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Gay Rights, Gay Marriage, Homophobia: Ethical, Political Issues

Those who oppose gay marriage do so with a vehemence: it's not simply that they would rather not see it exist, but rather that they regard gay marriage as perhaps the greatest moral and social evil to occur since the legalization of abortion. They cannot be dismissed as mere cranks - it is important to understand what their arguments are in order to determine how good their case is and to refute it if their position is unsound.
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Gay Marriage & Gay Rights Resources: Gay Marriage & Gay Rights are Civil Rights
Gay rights and gay marriage are central battles in America's culture wars for two reasons. First, the growing acceptance of homosexuality is a direct threat to the domination of traditional Christian norms for sex and sexuality. Second, marriage is not only an important cultural symbol, but an example of how heterosexuals are privileged -- and...

Gay Rights and Gay Marriage Timeline
Chronological, color-coded listing of events important in the history of gay rights and gay marriage, with a focus on recent American history.

What is Marriage Between a Man and a Woman?
Defining marriage in terms of sex (one man and one woman) begs the question of how we define the sexes - how we define who is a 'man' and who is a 'woman.' Deciding who can marry whom isn't always a simple matter of determining what sorts of internal organs a person has.

Marriage: Religious Rite or Civil Right?
Many argue that marriage is essentially and necessarily a religious rite -- they conceive of marriage in almost exclusively religious terms. Therefore, legalizing gay marriage constitutes a type of sacrilege and an unjustified intrusion of the state into what is necessarily a religious matter. Because of religion's traditional role in...

Equal Rights vs. Special Rights
A common Christian Right argument against protecting gays' basic civil rights is that gays are seeking 'specia' rights unavailable to others. This is untrue, but it's rhetorically powerful and sounds convincing. It's also hypocritical because if any group in America is benefiting from and defending special rights for themselves, it's religious believers. Why do Christians favor restrictions on gays which they would never accept for themselves?

Arguments for Gay Marriage: Moral and Social Arguments for Gay Marriage
It's not true, or at least not demonstrable, that gay marriage would be harmful. On the contrary, there are good reasons to think that legalized gay marriage would benefit us all.

Common Arguments Against Gay Marriage: Moral and Religious Arguments
The debate over the legalization of gay marriage in America is about not just the status of gay couples; it's also about American civil law. Either civil law is defined by the needs and rights of citizens, or civil laws are placed under the dominion of religion.

Religious Beliefs & Religious Acts: Religously Motivated Discrimination
Conservative Christians are failing to convince enough people that homosexuality is abhorrent enough to justify restricting gays' civil liberties. Their new tactic is to argue that substantively recognizing the equality of gays would require violating the First Amendment. Christians' belief in God's condemnation of homosexuality is claimed to be so important that forcing them to treat gays equally means forcing them to violate their religious beliefs.

Religious Right to Deny Gays Equality
Acceptance of gays continues to grow in America, but for many there remains a strong conviction that homosexuality is abhorrent, that gays are violating some of God's most basic commandments for humanity, and even that the presence and acceptance of gays in America is abhorrent to God. Some conclude that the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty protects both their right to believe such things and a right to act on these beliefs. They are wrong.

Arguments Against Gay Marriage: Marriage is a Sacred Religious Sacrament
Although rarely offered as an explicit argument against gay marriage, the idea that marriage is a sacred religious sacrament is one of the most important arguments for opponents and underlies much of the vehemence which motivates them in a way that the other arguments fail to explain. Indeed, if it weren't for the idea that marriage is sacred,...

Arguments Against Gay Marriage: Marriage is for Having Children
The idea that gay couples can't marry because of the disconnect between homosexuality and procreation cuts across many arguments against gay marriage. Gay marriage would be 'unnatural' because it can't produce children, the natural end of marriage. Gay marriage would undermine marriage because it is a legal and moral institution designed to...

Gay Rights & Marriage vs. Religious Liberty
Opposition to equal civil rights for gays comes in many forms. Religious conservatives are losing the argument that there is something necessarily wrong with homosexuality, so they appear to be turning to a new one: treating gays like fully equal citizens and human beings is incompatible with conservatives’ religious liberty. Since when did the...

Gay Marriage vs. Divorce & Remarriage
Religious conservatives are fierce defenders of the idea that gay marriage must be absolutely prohibited to 'save' traditional marriage. They even argue that anything remotely resembling marriage, like civil unions, must be banned as well. If we ignore how most of this position is tied inextricably to religious ideology, and focus solely on the...

Arguments Against Gay Marriage: Gay Couples are Unnatural
The idea that gay marriage is wrong because gay couples are somehow unnatural is not often stated openly, but this premise influences other arguments and lies behind many people's negative opinions about homosexuality in general. For most people, heterosexual relationships are the norm, both in society and in nature. Homosexual relationships are...

What is Marriage? Gay Marriage Can’t Be a Real Marriage
Some argue that marriage is defined narrowly as only being between a man and a woman, so gays can't possibly marry. The fact is, though, that the nature of marriage has changed in definition and make-up many times over the centuries. Marriage today isn't at all like what it was two millennia or even two centuries ago. The changes in marriage...

Nazi Germany and the Right-Wing War on Homosexuality, Sexual Deviance
One of the things which the Nazis used to appeal to Christian voters in Weimar Germany was their strong opposition to all forms of sexual deviance: prostitution, pornography, sex without procreation, too much liberty for women, and of course homosexuality. The Nazis argued that all this created impurity within Germany and imperiled Germany's future.

Gender and Identity: Just Male and Female? (Book Notes: With Pleasure)
In the debate over gay marriage, a common refrain hear from religious conservatives is that marriage is only between "one man and one woman." Gender, it is assumed, comes it precisely two forms: no more, no less. What they don't realize is that culture plays as much of a role in this as does biology.

Can Gay Rights and Gay Marriage Be Stopped? (Book Notes: Gay Marriage)
What do conservative religious critics hope to accomplish in their opposition to gay rights and gay marriage? William F. Buckley has described the basic principle of conservatism as "To stand athwart history yelling 'Stop!'" Do they, though, really expect to succeed in this when it comes to homosexuality?

Gay Rights and Special Rights (Book Notes: Created Equal)
Frequently... when gays talk about gay rights, heterosexuals hear talk about sex, not personal freedom. The claim that gays want "special rights" reflects the degree to which lesbians and gay men are seen as so out of the ordinary that their claims to ordinary rights seem special.

The Inferiority of Gay Americans (Book Notes: Perfect Enemies)
Members of the Christian Right sometimes like to say that their policy is to "hate the sin but love the sinner" and, therefore, while they hate homosexuality, they don't hate homosexuals. Their actions and statements, though, betray their true feelings: they believe that gays are inferior citizens and inferior human beings.

The Changing Institution of Marriage (Book Notes: Gay Marriage)
Opponents of gay marriage try to portray themselves as "defenders" of "traditional" marriage and act as through extending the right to gays to marry each other would alter an institution that has endured unchanged for millennia. Reality is very different, though.

Hate the Sin, Hate the Sinner (Book Notes: Civil Wars)
It's common for Christians to claim that they "hate the sin, but lover the sinner." Do their actions match their rhetoric, though? That's a difficult proposition to defend. It's surely true with some, but the most vocal and active members of the Christian Right don't really act like they believe what they are saying.

Revulsion of Homosexuality (Book Notes: Created Equal)
The oppression and persecution of homosexuals in America is becoming more and more important politically. Back when discrimination against gays was the norm, there were no questions about why it occurred. Now that it is being challenged, though, the roots of this hatred are being exposed.

Gays as Invisible, Second-Class Citizens (Book Notes: Perfect Enemies)
Homosexuals have come a long way in America - from being afraid to reveal their sexuality to anyone a few decades ago to agitating for gay marriage today. This progress has been accompanied by a backlash, though, because gay Americans want more civil rights than many straights are willing to honor.

Divorce as a Sin and a Crime: Christianity, Marriage, and the State
The arguments being used by the Christian Right today against gay marriage are not unique or sui generis. These arguments are an integral part of how the Christian Right views the world and they have used the exact same arguments in the past - for example, when they were opposing the liberalization of divorce laws.

Fear of Freedom - Others' Freedom (Book Notes: Created Equal)
"Freedom is the scariest of human desires. The American commitment to the freedom and equality of the autonomous individual has always frightened as many Americans as it exhilarated. ... To some groups, the apparent lack of moral order engendered by the elevation of individual rights gave rise to a persistent fear of conspiracy..."

What's The Point of Marriage, Gay or Straight?
A common question in the debate over gay marriage is: what the point is for gays to marry? Aside from property and legal issues that could, in theory, be solved by other laws, what point are gays trying to make in attempting to get married? Why is it so important to be able to hold up a marriage certificate and say ‘we're married‘ instead of...

What is a Marriage Between a Man and a Woman?
Those who argue against gay marriage insist that the only legitimate marriages are those between men and women. But what about people who are, well, not quite either male or female - at least not according to all the definitions usually employed? Defining marriage in terms of sex begs the question of how we define the sexes - how we define who is a "man" and who is a "woman."

Marriage is for Raising Children?
The premise that gay couples don't merit treatment as married couples because of the disconnect between homosexuality and procreation cuts across many arguments against same-sex marriage. Is that true, and if so, does it matter?

Gay Marriage Will Undermine the Institution of Marriage: Therefore, Gays...
A common argument against legalizing same-sex marriages is that doing so would undermine the institution of marriage. For some reason, a marriage between members of the same sex is a self-contradiction and, if their unions are legalized, then marriage itself across the country will be harmed. But upon what basis is such an argument made?

Gay Couples are Unnatural & Unnatural Unions Cannot Be Marriage
This is a premise which influences other arguments and which lies behind many people's negative opinions about homosexuality in general. Homosexual relationships are regarded as abnormal and unnatural. Perhaps they should be tolerated as a matter of social fairness, but they certainly shouldn't be validated by the state and recognized as a form of marriage.

Marriage is Sacred and a Sacrament
This is rarely argued explicitly, but it is perhaps one of the most important arguments for opponents. The idea that marriage is sacred and/or a sacrament underlies much of the vehemence that motivates them in a way that the other arguments fail to explain. Indeed, if it weren't for the idea that marriage is sacred, it seems unlikely that the debate would be as huge and rancorous as it is.

Evangelical Christianity & Homosexuality
Evangelical and conservative Christians can be counted upon to exhibit outrage and dismay over just about any attempts to treat gays like equal citizens. I'm not talking about gay marriage. I'm talking about something much more basic: whether or not gays should be protected from discrimination when it comes to things like hiring, firing, housing, and financial transactions.

AFA & Homosexuality
Don Wildmon's American Family Association has been increasingly on the forefront of the Radical Religious Right and the efforts to impose a very conservative, evangelical Christian morality on America. A high-priority target of Wildmon and the AFA are homosexuals and their efforts to obtain a certain degree of respect, tolerance, and rights in our society.

Marriage Rights for Gays and Lesbians
"One day I hope to have a family. Yes, in the traditional sense of the word- kids, a dog, a big house with a yard and a legally recognized marriage." Read more about what Ramon Johnson, About's Gay Life Guide, has to say on the issue of same-sex marriages.

Lesbian and Gay Marriage: Both sides of the Issue
Kathy Belge, About's Lesbian Life Guide writes: "If two people love each other, shouldn't they be allowed the same rights, privileges and responsibilities, no matter their genders? Yet, for heterosexuals, divorce rates are at an all time high. Infidelity in marriage is an epidemic." Read more as she explains the case for and against gay same-sex marriages.

Homosexual Recruitment vs. Heterosexual Recruitment
The Christian Right regularly accuses gays of trying to 'recruit' young people into the homosexual lifestyle. For such Christians, it's inconceivable that people would be gay simply because it's what's most natural for them - being gay must be something like a movement which one is converted to by current members. The truth, however, is that Christian Right are the ones doing the recruiting.

Same-Sex Marriage, Religion, and Ideology
Marriage in America is fundamentally a civil affair - marriages are defined and regulated by the states, not by individual churches and religious denominations. Given the religious diversity of America, there's no other reasonable option. So why do religious groups object to expanding civil marriage to gay couples? Because they simply don't realize, understand, or accept that marriage is civil.

Law and Morality: Changing Attitudes Towards Homosexuality
The most common objection to laws guaranteeing equality and equal rights for gays is simple bigotry: people find homosexuality to be morally objectionable, so they don't want homosexuals to be treated equally. This bigotry used to be much stronger than it is today; as attitudes towards gays have changed, so have the types of demands which gays and their supporters have made.

Gay Marriage & Church/State Separation
There is a great deal of work being done by religious conservatives to try and ensure that gay marriage never becomes legal in the United States. If they are able to pass a constitutional amendment that defines marriage narrowly enough, they might succeed - but in so doing they will permanently alter the very character of the Constitution itself. Why?

Gay Marriage vs. Miscegenation
A lot of people oppose the legalization of gay marriages - for them, this poses a serious threat to the institution of marriage itself. Now, it is entirely possible that their concerns are justified - but what is disturbing, and what should be disturbing for them as well, is just how similar their arguments are to the ones which were used to oppose interracial marriages...

Interracial Marriage: Equal Rights vs. Special Rights
When interracial couples fought for the right to marry each other, were they asking for equal rights or special rights? They claimed that they wanted the same rights as same-race couples, but conservative defenders of tradition insisted that they wanted special rights. After all, no one was allowed to marry members of another race, so all were treated equally.

Civil Rights, Civil Equality: Democracy Requires Full, Equal Humanity
Political equality requires human equality - when one group of citizens is treated as inferior on a basic human level, then it's impossible for them to be truly equal on a political level. Democracy, which is based upon political equality, thus cannot fully exist then citizens are denied full human equality. That's what happens when women, gays, or others are forced to hide or deny themselves.

Moral Panic Over Gays: Defending Traditional Marriage
Sometimes, the issue isn't the issue - what this means is that the 'issue' being debated is, at least in some ways, a mask or a symbol for more fundamental issues. If we don't realize this, then we will fail to understand why apparently absurd arguments are being made: they are only 'absurd' if they are taken as being about the surface issue; when we look at the underlying issues, it makes sense.

Same Sex Marriage is a Civil Matter
Arguments against the legalization of same-sex marriage usually rely upon religion, religious premises, and religious beliefs. There is a problem with that: if the only arguments against allowing gays to marry are religious, then that is no argument at all.

Gay Clergy, Female Clergy, and Divorced Clergy
There was a lot of complaints about the confirmation of the election of a gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Many of those who were upset were also upset when the Episcopalians decided to allow women to become members of the clergy. One interesting issue lost in all of this is the status of divorced clergy. Should a man be able to divorce and remarry but still be a bishop?

Is Marriage About Love & Happiness or Children & Ownership?
Opponents of marriage equality have one secular argument against gay marriage: marriage exists for reproduction and children, not for love and happiness.

Gay Marriage: Opposed by Religion, Not Conservatism
Conservatives may be understandably hesitant about gay marriage, but there is nothing about conservatism which requires opposition to it. Instead, the real opposition to gay marriage comes primarily from religion, religious leaders, and religious traditions.

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