Civil Rights & Marriage
What is the gay agenda?
Organizations opposed to gay rights claim homosexuals have some hidden plan to tear apart the moral fabric of general society and often refer to the gay communities' efforts to obtain equal rights as the "gay agenda" or the "hidden gay agenda". To the contrary, gay men and lesbians tend to be fairly straight forward about what it is they are seeking - equal rights and equal protection of those rights with regard to housing, employment, public accommodation and the ability to offer financial and legal security to their families. The invention of the "hidden gay agenda" is nothing more than a scare tactic employed by anti-gay organizations in an effort to place fear in the minds of the general public.
Why are so many gay people involved in Civil Rights Issues?
Civil rights issues are important to the gay community because in many circumstances homosexuals do not have the same basic rights other citizens in our country do. In most states and cities a gay person can legally be denied housing, employment, and public accommodation simply because of their sexual orientation.
Why should we grant civil rights protection on the basis of behavior?
Some claim that gays are not deserving of civil rights protection, because unlike racial minorities, homosexuality is defined by behavior, not something innate such as skin color. But what they fail to consider is that current scientific research suggests sexual orientation to be innate and is probably in place very early in the life cycle.
Furthermore, homosexuality can not be defined simply by behavior. Sexual orientation (whether it be homosexual or heterosexual ) is distinguished by an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, spiritual, and affectionate attraction to individuals of a particular sex. Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. A persons behavior may or may not reflect his/her true sexual orientation. A person can be gay regardless of whether or not they have had a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex. Likewise, a heterosexual can engage in homosexual behavior, but this does not make him/her gay.
See also: The National Coalition of Gay And Lesbian Equailty
Don't homosexuals want special rights?
Organizations opposed to laws that would prevent the discrimination of homosexuals promote the idea that gays want special rights. They claim that everyone is already protected equally, and that laws which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation would be designed primarily to protect the rights of homosexuals, thus making them special rights. What they fail to realize is that heterosexuals are unlikely to be fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes simply because of their sexual orientation. Gays and lesbians on the other hand, are far more likely to face this type of discrimination.
The gay community is not interested in obtaining special rights of any kind. They simply want equal rights and equal protection of those rights with regard to employment, housing, and public accommodation. The gay community does not intend for laws to legislate affirmative action programs such as quotas or financial incentives offered to employers who hire homosexuals. Nor do they intend to force private citizens who rent out rooms in their homes to be obligated under law to rent to anybody who is unwilling to abide by the rules of their home. Similarly, churches and other religious institutions would be exempt from any laws governing the employment of gays and lesbians.
How can gays claim to be discriminated against when they have higher than average incomes?
Professor Lee Badgett of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland reported in the July 1995 issue of Industrial and Labor Relations Review That data from the General Social Survey of 1989-1991 indicated that gay mens' incomes ran 11% to 27% below average, and that lesbian incomes were 12% to 30% below average. Professor Badgett also cites a 1988 survey of 191 employers in Anchorage, Alaska, in which 27% said they would not hire gays or lesbians, 26% said they would not promote gays or lesbians, and 18% said they would fire them.
Because of the difficulty associated with obtaining a representative random sample, very few surveys have attempted to estimate the average incomes of gay men and lesbians. To date Professor Badgett's study is the only one which has relied on data taken from a national random sample survey that specifically asked about income and sexual orientation.
*Information on gay and lesbian incomes was taken from the PFLAG Lincoln-Cornhusker Newsletter (April, 1997).
Why do gays want the legal right to marry? Why don't they just live together?
Gay couples desire to marry for the same reasons heterosexuals couples do: love, companionship, shared interests, common goals, emotional and financial security, and in some cases to raise a family. Millions of gay men and lesbians are living in long term committed relationships despite the fact that homosexual unions lack many of the financial, legal and social benefits which are automatically provided for heterosexual couples upon marriage.
Currently, gay couples do not have the automatic right to make medical, legal, or financial decisions on behalf of their partner should the need arise. They may be denied access to visit their spouse in intensive care units and other hospital departments. Gay and lesbian couples do not have the automatic right to make funeral arrangements, or to assume ownership of property (even jointly owned property) when a partner dies.
Gay couples also lack many of the financial benefits of marriage. They may not have access to their spouses' employee health insurance, retirement or death benefits. They are not eligible for tax breaks heterosexual couples receive, nor are they eligible for insurance discounts which are frequently provided for married couples. Gays and lesbians would like to see same-sex marriages legalized so that they could provide the same type of legal, financial, and emotional security for their loved ones that heterosexual couples currently enjoy.
See also: The Benefits of Marriage
Can't same-sex couples obtain legal benefits without being married?
With the help of an attorney, some of the benefits of legal marriage can be obtained by same-sex couples, but many cannot. A valid will and power of attorney can provide some protection, but this takes time and money, and is subject to challenges from biological family members and the government. Until same-sex couples are allowed to marry, their rights and benefits will not be equal to, or as secure as the rights and benefits granted to heterosexual couples upon marriage.
Tradition defines marriage as a union between a man and a women, for the purpose of raising children.
Tradition alone is not a sufficient reason to deny gay and lesbian couples the legal, financial, and emotional benefits of a civil union. Not long ago, the thought of abolishing slavery, allowing women to vote, interracial marriage, and women serving in the military, were also met with strong opposition because they went against tradition. One purpose of marriage is to raise children (as some gay couples do), but the opportunity to have and raise children is not the only reason people choose to marry. Companionship, love, shared interests, common goals, financial and emotional security are also reasons couples choose to wed.
Won't granting homosexuals the right to marry devalue heterosexual marriage?
The belief that allowing gays to legally marry would devalue heterosexual marriage is absurd. This attitude operates under the assumption that the value of heterosexual marriage is dependent upon the deprivation of a certain group of people in our society. Giving gay couples the right to marry would not take away any of the rights heterosexual couples currently enjoy, it would only extend those rights and responsibilities to everyone in our society.
If gays and lesbians are allowed to marry, where will it end?
Some hypothesize that marriage between gays and lesbians will lead to men marrying boys and fathers marrying daughters. They even go so far as to say that people will fight for the right to marry their pets. These same arguments were used by those who opposed interracial marriage. They were not valid then, and they are not valid now. Same-sex marriage, like heterosexual marriage, would consist of two consenting adults. There's no reason to believe that same-sex marriage will lead to legalized incestuous relationships or the abuse of animals anymore so than heterosexual marriage already does.
Isn't homosexuality abnormal or unnatural; after all, they can't have children?
Homosexuality is not the sexual orientation of the majority of people, but that in itself does not make it abnormal. If we were to use that type of logic, then we would have to consider left handed people to be abnormal also. To a heterosexual person, an intimate relationship with someone of the same sex might seem abnormal or unnatural, but not any more so than heterosexual relations would seem to someone who is gay. Furthermore, there is nothing abnormal or unnatural about wanting to share your life and love with another person. Having the ability to produce offspring is not a prerequisite. If it were, we would have to deny marriage licenses to heterosexual couples who did not wish to, or for some reason could not have children.