Monday, October 13, 2008

Permitting same-sex marriage is more moral than prohibiting it

I think it is immoral to deny people who love each other the rights and privileges that come with marriage (as a civil, contractual union -- a license granted by the State, not in a religious context).  Changing a state or federal constitution to ban same-sex marriage is, in fact, writing bigotry and hatred into those documents.  Substitute "black" or "african american" or "mixed-race marriage" into any rationale for banning same-sex marriage and you will see how bigoted such claims really are.

There is no reason to prohibit this activity other than hatred and bigotry.  I still have yet to hear evidence of how they will be or have been harmed by other people engaging in relationships that have nothing to do with you.  Scriptural rationales are ridiculous on their face because that just shows that the intent is to entice the government to endorse one particular religious viewpoint over others (in violation of the US Constitution).

You would think that if the institution of marriage was so sacred, that the people fighting same-sex marriage would spend at least as much energy into banning divorce as a way to uphold the sanctity of marriage. 

This essay puts a finer point on this than I could:

Atheist Ethicist: The Immorality of Homosexual Marriage
Yet, none of that is relevant to the point of this essay – that a society that permits homosexual marriage is more moral than a society that does not.

It is a mistake not to put it in these terms, and to allow those who like morality to religion or to scripture to make their assertions unchallenged. In this sense, silence implies consent. In this case, refusing to challenge claims that link morality to scripture means that most people only hear that they are linked. If that is all they hear, then that is what they will believe, which will perpetuate the myth, much to our disadvantage.

I would like to hear the fact that reported that those who wish to prohibit homosexual marriage and who defend it through scripture are no different in principle than those who wrote into the U.S. Constitution that black slavery was permissible and defended it with references to scripture.
Some reasoned answers to the common illogical rationales:
Americans United: The Federal Marriage Amendment: Some Questions and Answers

And for those who seek to ban same-sex marriage, here is a list of several things that same-sex couples are not granted _by the State_ that heterosexual couples benefit from.  Therefore, it is immoral to deny these rights, especially without justification.

HRC | Questions about Same-Sex Marriage
  • Hospital visitation. Married couples have the automatic right to visit each other in the hospital and make medical decisions. Same-sex couples can be denied the right to visit a sick or injured loved one in the hospital.
  • Social Security benefits. Married people receive Social Security payments upon the death of a spouse. Despite paying payroll taxes, gay and lesbian workers receive no Social Security survivor benefits – resulting in an average annual income loss of $5,528 upon the death of a partner.
  • Health insurance. Many public and private employers provide medical coverage to the spouses of their employees, but most employers do not provide coverage to the life partners of gay and lesbian employees. Gay employees who do receive health coverage for their partners must pay federal income taxes on the value of the insurance.
  • Estate taxes. A married person automatically inherits all the property of his or her deceased spouse without paying estate taxes. A gay or lesbian taxpayer is forced to pay estate taxes on property inherited from a deceased partner.
  • Retirement savings. While a married person can roll a deceased spouse’s 401(k) funds into an IRA without paying taxes, a gay or lesbian American who inherits a 401(k) can end up paying up to 70 percent of it in taxes and penalties.
  • Family leave. Married workers are legally entitled to unpaid leave from their jobs to care for an ill spouse. Gay and lesbian workers are not entitled to family leave to care for their partners.
  • Immigration rights. Bi-national families are commonly broken up or forced to leave the country to stay together. The reason: U.S. immigration law does not permit American citizens to petition for their same-sex partners to immigrate.
  • Nursing homes. Married couples have a legal right to live together in nursing homes. Because they are not legal spouses, elderly gay or lesbian couples do not have the right to spend their last days living together in nursing homes.
  • Home protection. Laws protect married seniors from being forced to sell their homes to pay high nursing home bills; gay and lesbian seniors have no such protection.
  • Pensions. After the death of a worker, most pension plans pay survivor benefits only to a legal spouse of the participant. Gay and lesbian partners are excluded from such pension benefits.
This site also has a very succinct treatment of why civil unions are not equivalent to marriage.

What I think should happen is that marriage licenses should all be renamed as civil union licenses. So that the word "marriage" is taken out of the debate. Marriage can continue to be a religious ceremony and commitment. Then, there would be no difference between same-sex unions from heterosexual unions. And it would be made apparent that any attempt to make these dissimilar benefits would be without merit.

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