Essay:The Ethics of Marriage Equality

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Essay.svg This essay is an original work by Jake Mayfield.
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There are two main arguments that proponents of traditional marriage use to validate their position. The first is, of course, religion. Many Christians believe that God forbids homosexual relationships explicitly. Although there is some controversy over this assertion, I won’t go into it here and will simply predicate this argument on the assumption that gay intimacy is viewed as immoral by Christianity as a whole. The second argument states that gay marriage will topple the institution of the family and thus “destroy the very foundation of society.” Irreparable damage to children raised by same-sex couples is cited as the cause of this imminent cataclysm. I’ll talk about each point individually and then explain why neither holds water. Because I’m from the United States, I will base the following political discussion on the American values of individual liberty and freedom from government-sponsored religion.

I firmly believe that every human being has the right to believe in and practice any religion they so choose. This freedom is so important to us as a people that it is enshrined in the foundation of our entire system of government. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Let’s assume for a moment that you are a Christian and somehow the majority of the people in the United States have converted to a new religion---one that considers Christians sinners. The leaders of this hypothetical church have decided that you are unquestionably impure and that you should no longer be allowed to vote lest you taint society with your Christian “values.” Even though a slim majority of congressional seats are controlled by members of this new religion, the Constitution would protect you from, as Tocqueville put it, the tyranny of the majority. The mechanisms in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment would prevent Congress from taking away your civil rights because of your religious beliefs. That’s a good thing, right? Now let’s apply this concept to the idea of same-sex marriage. Those gay and lesbian families who want the same legal recognition as straight families do not believe that what they are doing is immoral. To them, their love is sacred. It is not wicked. They do not believe that they are sinning and they are entitled to that belief. Shouldn’t the Constitution protect their civil right to marry? Shouldn’t they be sheltered from the tyranny of the majority? The answer is, unequivocally, yes. Everyone, regardless of religious views, has the right to equal protection under the law.

Opponents of same-sex marriage often state that children raised by gays and lesbians are somehow damaged. They often cite bogus, non-peer-reviewed, publications by discredited researches as evidence for this phenomenon. However, the vast majority of the information gathered by the scientific community on the issues paints a different picture. Studies have found that children from same-sex families develop as well as their same-sex counterparts[1]. In fact, one study found that children of lesbian couples actually had fewer behavioral problems than their counterparts in straight families[2]. With so many orphaned children, it is simply unethical to deny them the loving family environment same-sex couples are willing and able to provide.

Our nation is at cross-roads. We have the opportunity to embrace the founding principle of individual liberty and undo the great injustice that has faced the LGBT community for centuries. To fail to enact marriage equality is to deny so many committed couples and families the recognition they deserve as well as to disgrace the very foundation of the United States.

Originally published at

  1. Little, L. (2005, October 13). Children of Same-Sex Couples Do as Well as Other Children. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from Medscape Medical News:
  2. Park, M. (2010, June 10). Kids of lesbians have fewer behavioral problems, study suggests. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from CNN Health: