Gay Marriage: Pros, Cons, and Where Both Parties Stand

T. Josiah Haynes Contributor
Gay Marriage: Pros, Cons, and Where Both Parties Stand

Same-sex marriage, also known as gay marriage, is the civil union (sometimes under religious authority) between two people of the same sex or gender.

The practice of same-sex marriage is legal throughout the United States as of 2015. Worldwide, 33 countries permit same-sex marriage, with Andorra set to become the 34th in February 2023.

In which states is gay marriage legal? Gay marriage is legal in all US states as of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision in Summer 2015. There are a handful of indigenous American tribes that do not recognize gay marriage, including the Navajo Nation. The US territory of American Samoa does not legally recognize gay marriage.

Below, we’ll cover the arguments for and against gay marriage, particularly in the United States.

Arguments Against the Legalization of Gay Marriage

Religious freedom

Many religious leaders do not want to be forced to perform marriages that are in opposition to their faith’s definition of marriage. This includes faith leaders within the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religions. They want to avoid being forced to perform wedding ceremonies that oppose their religious tenets.

A portion of these ministers don’t object to the legalization of gay marriage if they aren’t required to perform same-sex weddings.

Read more: Freedom of Religion Pros & Cons

Declining birth rates

The legalization of gay marriage encourages the union of same-sex couples who will not procreate. Meanwhile, the world, especially America, is experiencing plummeting birth rates.

If gay marriage is legal, birth rates will inevitably continue to decline and lead to an older population and smaller workforce — among other issues.

Note: This argument against same-sex marriage is considered weak by some, as sexual attraction is generally not considered to be a conscious, changeable decision. Marriage or not, domestic partners who may benefit from legal gay marriage will not change sexual partners based on this fact alone.

Erasure of gay culture

Legalized gay marriage assimilates gays into mainstream heterosexual culture, taking away from the vibrant homosexual community.

By removing the differences between homosexual and heterosexual people’s opportunities, a large part of the gay culture will fade from memory.

Perpetuation of oppression

The institution of marriage is outmoded, oppressive, and insidiously traditional.

Expanding marriage to same-sex couples misses an opportunity to weaken the institution of marriage, which oppresses unmarried people by denying them certain healthcare rights, economic rights, parenthood rights, and more.

End to tradition

Opposite-sex marriage is how the world has always worked. There’s a reason that only heterosexual relationships have been recognized for thousands of years.

Why buck tradition when it’s worked for all of human history?

Arguments Supporting the Legalization of Gay Marriage

Discrimination

Denying marriage rights to any group of people is discriminatory and creates a caste of second-class citizens, which is in opposition to the American principles of liberty and equality.

Democracies and modern societies should not allow discrimination and human rights violations, especially against a group of about 20 million Americans (7%-8% of the population). This is in regard to both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Discrimination also leads to higher rates of suicide. Each time a US state has passed gay marriage protections, adolescent suicide declined.

Secular institution

The definition of marriage is a secular, civil institution regulated by the state.

No religious objection to same-sex marriage should matter in the slightest since, according to the First Amendment, the government should never declare a state religion nor act as if it has declared a religion.

Remember, Christians have allowed the sin of divorce to be legal without notable objection — why not gay marriage, which is equally a sin in their eyes?

Historical inaccuracy

The notion that humans have always engaged in opposite-sex, monogamous, “traditional marriage” rooted in procreation is historically inaccurate.

Polygamy was prevalent throughout human history, and same-sex couples are believed to have existed in official or semi-official marriages as long ago as 800 years in the past.

Plus, if procreation was a prerequisite for marriage, why are so many infertile couples allowed to be married? Or couples who choose not to procreate? As recently as 10 years ago, married couples without children outnumbered married couples with children.

Economic boost

Gay marriage tends to boost local economies and reduce government deficits.

On average, same-sex weddings cost more than opposite-sex weddings. Also, gay marriage licenses, higher income taxes in some circumstances, and decreases in overhead for government benefit programs all result in increased government revenue.

Ageism

21% of Gen Z identifies as LGBT, compared to 2%-3% of Americans over the age of 40. The older generations include the lawmakers, but they don’t represent the skyrocketing number of LGBT people under the age of 30.

Older generations are engaging in age discrimination by not affording gay people (on average, younger people) the fundamental rights they deserve.

Statistics on Marriage Equality in The US

The first time pollsters measured support for legalized gay marriage was in the late 1980s, when 80%-84% of Americans opposed it. In 2004-2006, public opposition fell to 58%-61%.

Within 4 months of Democrat Barack Obama becoming president, in April 2009, 49% of Americans supported gay marriage while only 46% opposed. Approval rose every year leading up to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, which legalized gay marriage into federal law.

Within a couple of years after Obergefell, a majority of both individuals over the age of 65 and Protestant Christians supported legalized gay marriage.

In 2021, nationwide support for gay marriage finally inched over 70% — including 55% of Republicans, the first time the majority of the GOP has supported gay marriage rights.

There are about 1 million gay or lesbian couple households in America — 58% married, 42% unmarried.

A Brief History of Marriage Equality In the United States

Marriage equality was recognized by the US Supreme Court as a constitutional right on June 26, 2015 based on two different clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision was 5-4, with moderate conservative Anthony Kennedy siding with the ideologically liberal wing.

Before Obergefell, Ancient Times

There is a long history of same-sex marriages as more informal unions from the ancient world:

  • In Mesopotamia, certain prayers held that love between man and woman on equal footing with love between a man and a man.
  • Married same-sex couples may have been approved if in parts of ancient China, but the religious or official status of these couples is dubious.
  • Ancient Greece practiced same-sex love, somewhat officially, in a practice known as pederasty. Older men exchanged sacred vows with younger men and entered into a temporary union, but historians tend to think they typically ended when the younger man turned seventeen. Some scholars debate whether these relationships were non-consensual, and potentially non-sexual.
  • Several Roman emperors were openly homosexual or bisexual. Romans seem to have been the first to perform gay marriage ceremonies though there is no record of a legally binding gay marriage in Roman law. Emperor Nero reportedly married multiple men. The children of Constantine the Great, who made Christianity Rome’s state religion, explicitly outlawed same-sex unions in the 300s.

Before Obergefell, Modern Times

In modern times, marriage equality was virtually unheard of until the mid-1900s. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, same-sex couples gained social acceptance. Some were content with non-legal unions or legal unions without the full benefits of marriage, often known as domestic partnerships.

The first modern government to issue a same-sex marriage license was Blue Earth County, Minnesota, United States in 1971 (though the clerk seems not to have realized at the time that both individuals were male).

In 1996, Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense Of Marriage Act, which permitted state law to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, as well as preventing the federal government from recognizing gay marriage at the federal level.

What was the first state in the country to permit gay marriage? Massachusetts was the first state in the United States to permit gay marriage after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that allowing only opposite-sex marriages was discriminatory and illegal. The case was decided in 2003, but the first same-sex marriage licenses were issued starting in 2004.

US states which allowed legal gay marriages timeline:

  • 2003 — Massachusetts
  • 2008 — Connecticut
  • 2009 — Iowa, Vermont
  • 2010 — New Hampshire, District of Columbia
  • 2011 — New York
  • 2012 — Washington, Maine
  • 2013 — Maryland, California, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Hawaii, New Mexico
  • 2014 — Oregon, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma, Virginia, Utah, Indiana, Wisconsin, Colorado, West Virginia, Nevada, North Carolina, Alaska, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, South Carolina, parts of Missouri, parts of Kansas
  • 2015 — Florida

When was gay marriage legalized in all states? On June 26, 2015, gay marriage was legalized in all states of the United States, nationwide, when the Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell decision stating that same-sex marriage was protected under two clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

After Obergefell

Local counties in Texas, Alabama, and Kentucky reportedly refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even after the Obergefell decision. As of 2020, there didn’t appear to be any counties in America that openly refused to issue gay marriage licenses.

Over a dozen Native American tribal nations within the United States do not recognize same-sex marriage. Legally, decisions handed down by US federal courts do not pertain to tribal nations, although an act of Congress does. That’s notable, given President Biden just signed a law into effect protecting both gay and interracial marriage.

All territories of the USA except for American Samoa recognize LGBTQ marriage rights.

The State of Gay Marriage Rights Around the World

Gay marriage is legally permitted in 33 countries, constituting 16% of the world population. 

Here’s a timeline overview of gay marriage rights around the world:

  • In 1989, Denmark became the first country in the world to offer civil unions to same-sex partners, which offered some (but not all) marriage rights to gay couples.
  • In 2001, the Netherlands passed a bill legalizing gay marriage — the first country to do so, as well as the first in Europe.
  • In 2003, Belgium legalized same-sex marriage.
  • Also in 2003, courts in two Canadian provinces decided that gay marriage was a constitutional right in Ontario, then British Columbia. In 2005, Canada legalized same-sex marriage nationwide — the first country in North America to do so.
  • In 2006, South Africa became the first African country to legalize same-sex marriage.
  • In 2010, Argentina became the first South American country to legalize gay marriage.
  • In 2013, New Zealand became the first Oceanic country to legalize same-sex marriage.
  • In 2019, Taiwan became the first Asian nation to legalize gay marriage.
  • Most recently in 2022, all Mexican jurisdictions had legalized gay marriage, either by legislation, executive action, or a Supreme Court order. However, transgender and gay rights are not equal across all Mexican states and districts.
  • In August 2022, the small country of Andorra legalized gay marriage, but it won’t take effect until February 2023. This will bring the total number of countries which allow same-sex marriage to 34.

Multiple countries have explicitly banned gay marriage, including much of the Islamic world, Russia and the former USSR states, and Venezuela. Israel still has not legalized gay marriage, which is in contrast with popular opinion.

According to recent polls, Japanese people are the most approving of gay marriage among citizens of countries that don’t currently have same-sex marriage rights.

On the opposite side of the polling spectrum, Ecuador’s courts legalized gay marriage in 2019, despite its citizens disapproving of gay marriage 51% to 23% — the lowest approval rating in any country with equal marriage rights.

Get the news, right from the middle.

Do you think gay marriage rights are inalienable civil rights? Do you think that the Obergefell court ruling violates religious freedoms? How do you feel about the recent law protecting gay marriage? There are two sides to every argument.

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