It is generally accepted that a government is essential. Governments help provide citizens their needs and other benefits that may be of great value. It is understood that the government might impose strict rules on the society, but such powers and rights are subject to certain limitations. The United States government is not different. The United States government has created and helped its citizens thrive in one the wealthiest nations of the world. Like all other governments, it not only serves the people. It also has powers and rights to govern the people and regulate their conducts to achieve the common good. However, like all governments, its right and powers are also limited. It cannot interfere too much on private persons’ individual freedoms. Among these freedoms, the government should not interfere too much with the structure of a family. It certainly has no right to try and define what families are, what they should do and how they should really behave. As part of this freedom, people should have the right to choose one’s partner according to his or her personal preference.
One of the areas in personal life where government often interferes in the area of marriage and family due to the public interest present in these two institutions. They are institutions protected by no less than the Constitution. As a very important social institution, the government regulates the creation and formation of family by creating laws for the validity of marriages. It even has laws for the termination of marriages, and all the effects of this termination such as child custody and support.
As part of the move to protect the concept of marriage, President Bush introduced the constitutional amendment, The Defense of Marriage Act. The amendment states that marriage for purposes of federal laws is the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife (“Defense of Marriage Act”). While made for the protection of family, this amendment clearly illustrates that the government already has a particular structure for marriage that the rest of society should follow. There is only one type of marriage that can happen. That is a marriage between a man and a woman. A man and a man cannot get married. A woman and a woman can also not get married.
In President Bush’s speech, entitled President Calls for Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage, he stated “The union of a man and a woman is the most enduring human institution- honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society” (Bush). The government implies that it is their way for protecting the institution of marriage, but sadly, they are restricting many families by labeling the term ‘marriage’ and limiting the ability for all types of families to flourish in our society. The bias of the government is in favor of marriages between man and woman. Same-sex marriages are curtailed because the amendment clearly took them out of the picture. Certain rights were limited and impaired by limiting choice to a person of a different sex group.
It is acceptable for the government to interfere when it will be beneficial to the society. However, at this point the interference and defining terms are unacceptable. Parenting and marriage issues for the most part are personal. The government should not have the right to tell someone how their families should be structured to be legally considered “real families”. America is a free society, which should mean there are limits to the role of government in the lives of citizens. The government, or working government agencies, should get involved in the societal impact created by families if there is a problem or concern, such as abuse or a family’s lifestyle interfering negatively with the community they live in. However, unless there is a case of excruciating circumstances, the government should not interfere in personal matters, like choices as regards family formation.
By creating the amendment, the government does not only discourage same-sex relationships, but it also prevents marriage from taking place. Even though the government has restrictions among family life, family life is private and the government’s approach is wrong. The intrusion of government philosophies interferes with same sex couples raising families. It puts strain on their relationships and begins to be an unbearable burden for them to carry. Families are a structure that cannot be defined but should be seen as an institution, which is self-defining and set standards for it’s self.
This type of interference and level of involvement by the United States government’s level of involvement with same-sex relationships, as shown by the amendment discussed, is extremely disappointing. Homosexuality is not something that cannot be controlled. It is an orientation that is not made by choice. Gays and lesbians become the way they are, not because they wanted to be so, but because it is what they are. It is their orientation. The government should not interfere with their rights. Gays and lesbians, like other people, have a right to be happy. Part of that right to be happy is the right to form a family and the right to choose with whom to form a family. The government does not have a right at all to interfere at all in the act of anyone of choosing one’s life partner, even if that person may be gay or lesbian. By restricting their rights to form a family with a person of the same sex, the government is also restricting their rights to be happy.
Massachusetts and Hawaii are the only states to date, which recognize same sex marriages. Aside from these two states, generally, “gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to marry. However, Vermont now allows same sex couples to enter into civil unions. This will bring them all of the state benefits of marriage, but none of the 1049 federal rights, benefits and privileges that are routinely given to married couples” (“Legal and Economic”). Other states argue that same-sex couples can get married and present themselves to the community, still without the state recognizing their marriage officially. This is a poor argument, as we know that same sex marriages would allow same sex couple to have the every day benefits married have, such as tax breaks and health insurance benefits.
It is hard to say how much influence or up to what limit the government can influence or intrude in the family structure. Once the government has too much influence, it will be harmful for our society to freely breathe in, or to simply live in. The influence and interference of the government is already too pervasive that it already hampers choice. The government should address the idea of same-sex marriages maturely and think about the feelings and mindset of those individuals who chose to marry in the same sex. It should reconsider its position of allowing only marriages between man and woman.
There is nothing wrong, unnatural or odd with same sex marriages. Although our governments’ current day beliefs suggest same sex marriage is not expectable there is evidence that same sex gay married couples were present centuries ago in European and African cities and towns. In ancient Egypt, a tomb of a same-sex gay married couple was discovered in 1964. The tomb dates to the fifth dynasty and shows that homosexual marriages date back over 4 million millennia (Wilford). “A recent book by Yale historian, John Boswell, demonstrates that Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches both sanctioned and sanctified unions between partners of the same sex, until modern times. The churches used ceremonies, which were very similar to heterosexual ceremonies. In ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, as well as Australia, Europe and India, Native America same-sex, long term relationships have been publicly acknowledged in more modern times, although they have not necessarily been called marriages” (“Which Couples”) they could be seen a civil unions.
There needs to be more research conducted on behalf of the government on their current knowledge of same sex families and relationships. At present, same sex marriage is only legal in two states in the United States, and although being worked, there is also the chance that this decision may be overturned in Massachusetts pending a vote. There is an amendment, which will be placed on November 2008 voting suggesting the 2003 decision be overturned. This, however, will not be fair and will only further add to the misery and inequality for same sex couples. Marriage is an institution which is based around happiness and if the couple is not satisfied with their marriage, it loses much of its charm and it will not only have an adverse effect on the couple but on their off springs in the future as well.
Same sex marriages may, in fact, be a safety net for the concept of family. The outrageous rate of divorce in the United States only proves that the traditional concept of family is declining rapidly. It could be argued that it is better for some people to be happily married in gay marriages and raising happy healthy children, than to be unhappy in a traditional relationship. Speaking for children who are brought up by same-sex parents, children need to be loved and be taken care and both same-sex and traditional families can offer that type of security. With the exception of Hawaii and Massachusetts
John Shelby Spong, a Bishop from the Episcopal Church said, “We are in a transition between a new consciousness and old definitions, the new consciousness will win but as with every human struggle to emerge from ignorance, there will be causalities long after the issue is decided” (“Legal and Economic”). It cannot be overly emphasized that by limiting marriage to marriages between a man and a woman, the Government does not encourage same-sex relationships but it also prevents marriage from taking place. Even though the government can impose restrictions to regulate family life in some degree, family life is private and the governments’ approach is wrong. This new consciousness should be embraced by the United States government and its people, and we should restructure the current concept of family to include same sex relationships.
Bush, G. Feb. 2004. “President Calls for Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage.” The Whitehouse. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/02/20040224-2.html>.
“Defense of Marriage Act.” 7 May 1996. 5/96 H.R. 3396.
“How religions establish their beliefs and change them over time.” Religious Tolerance.org. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/denomchg.htm>.
“Legal and Economic Benefits of Marriage.” Religious Tolerance.org. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/mar_bene.htm>.
Wilford, John Noble. 20 Dec. 2005 “A Mystery, Locked in Timeless Embrace.” <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/20/science/20egyp.html?ex=1292734800&en=868de6624d15245e&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss>.
“Which Couples Are/Were Not Permitted To Marry?” Religious Tolerance.org. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_mar3.htm>.