Подпись: SneakPeek "We're not seen as married in the eyes of the state; we're seen as married in the eyes of our family and church."—Same-Sex Marriage Sexuality M Now Same-Sex MarriageПодпись: Because marriage has been historically defined as a union between one man and one woman, states have been grappling with legal definitions of gender when one partner has undergone sexual reassignment surgery (Bishop & Myricks, 2004). Although some states may recognize a person as the gender they present as, other states only recognize chromosomal sex. In 1996, the U. S. Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows each state to recognize or deny any marriage relationship between same-sex couples, recog­nizes marriage as a “legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife,” refers

Подпись: © Lorne HarrisSame-Sex MarriageПодпись: The families of same-sex couples often include children and grandchildren.Подпись:Подпись:to a “spouse” only as a person of the other sex. In 2000, Vermont passed a civil union statute that grants same-sex couples the same benefits and responsibilities given to heterosexual couples (allows couples to share employee benefits, including health insurance, family and medical leave, bereavement leave, and other family workplace benefits that help em­ployees handle job and family responsibilities; Mason et al., 2001). However, civil unions performed in Vermont have no legal weight once the couple leaves Vermont.

In 2004 Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to give full marriage rights to lesbian and gay couples. As of 2005, Massachusetts is the only state in which same-sex marriage is recognized. Seven states, in­cluding California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, and Vermont, grant legal status to same-sex couples through civil unions or domestic partnerships. All other states have con­stitutional amendments or legal statutes that define marriage as only be­tween a man and a woman. As of late 2005, same-sex marriage was legal only in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, and South Africa (we will discuss this more later in this chapter).

Why should marriage be allowed only for heterosexual couples and not for gay and lesbian couples? Shouldn’t same-sex marriages be legalized (or an equivalent marriage­like status)? The answers to these questions go back many years. Aristotle discussed the importance of legislators to establish rules regulating marriage (Dixit & Pindyck, 1994).

Societies have always given preference to heterosexual couples, presumably because of the benefits that heterosexual marriages provide to society (benefits to the couples but also to their offspring). Wardle (2001) discusses eight social interests for marriage, in­cluding

1. Safe sexual relations

2. Responsible procreation

3. Optimal child rearing

4. Healthy human development

5. Protecting those who undertake the most vulnerable parenting roles (i. e., mothers/wives)

6. Securing the stability and integrity of the basic unit of society

7. Fostering civic virtue and social order

8. Facilitating interjurisdictional compatibility

As you can see, heterosexual marriage is strongly linked to procreation, childbirth, and child rearing (Wardle, 2001). The United States has long regulated marriage in an at­tempt to protect procreative health. This is precisely why marriages between relatives are illegal (birth defects are more prevalent in couples who are related), and marriages between “unfit” or mentally challenged partners are regulated.

Even with all this controversy, many gay and lesbian couples “marry” their partners in ceremonies that are not recognized by the states in which they live. Gay marriages, whether legally recognized or not, often suffer from the same jealousies, power struggles, and “divorces” as heterosexual marriages; they may even be more unstable because of the added pressures of social disapproval (P. H. Collins, 1988). Gay and lesbian couples in­terviewed by Blumstein & Schwartz (1983) complained about their partners’ lack of at­tention, sexual incompatibility, and the same mundane, day-to-day struggles that straight couples deal with. In addition, these couples often have to cope with the disap­proval of their families and, sometimes, the stress of hiding their relationship. See the accompanying Personal Voices, “Same-Sex Marriage,” for a moving personal story about the legality of same-sex marriage.

As we just discussed, many groups have been working to get states to set up domes­tic partner acts, whereby same-sex couples who live together in committed relationships can have some of the benefits granted to married couples. Many same-sex couples across the United States are challenging existing laws that regulate issues such as same-sex marriage, separation, child custody, and gay adoption. These court cases will continue, some say, until same-sex couples are given the same marital rights as their heterosexual counterparts. We will discuss these issues more in Chapter 11.

Personal Voices