Same sex marriages are marriages between people of the same social gender. It is an institution that is gaining popularity since more than 10 countries allow same-sex couples to wed. From 2001, countries like South Africa, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Argentina, Island, United States among others constitutionally allow such unions. This however does not mean that such couples still do not face challenges especially from religious groups, their employers and even economically.
Many gay people have reported being fired, denied employment or promotions because of their sexual orientation. A study conducted by the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business and Economics revealed that gay men are discriminated against more than lesbians are in the work environment. According to their findings, married men make 23 percent more than gay men that live together. (The University of New Hampshire, 2011). In the military, the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy was implemented in 1993. It is based on the premise that those who engaged in homosexual acts created a risk to the already set standards of good order, morale and discipline and unit cohesion which are the strength of any military force. As a result discussions or questions about homosexuality in the service are prohibited. It should be noted that the number of those discharged due to homosexuality has since increased.
Public opinion about same-sex marriages, especially in the US indicates increasing support especially in the past decade. In 2011, a CNN poll showed that a majority of Americans support these unions. This is a great improvement from 1996 when the Defense for Marriage Act was passed and only 25 percent of the Americans were in support. There are still those opposed to same-sex unions and in the US it is correlated with older age, the Republican party, residence in the South and religious attendance. In light of this, society views same-sex marriages in two aspects. Those in support believe that they are acceptable and that the individuals involved have the right to love whoever they please. On the other hand, those opposed believe that it is wrong to engage in sexual acts with people of the same sex. This group is largely the older generation and those with strong religious ties but as the polls would have it, their number is steadily declining.
The legal framework relating to same-sex associations is insufficient in the sense that if a gay person owns a home before meeting his life partner and later decides to transfer a half of it to that partner, the law considers it a taxable gift. Secondly, if a partner dies, the ownership for each item has to be provided by the remaining partner or he can face taxation or loss of all the items for the dead partner’s family’s benefit. In addition, gay people pay into the state tax system for the necessary benefits yet many states prevent them from becoming foster parents, having custody of children or adopting children of their own. In situations when debts pile up, gay couples are jointly kicked out of their home even if one partner is responsible for the debt while different sex marriages are protected. These are a few examples of the legal framework many gay activists are fighting against. Some may even say the law in some instances is in direct violation of human rights.
The issue at hand exists in other countries, for instance in Argentina in 2010 the senate approved a bill that gave the marriage rights to same-sex couples despite great opposition from the Catholic Church. In June 2003, Belgium constitutionally allowed same-sex marriages. In Iceland, legislation was introduced to establish a gender-neutral definition of marriage. It was passed unanimously on June 11, 2010. Many other countries worldwide have passed legislation allowing same-sex marriages. There are still many other countries that do not allow same sex marriages. Gay individuals are in many instances forced to hide because of the unbearable stigma associated with being a gay. Many teenagers struggle with their identities since society does not allow them to express freely what they are. The religious institutions in most countries are actively engaged in fighting against the gay community, terming the act as sinful. This leads to social pressure, inequality and a general violation of rights.
The solutions to the problems faced by gay couples are as varied as problems themselves. First, the government should not have a say in who gets married since it is a personal decision by the couple in love regardless of their sex since marriage is a basic human right. Secondly, civil and religious marriages should legally be two separate institutions. Many faiths currently perform same-sex associations though they have no civil recognition as civil marriages. It is also important that laws be drafted to allow same sex marriages with all the marriage rights, to allow equal opportunities in the workplace and to make general discrimination a criminal offence. Some mainline Christian denominations in the United States like the United Church of Christ, on July 4, 2005 voted to support full religious and legal marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples at their 25th General Synod. Others like the Presbyterian Church, the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A and the Church of Scotland include lesbians and gays in their marriage traditions and are discussing the issues with their members (Rauch, 2004).
In conclusion, gays and lesbians face innumerable problems and challenges in their daily lives and more needs to be done. They should be given equal rights because like everyone else, they are people, too.