martes, 2 de junio de 2009

Marriage Equality

>Marriage equality is a controversial topic well known to most of people. Not because everybody is interested in that topic but because most people have an opinion for or against it, even they are gay or not. Since I have been in California from May of last year, I have heard about the discussion; should marriage equality be for everyone? The question looks very easy to answer, at least for me. However, my answer, positive or not doesn´t explain by itself why this is so important for a lot of people. I decided to do some research about what privileges have married couples in United States. The answer really surprised me. Marriage offers more than 1,138 Federal benefits and responsibilities, not including hundreds more offered by every state. I think it is necessary to mention some of the main benefits of marriage because from that perspective we could understand why LBGTQ communities claim for Marriage equality. Some of the benefits of Marriage are these:

  • In times of crisis, spouses have hospital visitation rights and can make medical decisions in event of illness or disability of their spouse.
  • Employers offer spouses sick leave, bereavement leave, access to health insurance and pension
  • Married couples in elderly care facilities are generally not separated unless one spouse's health dictates hospitalization or special care.
  • The dissolution of a marriage requires a determination of property distribution, award of child custody and support and spousal support. Absent divorce, there is no uniform system for sorting out the ending of a relationship.
  • With marriage, a couple has the right to be treated as an economic unit and to file joint tax returns (and pay the marriage penalty), and obtain joint health, home and auto insurance policies.

After seeing some of the benefits of marriage several questions arrive to our essay. For instance, why are there big movements against same sex marriage? What are the justifications, if any, against marriage rights for everyone? Should homosexual couples understand that marriage is a social arrangement that does not apply to them? Or maybe, should heterosexual couples see that a social agreement it is not enough to affect the rights of others? My idea to develop this essay is the next one. First, I will bring some of the arguments against marriage equality for everyone. Then, I will make some comments on Professor Bockover´s point of view. Finally I will share my own opinion about this controversial topic.

Two of the arguments against marriage equality exposed in the HSU Ethic Forum seem to me to be the most widely accepted. The first one is the Natural Law and the second one Theology argument. The first one has a very strong weight in Western and Eastern society because of religion. The weight of “tradition” with all the implications that that word implies, is really important here. The natural law theory says that actions are right when they are natural and wrong when those actions are unnatural. In other words, social actions, to be considered right, should be in accordance with nature. Because homosexuality is not in accordance with nature, equal marriage is inacceptable. The second theory, very accepted in Western culture, is the theological theory. According to this metaphysical doctrine marriage between equal sexes is a bias. Marriage is only allowed between a man and a woman because that is what God created.

It is not my intention in this essay to give a detailed description about the two theories above mentioned. However, I will defend those theories, although I´m not in agreement with them. Why are those theories, the natural and the theological, so accepted by many people? I will put myself in the place of them, the place of the people who do not agree with marriage equality. First of all, we cannot accept what we cannot understand. It is understandable but not justifiable that some people reject homosexuals because they just cannot see themselves, sexually, with another person of their same sex. It is hard to change the mentality of a whole community. However, it is the role of our system of education to teach to the coming generation about tolerance of all of those controversial topics that for “natural law,” but not for psychology, are hard to understand. I have seen in many cases that children from tolerant and open-minded parents have more of probability to understand and accept what they have learned. My second argument to defend those who are against married equality is to analyze the weight of tradition in human society. This explanation is connected with the theological argument. The word tradition comes from the Latin traditionem, acc. of traditio which means "handing over, passing on". Traditions are often presumed to be ancient, unalterable, and deeply important, though they may sometimes be much less "natural" than is presumed. Adding to the weight of tradition we have a lot of kinds of religious beliefs. Unfortunately, most of them, in different ways, are against equal marriage equality for homosexuals. From the understanding of tradition we can see, in a simplistic way, why so many people see homosexuality like an aberration.

After seeing two of the main arguments against marriage equality let´s summarize and make some comments on Professor Mary Bockover´s point of view in the HSU Ethic Forum. Professor Bockover believes that the view that legal marriage should be restricted to heterosexual couples is upheld in some misunderstandings based in what should be the role of the state in our lives. She proposes that the language of “marriage” should be abandoned in the political and legal language. This is because that word is loaded with a metaphysical meaning, “sanctity.” As all of us know, the role of the state does not include giving transcendental meaning to the citizens´ lives. From Bockover´s point of view “all citizens of age in the state of California should have an equal right to join into civil union with the person of their choosing”. She believes that rather than granting same-sex couples the legal right to marry we should take away that right from heterosexuals. In this position we will begin to talk about “civil unions” instead marriage.

I am totally in agreement with Bockover´s point of view about civil unions instead of marriage equality, however, I will bring some arguments against her ideas with the intention of having a philosophical discussion instead of really being in disagreement with her point of view. First of all, why should we change the constitution and laws to allow same sex couples to get married? Do we not live in a democratic, political, and representative democracy? If that is true, and I´m pretty sure it is, should LGBTQ groups not accept that in a democratic battle they lost the rights that they were looking for? If we accepted, for instance, that McCain lost on November 4, why shouldn´t we accept that the intention to get marriage equality in California was lost as well? Maybe you will argue that in this case, different from the Republic defeat, we are talking about human rights, but I argue that it is not so simple like that. In the next paragraph I will explain my argument.

Western society has a particular way to decide and to put in practice the most important decisions which will affect the population. We have called this democracy. Inside the term of democracy we have something that throughout history has been called “majority rule”. The "majority rule" is often described as a characteristic feature of democracy. Let´s see a brief definition of this term. Majority rule is a decision rule that selects one of two alternatives, based on which has more than half of the votes. From this doctrine the numerical majority of an organized group can make decisions binding to the whole group. Although the controversial meaning of the majority rule is not our discussion here, we should accept, under the previous definition of “majority rule”, that everybody must accept the decisions that have been made by this strategy. Why? Because everybody, under the protection of the modern state, has signed, direct or indirectly, as Rosseau says, a social contract: “…each of us places his person and authority under the supreme direction of the general will, and the group receives each individual as an indivisible part of the whole...”. Rosseau (1762). If this is true, and it is, the general will only can be known by the “majority rule”, and because we are part of the Social Contract in the modern society, we should accept our political decisions. From this point of view Californians should accept, for a while and until future elections, that not all of them have the rights to get married because that is how the majority has decided.

In my last argument against equal marriage for everyone we have a standoff, because the fact that the majority in a social group decides something, in this case, the approval or not of marriage equality, does not mean that that the decision is ethically correct. But this is not the discussion here. My intention was to have a philosophical discussion of the theme. In my opinion everyone should have the right to get married. However, I´m not sure that every kind of couple should have the right to adopt or have a baby. But, again, that is not the discussion of this paper.

Concluding this essay I will ask again; should have everyone, homosexuals and heterosexuals couples, the right to get married or not? I see that kind of questions and I still cannot believing that, after more than three centuries talking about human rights we still asking that kind of questions. The first article of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still being just a beautiful sentence for most of the government over the world. The delightful and brilliant phrase All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” is still applicable only for some groups of human community and not for all human beings. Sometimes, when I think about those kinds of questions asking about who deserve rights and who does not I feel so outraged and angry that I prefer do not talk about it. For many people the question nowadays is not what is and which are human rights, everybody knows the answer of that. It seems to me that the question nowadays is who is human and who deserve those human rights. It is true, as we can see in the contemporary world that lesbians, gays, transsexuals, immigrants and minorities are not included in that group. I am pretty sure, with a little of hope, that in a few hundred years we will look to the past and we will say: how can it be possible that one hundred years ago our old generation hesitate or were not sure about the rights of LGBT groups. I hope we will ask that question and everything will be different because nowadays we ask how could it be possible that one hundred year ago women didn’t have the same rights as men. Everybody should have the same rights based in the fact every human being is endowed with those rights. At least something is very good here; the fact that we are still discussing about who has rights and who doesn´t, is a positive signal concerning the ability of human beings to discover themselves. It is true that some members of our social community cannot see that, but it is also true that the discussion is still open and that is a hope for all of us. We will continue fighting for the ideals that we believe. Hence, one sunny day, as has happened before in history, we will see our hopes and dreams turned into reality. Equal marriage for everyone!

0 comentarios: