There are also the physical and psychological health benefits that accrue to married couples. Decades of social science and health science research shows that married people live longer and lead healthier lives.
The debate over marriage equality long has been dominated by religious, moral and legal implications. Increasingly, the discussion has turned to the legal and business impact of broadening marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships to same-sex couples.
Gary Gates, a senior research fellow with UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy and author of “The Gay and Lesbian Atlas,” says there are about 9 million people in the United States who identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Mr. Gates says there are 780,000 same-sex couples in the country and that a quarter of them are parents to about 380,000 children.
Mr. Gates and his colleagues have found that given a choice, same-sex couples prefer marriage over a civil union or domestic partnership. In states that offer marriage equality, a third of same-sex couples got married the first year they could.
Business leaders have found that tolerance helps them attract better, talented and more creative employees. Extending domestic benefits to same-sex partners also is a draw.
Marriage confers significant benefits on couples, and America has a history of ending discrimination when possible. For lesbians, gays and bisexuals, it’s possible now, and now is the time.
In short, democracy is a numbers game, and the momentum is clearly headed in one direction, with a majority of Americans now having no particular objection to gay marriage, according to polls. That’s not to suggest that there isn't significant opposition, usually for religious reasons. The Catholic Church has been among the most vocal, though it has been joined by clergy across many denominations in arguing that same-sex marriage is a violation of natural law and a “legal fiction,” in Chicago Cardinal Francis George's words, “contrary to the common sense of the human race.” He went on to say that a same-sex marriage law will cast those who disagree as “the equivalent of bigots.”
First, the Bible is a useful guide for many in the way they conduct their personal lives, and will continue to be no matter what happens here. But this is public policy, and the Bible is not the nation’s or the state’s governing document. The Constitution is. While the latter was informed by biblical principles it is not strictly defined by them, and the federal Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law for all, quite specifically under the 14th Amendment. On that basis alone it will be increasingly difficult for governments to continue to deny equal protection to same-sex couples where civil marriage is concerned.
America is an ever-changing soup of ethnicities, nationalities, backgrounds, religious beliefs and sexual orientations. It took more than 143 years from Independence Day for women to be given the right to vote. It took nearly 100 years after the Civil War for blacks everywhere to truly be allowed to vote. Sexual orientation may be the final frontier in the civil rights movement.
Gay marriage is the civil rights issue of the generation that aged into adulthood starting with the new millennium. Members of this generation almost universally have friends, family members and parents who are openly gay. They view a person’s sexuality as an inherent and unchangeable human trait. Because of this generation’s overwhelming embrace of gay marriage, it’s inclusion in state and eventually federal law is almost a fait accompli….
As much as some may not like it, marriage and family already have evolved much over the last few hundred years. The families of women to be married no longer have to pay a dowry to the family of her future husband. Women aren’t expected to follow their husband’s every command. In some two-parent families, there are two fathers or two mothers.
Moreover, the marriages of heterosexual people without children, who either can’t procreate or choose not to, are not any less valid under the law.
It’s time for the Legislature to authorize same-sex marriage as a matter of policy that would advance social goals valuable not only to gays and lesbians but to everyone in the state.
The most crucial gain is to afford protections to the young. Many gay couples have biological children by one partner or the other, and many others are adoptive parents. With gays as well as straights, marriage serves to promote commitment, stability and financial solvency. If same-sex couples can make the legal commitment and choose to assume all the obligations that come with matrimony, they will be more likely to stay together.
That's good for kids. It’s also good for communities, since it minimizes the unwanted side effects of broken homes.
Authorizing same-sex marriage also works to break down age-old prejudice, discrimination and even violence against gays. Their growing acceptance as full members of society has been one of the most dramatic civil rights stories of our time — but it still has some distance to go.
Much of the opposition stems from religious concerns, such as those cited by Cardinal Francis George, who has urged a “no” vote. We fully understand and respect the cardinal's view that same-sex marriage violates natural law. But nothing in this bill affects the church's authority to define what is right for Catholics. It recognizes the difference between religious rites and civil institutions.
The Catholic church, after all, bars remarriage by divorcees, but Illinois grants marriage licenses to them. Allowing same-sex marriage does not limit the freedom of religious believers to reject it; it merely allows those who differ to practice what they believe.