Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Gay Marriages and Real Acceptance

September sixth 2005 the California Assembly voted to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. This kind of law would be first in the whole nation. However, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed this bill and thus the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act was canceled.

The theme of gay marriage created a lot of debate both in Republican and Democrat parties: leading both sides to accuse each other of abusing moral values. These conversations lead also to debate of acceptance and religious rights based on constitutional issues. According to Washington Post (7th September 2005) Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy said that “It’s not about civil rights or personal rights, it’s about acceptance. They want to be accepted as normal. They are not normal”. This makes one wonder what is normal then and the question actually is about civil and personal rights. California already has domestic partnership legislation that grants same sex couples most of the benefits that married couples have. Still there are exceptions such as right to jointly file income tax returns, the right to bring a foreign partner into the United States and the right to pass Social Security benefits on to a spouse (Washington Post 7th September 2005).

In the Declaration of Independence it is already said that: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness…”. (Welch etc. 2006, p.554). After the Constitution there have been some changes as the Bill of Rights, abolition of slavery, right for black men to vote and right for women to vote. (Welch etc. 2006. p. 45-46). Allowing gays to have the same rights as heterosexuals would be the same kind of amendment as it was to the right to vote for black people. Hence there should be also be the same right grant for gay and lesbian people and they should have a possibility to enjoy the pursuit of happiness as well as heterosexuals.

The problem of the pursuit of happiness is how define it. One could say that we cannot give gays and lesbians the rights as for heterosexuals because it is not clear what the pursuit of happiness is and what it demands to be happy enough. Secondly one could say that for somebody killing people can be the pursuit of happiness and the pleasure of life and hence we should also accept that. Nevertheless this is not the case: it is a question about an individual’s negative and positive freedoms. There have to be a line that what we can allow to happen. For example if somebody hurts or kills other people it is not acceptable but if there is no harm for anybody and pleasure for someone it should be accepted –in the game theory this is called the Pareto Optimal.

In Vilfredo Pareto’s theory the optimality is a measure of efficiency. An outcome of a game is Pareto optimal if there is no other outcome that makes every player at least as well off and at least one player strictly better off. That is, the Pareto Optimal outcome cannot be improved upon without hurting at least one player. (http://www.gametheory .net/dictionary/ParetoOptimal.html). At least in the legislation giving rights for gays and lesbians do not decrease heterosexual’s rights. Thus accepting the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act would be the Pareto Optimal solution.

Although assemblyman Montjoy could say that by acceptance I mean the values or truths that are self-evident thus they are based on same religion and thoughts about it. However the Bill of Rights includes freedom of religion in its first Amendment: that way one cannot say we all have to share the same values. According to famous German philosopher Jurgen Habermas postmodern states should have secularist models where church and religion are separated from the state. Under these circumstances everybody should have the right to believe in any religion and to be part of any church but legislation should not be connected or based on any religion. Accepting differences and tolerance are also keys to solve conflicts.

According to Republicans the law must also be stopped because it constitutes another assault on the sanctity of the family. Analyzing the concept of sanctity of the family leads to the same issue as in question about acceptance. The matter of these questions is in the values we believe in –thus we cannot share all the values so there have to be compromises in legislation. One could say that the concept of the family is exactly the reason that gay couples should have that possibility to marriage. Actually everybody should have a possibility to have a family and to be happy: would this not be reasonable?

Including gays and lesbians, including gay couples, into postmodern American society demands more than just legislative changes. One of the biggest alterations that is needed is a change in social structures and peoples’ attitudes. Social and ethical respect towards something that is different is real acceptance. It is a part of an authentic liberty and relativism where different values and religions are respected, it is freedom of choice.

Republican assemblyman Jay LaSuer said after the assembly’s vote that: “History will record that you betrayed your constituents and their moral and ethical values”. Nevertheless history proves that slaves and women were considered as lower people who are not intellectual enough to vote or to have same rights as free men. Nowadays it has become a popular value not to argue against women or blacks to have same rights as white men. Thus in future we can hopefully say that it is normal to have registered gay marriages too.


Dignan and Pomfret: Washington Post, September 7.2005, “California Legislature Approves Gay Marriage”.

Gerston & Christensen: 2005, California Politics and Government, Thomson.
Welch etc.: 2006, Understanding American Govt 8th W/Gerston'S Calif Politics & Govt 8th, Thomson.

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