A Professor’s Argument for Same-Sex Marriage

Dale Carpenter,

Release Date
June 28, 2013


Civil Liberties

Should same-sex couples be permitted to marry? Are civil unions or domestic partnerships sufficient? What kind of effect does same-sex marriage have on heterosexual marriage? Do the children of same-sex couples face undue challenges because of their parents?
These questions have all been raised in the ongoing debate about gay marriage. Professor Dale Carpenter makes a compelling argument in favor of same-sex marriage from a philosophical, rights-based perspective while presenting data to answer these questions and others.
Marriage imposes obligations and confers rights on a couple. It does this from a legal standpoint, but even more in the sense of social expectations. Every person has a fundamental right to marry, says Prof. Carpenter. And marriage is good for families and for society—whether a couple is straight or homosexual.

Data Sources
1.      The 9 million figure comes from an estimate of the UCLA Williams Institute
2.      The estimate of at least 1  million children being raised by gay parents is a low-ball estimate from a study by Stacey & Biblarz
3.      As for parenting and sexual orientation, same as above
4.      The statement about child-welfare organizations comes from Freedom to Marry
5.      The evidence about the lack of ill effect in other countries is discussed here
6.      The Massachusetts divorce rate claim is supported here

“Learn More” Resources
Prop 8 – The Musical (video): A completely irreverent look at Prop 8…in musical form! Starring Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, and Barney Stinson/Doogie Howser, M.D.
YES on Proposition 8 (video): A host of speakers discuss the negative consequences of striking down Prop 8
NO on Prop 8 – A Family Speaks Out (video): The Roselle family from Southern California gives their opinion on proposition 8.
A Marine and His Soon-to-be-Husband on Doma (video): Marine Captain Matthew Phelps will be transferred to Japan this summer. He and his soon-to-be husband Ben Schock talked about how the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) forces the military to treat them differently
Gay Marriage [website]: This website presents the pros, cons, and history of the gay marriage debate, taking a balanced approach to analyze the merits and demerits of gay marriage

A Professor’s Argument for Same-Sex Marriage
Marriage is a fundamental personal right, but it’s also good for families and for society. There are about 9 million gay people in the United States, and according to the 2010 Census, about 640,000 same-sex couple households. That’s a lot of people who are denied important legal and social benefits unless gay marriage is recognized.
Gay families have been living as real families for decades now, even in the absence of the full sanction of marriage. They’ve shown that they have the same capacities and need as other families for love and support. There are already a million children in this country being raised by gay parents. The social science data suggests that parental sexual orientation has no relationship to good parenting. Every major child-welfare organization and every major psychological professional association supports same-sex marriage as a way to improve children’s lives. But like everyone else, gay families have their problems with illnesses, with injuries, and with unemployment. Yet they lack the irreplaceable social and legal rights that marriage confers.
Marriage is designed to impose obligations and confer rights and to sustain a couple in times of crisis, as when one person is in the hospital and you need to get access to that room, or when you need to take time off to take care of a partner. By social expectation, and to some extent by law, marriage encourages spouses to commit to each other. It gives to them a common language in which to speak about their relationships and a common framework in which to think about their obligations to each other. That gives them a degree of legitimacy and support that civil unions and domestic partnerships, which are each a separate and new status under the law, simply cannot confer.
On the other hand there’s no evidence that allowing gay couples to wed has any effect on heterosexual marriages. In fact in the states and countries where same-sex couples have been allowed to marry, there’s been no harmful effect on marriage rates, divorce rates, or out-of-wedlock child births. Massachusetts, which was the first state in the country to recognize gay marriages, still has the lowest divorce rate in the country.
It’s not good enough for the government to tell gay people that they’re free to marry someone of the opposite sex. That’s like telling a Catholic that he’s free to go and worship God in a synagogue. That’s a mockery of freedom. The bottom line is marriage is fundamental in the formation of personal relationships and families—for gay people just as for straight people—so the government shouldn’t limit their freedom to marry.