage will be taken in stride just like a person’s possession of dyed hair or tattoos—that is, it will be recognized as not the majority, but perfectly normal. Until this day comes, I will continue fight alongside John and Hank Green and the Harry Potter Alliance, as I have been actively doing for the past few months, in favor of marriage for all. After learning about these disgusting acts of discrimination, I hope you will too. In the words of John Green, "Ultimately, gay will never work as an insult because gay is not bad. So you want to call me a gay nerd virgin? That's fine."

Works Cited
Ayres, Ian. “Separate, Unequal: How Civil Unions Fall Short of Marriage”. 2005. 17 Nov. 2009

Gannon, Heather Ann. “Same-Sex Marriage Should Be Allowed.” 2008. 28 Nov. 2009 .

“GAY is NOT an INSULT” (video recording). 29 June 2009. Indianapolis, IN. John Green. 28 Nov. 2009 .

Grundy, Benjamin. “Episode 209—Mysterious Universe.” Mysterious Universe. 31 Oct. 2009. 8 Nov. 2009 .

Lambda Legal. “Civil Unions are not Enough”. 18 Nov. 2009 .

“Sex, Sports, and Caster Semenya” (video recording). 13 Sept. 2009. Indianapolis, IN. John Green. 19 Nov. 2009 .

Sullivan, Andrew. “Marriage or Bust: Civil Unions are not Enough.” 15 Oct. 2008. 18 Nov. 2009 .


  1. There is something vaguely dissatisfying involved in reading something with which I completely agree. Maybe it is that I don't feel that I have challenged myself, or widened my perspective. However, I certainly cannot blame you for holding a position which I wholly support, nor for defending it so thoroughly.

    As a purely academic note, the Declaration of Independence has no legal status, it is merely a "Dear John" letter to the King of England. I too often reference, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," or, "of the people, by the people, and for the people," when trying to make a point about how our government should function, but I need to remember that these are merely ideals, not precepts encoded into our laws. Actually, as I just found out, the people quote isn't even the Declaration of Independence, but the Gettysburg Address, huh. Anyway, the strict, conservative, constitutionalists may have to give weight to the Declaration of Independence, because they are always nattering on about the "intentions of the founding fathers," and the Declaration of Independence certainly speaks to their intentions, but there is nothing strictly legal about it.

    I end with horrendously self promotional links to a two part blog post I put on the Ning after California's Prop 8 was repealed, regarding gay marriage from the point of view of the State and the Church, and a link to my post on marriage. If you don't want to read them, the relevant point is that marriage has both a religious and a legal meaning in our society, which causes a bunch of problems and is probably a bad thing.

  2. that vlogbrothers video is epically awesome, just sayin'


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